Ohio University President Hugh Sherman discusses his term on Wednesday, Aug. 4, 2021. (FILE)

Ohio University President Hugh Sherman discusses his term on Wednesday, Aug. 4, 2021. (FILE)

Sherman's Presidential Progress

November 29, 2021

OU faculty groups yet to judge President Sherman’s administration, better understanding to come in spring

By Addie Hedges | For The Post

Correction appended.

Both the Ohio University Faculty Senate and OU’s chapter of the American Association of University Presidents, or OU-AAUP, agree it is too early to say how President Hugh Sherman has done during his first semester in office following his appointment by the OU Board of Trustees in May.

The Board’s appointment of Sherman as OU’s 22nd president came two weeks after former President Duane Nellis announced his decision to step down, according to a previous Post report. Faculty Senate, Student Senate, OU-AAUP and the mayors of each of OU’s regional campus cities expressed concern over their lack of involvement in the process of Sherman’s appointment.

“I think that’s a problem, and I think the trustees have a lot to try to make up for there,” Joseph McLaughlin, a professor in the College of Arts and Sciences and OU-AAUP vice president, said. “I think it puts President Sherman in a difficult position, one in which he probably needs to be even more attentive to shared governance because his appointment was marred by a lack of shared governance.”

Faculty Senate also noted the issues with Sherman’s appointment but felt it was important to move forward in the process, Robin Muhammad, a professor in the College of Arts and Sciences and chair of the Faculty Senate, said.

“(Faculty Senate) had very thoughtful conversations with the trustees about (the lack of shared governance) and then we moved forward,” Muhammad said. “I think there's been an added effort in all the conversations among the upper administration and the Faculty Senate to pay attention to (shared governance) even moreso.”

McLaughlin and Muhammad said the general consensus surrounding Sherman’s progress is undecided but hopeful. There has not been an increase of confidence in the administration, but there has not been a decrease in confidence either, Muhammad said. There is stability in the administration, which creates confidence from the need to move forward, she said.

A decisive opinion on Sherman’s performance as president will most likely come in the spring after budget decisions are made, McLaughlin said. Sherman’s priorities as president will then be visible.

During Nellis’ presidency, 140 OU employees in the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, or AFSCME, had their positions eliminated in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as 53 instructional faculty members and 81 other employee positions.

McLaughlin said faculty participation in the search for a new president would prevent the appointment of a president who does not hold the interests of students and faculty and that the university is in need of a leader who prioritizes academics.

After his sabbatical ends, Nellis is returning to OU as a professor of geography in the College of Arts and Sciences in the spring. The dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, Florenz Plassmann, said he is excited to work with Nellis in his new position.

“My hope is that students will benefit greatly from the expertise that he has accumulated over the years,” Plassmann said. “He can also provide so much guidance to students beyond geography because he was a dean (and) he was a provost before, so he knows university life inside and out and students will always benefit from hearing someone like that speak.”

As the Fall Semester comes to a close, McLaughlin said he hopes to see a change of loyalties in Sherman’s administration but is not confident he will.

“One of my hopes is that the university would recognize that over the past 10 years, they have started to devote too many resources to the most highly paid people at the university,” McLaughlin said. “We would like to see some recognition that the administration understands that the core business of the university is teaching things, and not helping students fill out checklists. Those would be the kind of changes, I think, that would signal there's a kind of change in direction … but every indication is that very little has changed.”

Correction: A previous version of this article stated that it’s the American Association of University Presidents, when it’s the American Association of University Professors. This article has been updated to reflect the most accurate information.

AUTHOR: Addie Hedges
EDITOR: Ryan Maxin
COPY EDITOR: Anna Garnai
PHOTO: Ashlynn McKee