Questions raised, not salaries

By Lisa Schulz

President Warrick L. Carter and Louise Love, interim provost and vice president of Academic Affairs, announced in emails this week that falling enrollment eliminated the possibility of across-the-board raises for full-and part-time faculty and staff members for the 2011–2012 academic year.

Cautioning that the school was “not in a crisis situation,” Carter stated that the decision resulted from a 300-student decrease in enrollment during fall 2011 rather than the projected 60-student decline. Current enrollment figures represent a drop-off of roughly 900 students from the number enrolled in 2008.

“The college values the work of our staff in attracting, retaining and supporting our students, whether that work is done directly or indirectly,” Carter noted in his email. Another email sent by Love conveyed the same information, explaining that the decision was made during the second week of the semester following the end of the add-drop period.

“I speak for the whole administration when I tell you that the work of the faculty is recognized as the sine qua non of the college,” Love stated. “I hope we can all work together to weather these difficult financial times.”

The response from union leaders and academic representatives to the Oct. 18 announcements was swift and skeptical. They questioned the need for this measure when the administration had emphasized the school was not in a state of crisis.

“We feel like taking a freeze again would be going backwards,” said Mike Bright, president of the Union Staff of Columbia College. “If they were in a financial crisis, that’d be one thing. We’re not going to try to get blood out of a turnip. But they’re telling us, ‘No, we’re not in a financial crisis—we had to make hard choices.’ What are these hard choices?”

Mark Kelly, vice president of Academic Affairs, attempted to shed light on the decision, noting that before raises can be given, “we have to stabilize a healthy, financial environment.” He said the enrollment decreases relate to student affordability and tuition increases.

Raises are needed most to keep up with the cost of living, said Linda Naslund, treasurer of the US of CC. According to the union’s website, living costs have increased 6 percent, 3.7 percent in the last year.

The announcement comes at a time when the US of CC and the part-time faculty union P-FAC, are negotiating contracts and salary adjustments with the college for the current academic year. In his email, Carter stated the college will meet with leadership to discuss the matter.

The US of CC agreed to a freeze in 2009, which kept salaries at a controlled amount, Bright said. In fall 2010, all faculty and staff members received a 1 percent raise and a 1 percent bonus that expired at the end of that year, Bright noted.

“I don’t think the college has shown they’re in a financial crisis,” said John Stevenson, P-Fac treasurer. “They need to be much more forthcoming.”

Living costs were also a concern expressed by faculty members during the Faculty Senate meeting on Oct. 21. The administration needs to ensure transparency, said Pegeen Reichert Powell, president of the Faculty Senate’s executive committee.

“The Senate has already been committed to looking forward to establishing better ways of doing things,” Powell announced at the meeting, which she said was the Senate’s official response to the email.

Powell said the executive, faculty and financial affairs committees of the Senate will be drafting a “coherent statement” to the administration and creating a plan that addresses the procedures, deadlines and consistency for issuing salary letters.

She noted the email doesn’t state the current rate of pay or an affirmative settlement but simply states the fact that no raises will be given. Faculty members agreed that the email’s lack of detail and formality shouldn’t constitute a formal letter or legal document.

The lack of salary increases for tenure-track positions was also a concern at the meeting. Salary ranges for each rank, a timetable to adjust salary compression and standards for merit-based and cost-of-living raises will be implemented in the plan, Powell said.

“I think across-the-board is, frankly, the least intelligent way to think about this,” Richard Woodbury, associate dance professor, said at the Faculty Senate meeting. “There are people who are doing fine and there are people being really victimized, and I think we have to look at that very carefully.”

Faculty and staff members of Roosevelt University did not receive a raise this year either, said Tom Karow, assistant vice president of public relations at Roosevelt.