After weeks of anticipation, the administration’s bargaining team finally delivered their second economic offer last Thursday. This proposal slightly increased the amount of money they were offering overall. Previously, the administration had offered the faculty a 1% merit-based raise in academic year 2016-2017 years with a one-time $600 payment and no across-the-board increase. In their new proposal, they offered a cumulative 2.5% raise over two years, as well as a roughly 2% increase to salary floors for non-tenure-track faculty and a 2% raise for full professors who have a successful major review.
We characterized the administration’s first proposal as “insulting” and “unacceptable.” This new offer is an improvement, but still woefully inadequate. While this proposal contains a 1% across-the-board raise in fiscal year 2016 and a 1.5% merit increase in fiscal year 2017, 1% across-the-board does not even keep pace with inflation, let alone the rate of increases among our peer institutions, and 1.5% for merit is a figure too small to recognize and reward excellent faculty. Moreover, the administration proposed no effort to address internal and external equity. This was no oversight: The administration’s team made it clear that they do not believe the UO has any equity problem, either internal or external.
Another disappointing feature of the administration’s proposal was their continued insistence on allowing the deans to control 20% of the small pool of merit money, to be distributed “at their sole discretion.” This time, the administration team explained their proposal as an attempt to ensure that small units with uniformly excellent faculty can distribute raises above and beyond the “average” raise that the pool would otherwise allow. Our team agreed this situation could be a problem, but wondered why the administration did not just address the problem directly in their proposal, rather than allowing deans to control a significant portion of the small merit pool “at their sole discretion.”
The administration continues to claim that financial constraints do not allow them to offer more. According to forensic economist Howard Bunsis, however, the University of Oregon enjoys growing reserves, increased support from the state, stable tuition income, and very favorable first-time ratings by both national bond agencies. Last Thursday evening, Bunsis presented his evidence in a presentation titled “Is the UO Really Broke?” If you would like to see a video of his talk, click here. For Bunsis’s slides, click here.
Bunsis also noted the recent report by USA Today that UO led the nation last year in net income from its athletic activities. We remain skeptical of the administration’s claims that there is simply no money available for faculty raises to address the need for cost-of-living increases, merit raises to recognize excellence, and equity raises to remedy long-standing internal and external inequities. This week’s notice of further cuts to the UO library’s acquisition budget, coming just as we hear about the nation-leading financial success of UO athletics, offers a stark and disillusioning commentary on the administration’s financial priorities.
In its non-economic proposals, the administration continues to reject our proposal to give all temporary faculty the title “visiting.” Their rationale this time was that “visiting” is not the title that other universities give their “adjunct” faculty. In fact, many do exactly that. Be that as it may, this change of names would harm no one and benefit many. Its cost to the university would be nil. The administration has an opportunity to demonstrate good will. We hope they will seize it.
Given the current pace of negotiations, it seems certain we will end the term without concluding bargaining. We are still too far apart on the salary numbers to see an easy conclusion to bargaining. We will continue bargaining to the summer and hopefully we will find a way to get a fair deal for faculty.