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?” For Bunsis’s slides, click here.
Last night, Howard Bunsis, Professor of Accounting at Eastern Michigan University and Chair of the American Association of University Professors Collective Bargaining Congress, gave a presentation tackling the question, "Is the UO really broke?"
His simple answer was "no."
Bunsis presented his answer to a full house of faculty, classified staff, graduate students, undergraduates, and community members in Lawrence 115. Using data he culled from the UO's financial reports, OUS reports, IPEDS data, and bond reports, he painted a picture of a university with a health revenue stream, growing reserves, and solid financial outlook for the foreseeable future.
He did, however, make one prediction, namely that the UO will see surplus revenue in the $6-10 million range this year. His prediction stands in stark contrast to Vice President for Finance and Administration Jamie Moffit's prediction for next year. When she presented the UO's financial data during our April bargaining session, she said the administration was just hoping we'd be "run-rate even" this year, despite the university's revised budget projecting a $4.5 million deficit. As Bunsis revealed, the university's unrestricted reserves have increased to over $100 million and are projected to grow even larger in the coming years.
Bunsis's information bolstered what we have been saying for the last few months - the UO has money, the administration just closes to spend it on things that are not faculty salaries. We have been saying "budgets reflect priorities" and calling on the administration to prioritize faculty. Unfortunately, to this pint, the administration has not heeded that call.
You can see all the slides from Bunsis's presentation here.
The administration justified their paltry salary proposal by arguing that the university just can’t afford more. Is this true? Dr. Howard Bunsis has analyzed the university’s budget and will present the findings to the university community.
First, we’d like to thank Jamie Moffitt, Vice President for Finance and Administration, for her presentation at bargaining today. Jamie presented a wealth of information that will inform our bargaining in the coming months. A small group from the bargaining team had the opportunity to meet with Jamie last month to discuss what kind of information we thought would be helpful to have presented, and we appreciate that she focused on the areas we discussed in that meeting.
Even so, the university administration’s actual economic proposal was, in our view, insulting. Our proposal would provide raises to address the rising cost of living, reward meritorious teaching, research, and service, and address our ongoing equity problem. The university administration’s proposal accomplishes none of these things.
They are offering faculty no raise at all next year and less than 1% merit raise in 2016-2017. Bargaining unit faculty may not even see the full 1%, as the university administration proposed that deans would control 20% of the paltry 1% raise and could distribute it at their “sole discretion.” We have several concerns about their proposal.
First, their proposal does nothing to keep pace with the cost of living. The Bureau of Labor Statistics measured the increase in the consumer price index for our region at 2.4% last year. The annual cost of living increase has averaged 2.28% since 2010. At that average, faculty need 4.56% raises just to keep up with inflation.
Second, a 1% merit raise in the second year does not adequately reward merit or recognize excellence.
Third, their proposal addresses neither our internal nor our external equity issues. While some departments and units have caught up to their comparators across the country, several others lag far behind. Compression and inversion still bedevil many departments and units, and the administration’s proposal would only exacerbate these problems. The university administration’s proposal also ignores our ongoing gender equity problem.
So, we still have a lot of work to do. The university administration’s proposal is not close to adequate, nor did they propose anything to address our ongoing problems. They said they were willing to talk, but so far they have offered no solutions. There will need to be many conversations. These conversations will unfold over the course of the coming months. We will, as always, keep you informed—and we count on hearing from you as well.
On Friday afternoon, fifteen tenure-track, research, and instructional NTT faculty from the College of Education met with their United Academics assembly representatives and stewards. It was an opportunity for the reps and stewards to understand the diverse experiences across the college and for faculty to share their concerns and questions. United Academics’ Executive Director, Dave Cecil, was also present to answer questions about the CBA and current proposals under discussion at the bargaining table. One of the major concerns expressed by COE faculty was that while salary increases are much appreciated, but if they are not already written into funded grants, the increases create hardship in research centers that have no external support from the university administration. Everyone felt this was a good beginning of two-way sharing between UA and faculty in the COE. Town-hall meetings will be scheduled across campus in spring term.
On Thursday, the union and the administration bargaining teams met for the fourth time. The main subject of negotiations was the union’s salary proposal. Our proposal addresses the longstanding problems in faculty compensation and press the bar for academic and research excellence at the UO.
The White Papers issued by the University Senate in 2000 and 2001 explained how low salaries damaged the university’s stature and our ability to recruit and retain faculty. After nearly a decade in which the UO failed to correct these misplaced priorities, President LaRiviere finally committed the university to matching faculty compensation with our peers by 2011. This, of course, did not happen. Our first bargaining agreement made significant progress toward parity with our comparator universities. Our current package closes the gap and refocuses UO’s investment in teaching and research excellence.
Over the past few months, various administrators have been informing various committees that the University of Oregon is all but flat broke. An important aspect of these talks has been the message that there was very little money left for faculty salary increases.
At the bargaining table on Thursday, we shared information that the Vice Provost for Budget and Planning, Brad Shelton, had presented recently on proposed tuition increases. Essentially, Shelton said that all but $1.2 million of the new dollars were already accounted for, and that $1.2 million was all that was left for all salaries across campus.
We let the administration team know that we fundamentally reject the idea that the proper way to construct budgets was to budget for all items save salary increases, find out what money is left over, then offer that money as the only money available for salaries. Given that faculty—and all staff at the university—are vital to fulfilling the core mission of research and undergraduate and graduate education, it is incumbent on the administration to budget for salaries first, not last. This means we also reject the idea that salary increases must come from tuition increases.
Our proposal on salaries puts priorities in the their proper order. As your bargaining team, our job is to tell the administration what faculty need to recruit and retain outstanding colleagues to our campus. Our proposal places this priority first; over the coming months, we will be happy to work with the administration to find the money needed to fund it.
Our salary package proposes an average of 7% increases in the first year of the contract and 6.5% increases in the second year, for an overall cost of roughly $16 million in real dollars over the two years.
As a team, we recognized early in our discussions that our diverse bargaining unit has a diversity of needs related to salary. External equity raises may be important for one department, but meaningless for another. Where our lowest-paid faculty may be looking for large increases to the minimum salaries, other faculty might be hoping that we secure increases for post-promotion reviews. We tried our best to propose a package that balances all of our needs and wants, but doesn’t grow so large that it becomes obviously untenable.
The proposal itself is 7 pages long and our presentation of it ran to ninety minutes. We obviously cannot recapitulate the full presentation here. Instead, we’ve created a bullet-pointed summary of the proposal that gives an overview, and the full proposal can be read at the link. We also issued a press release that further glosses the thinking behind the proposal.
What follows is a brief summary of the major points of the salary proposal.
Workload Increase Adjustments
In some departments and units on campus, administration has increased workload without also increasing base salaries or FTE. In other units, administration has adjusted FTEs down as raises have gone into effect, but without a corresponding decrease in workload. The union has been working to stop these practices when we hear about them and this proposal would make it clear that faculty cannot have their workloads increased without an adjustment to their base salaries.
We proposed a 10% increase to the current salary floors, with an elimination of the lower rates for adjunct and research faculty. The proposed increase to the floors was substantial, but still less than the salary minimums at Portland State University. We also noted that all but 67 non-athletics administrators earn more than these floors.
We proposed a 2.5% COLA to base salaries in both years of the Collective Bargaining Agreement. The 2.5% is based on the Bureau of Labor Statistics measurement for the Portland/Salem region in 2014. This increase is necessary to maintain our real wages.
We proposed two different types of equity raises: internal and external. We felt it was important to address both issues because some departments and programs have internal equity issues, while others are well behind their AAU comparators.
Our internal equity proposal was for both tenure-related and non-tenure-track faculty, although money would be in separate pools. Under our proposal, each department or program would distribute their money based on local circumstances, addressing inequities related to salary compression, inversion, gender, and retirement plan disparities.
Our external equity proposal was for tenure-related faculty and librarians. We used the average salaries at public universities in the AAU to show which disciplines and ranks are furthest behind our peers. Money would be gradually distributed until it was gone or until all salaries were raised to within 95% of their peer average.
We did not propose money for external equity raises for non-tenure-track faculty because of the difficulty of finding metrics that measure NTTF across the academy. Universities assign many different titles to NTT faculty, making true comparisons almost impossible. The money that would have been in an NTTF external equity pool was used to raise the salary floors instead.
We proposed merit raises for both tenure-related and non-tenure-track faculty, again in separate pools of money. We proposed 2% merit pools in the first year and 4% merit pools in the second year, the money being distributed based on the policies developed by units last year.
We proposed maintaining raises of at least 8% upon promotion for both the tenure-related and non-tenure-track faculty. Promotion raises reward hard work and recognize that faculty are fulfilling the mission of the university.
We also sought to fix the “major review” problem where the language we bargained last time seemed to indicate that only faculty who were successful in their first major review after promotion would earn a raise. We have adjusted the language to ensure that all successful major (6th-year) reviews after promotion to full professor are recognized with a raise.
The first round of UA raises, the first in 5 or 6 years for many colleagues, made a start on the long-standing problem of low salaries for UO faculty. We clearly have more work to do. When he was the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, Interim President Coltrane predicted that the collective bargaining agreement would help staunch the hemorrhage of good faculty by providing regular salary increases. We agree: with regular salary increases, faculty won’t feel that the only way to keep up is to leave the UO. “Competitive excellence” requires support for outstanding, experienced, and committed UO faculty and staff.