Faculty Senate questions salary raises, gets answers from Love

By Alexandra Kukulka

Giving faculty and staff a 3 percent pay raise will require $5 million in cuts aimed at  various units of the college given the current budget situation, Louise Love, interim provost and vice president of Academic Affairs, told the first Faculty Senate meeting of the fall semester. Specifically, $2 million will be cut from the Academic Affairs fiscal 2013 budget, she said. Love and Ken Gotsch, vice president of Business Affairs and chief financial officer, came to the Sept. 14 meeting to answer questions about the raises.

The presidential advisory panel and student tuition were other topics raised during the meeting in the 600 S. Michigan Ave. Building. Senate members also expressed unhappiness over being informed of major issues, including the budget, after decisions have been made.

“We see it as the Senate’s responsibility to remind everyone over and over again about the need for transparency [and] about the need for communication,” said Pegeen Reichert Powell, Faculty Senate president and assistant professor in the English Department.

The faculty and staff’s 3 percent raise and floor—or lowest—salaries were both addressed by Love, who said the increase was a commitment the college is meeting. However, Powell said the Senate would like to see ongoing salary increases, which Love said she cannot promise at this time.

“I don’t think that I can make a commitment to ongoing [raises], but there is certainly an intention to be as respectful as we can,” Love said.

Sebastian Huydts, a Senate member and an assistant professor in the Music Department, expressed concern about increasing tuition along with faculty and staff salaries.

“I understand that we are in difficult economic times and we have just gone through a year of our self study, [and] although I would love to get some extra cash, I am also thinking of our students right now who were just faced with a [5.2] percent increase in their tuition,” Huydts said. “How is it going to make us look, that in these kinds of times, we are going to get a 3 percent raise, and then at the same time, to make that happen, staff positions are going to disappear?”

Love said although it was a difficult decision to make, raising tuition had to be done to increase student financial aid. She said the college has become a destination college, meaning more students who can afford Columbia are enrolling. The tuition from these students will then be given to those who are “academically and artistically” ready for college but can’t afford it, she said.

Drawing attention to what Love called “tough decisions” to increase tuition, Dominic Pacyga, Senate member and professor in the Humanities, History and Social Sciences Department, spoke about what he termed the administration’s “heated” discussions. Last school year, he attended board of trustees meetings as a Senate representative.

“At the meetings discussing [tuition increases], several of us spoke out for either a lower raise or no raise at all,” Pacyga said. “You have to face the fiscal realities of the situation at the same time.”

Love also cited staff cuts and how different centers throughout the college have been drastically downsized or eliminated to make room for faculty raises.

Marcos Balter, a Senate member and director of composition studies in the Music Department, asked Love what cuts have been made to the top tier of administration given that so many changes are being made to the rest of the school.

“We have cut travel; we have certainly cut self-entertainment, catering and the way we wine and dine both outsiders and insiders,” Love said. “Important capital projects have been postponed, like moving the library to the 822 S. Michigan Ave. Building.”

According to Powell, there were several discrepancies between the actual formation of the presidential advisory panel and the required procedure spelled out in the faculty handbook. Changes were made in the board of trustees’ bylaws, but the Senate was not made aware of those changes until now, she added.

She noted that the biggest discrepancy is that more than half of the panel consists of board members, while there are only three faculty members and one chairman representing faculty.

Powell said the problem is that two-thirds of the panel must vote on a candidate to be presented to the board, but the board represents half of the panel. A motion was granted to offer support to the faculty members.

“In light of the proportionally weaker representation of faculty and chairs on the advisory panel, the executive committee proposes that we reaffirm our trust in the three faculty members who were elected, in essence, saying, ‘While your proportional voice is weaker, we want to remind you that you  carry the voice of the full faculty,’” Powell said.