The State of Oregon’s decision to boost higher education in Oregon is a deeply welcome turnaround from years of cuts to state funding. Faculty from United Academics worked with the American Federation of Teachers (AFT-OR) and American Association of University Professors (AAUP-OR), to shore up support for our state’s universities. We worked with legislators, the Higher Education Coordinating Committee (HECC), and the governor, explaining how academic excellence and access to quality higher education for the next generation of Oregonians requires improving public support. On this, we lobbied in sync with the University of Oregon administration.
However, while UO’s top administrators praised Salem’s decision to give Higher Ed more money, and welcomed the changes to the HECC formula that increased UO’s share of this money, the administration then went to the faculty in today’s bargaining session and reiterated what amounts to a proposal to cut the faculty’s real wages. Despite the good news from the state, the administration is offering a 1% raise in 2016 (delayed until mid-way through the academic year) and a 2% pool for merit raises in 2017. This is just 0.5% more than they were offering back in May, and with local inflation running at about 2.5% a year, it’s a cut to real faculty wages.
The administration’s own analyses show the productivity of the UO faculty. For example, in terms of Bachelor degrees awarded per tenure-related faculty employed in 2011, the UO stood at 5813 degrees awarded per 1000 faculty compared to an average of 4116 for all AAU public universities, and UO’s graduation rates are the highest of all of Oregon’s universities.
“Those graduation rates impressed the heck out of the HECC, because the faculty here work the long hours teaching, grading, advising, and mentoring, all while balancing important research projects. The faculty’s work with students needs to be recognized and rewarded in salaries,” says Michael Dreiling, President of United Academics.
“We trust and understand that most of this money will fill in a variety of fiscal needs and we hope a lot goes to support student scholarships. But if they are not going to spend some of this money on the faculty as well, where will it go? For more overpaid coaches, strategic communicators and administrators?” asks Karen McPherson, Vice President with United Academics.
About 350 faculty recently signed a petition calling on the Board of Trustees to focus UO’s priorities on instructional excellence for our students and on research excellence at this flagship university. The petition is here. We look forward to working with President Schill to move the instructional and research mission at the UO to the front and center as we elevate the long-term academic reputation of this great university.