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Wednesday, November 20, 2013

PSU Faculty Union Protests Budget Cuts

Posted by Nathan Gilles on Wed, Nov 20, 2013 at 2:44 PM

Portland State University’s administration is once again looking to slim down the school’s budget. Needless to say students, faculty and the faculty union aren’t happy.

Yesterday at noon, around 260 individuals, many from the PSU chapter of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP)—the union representing the university’s faculty—along with students and other supporters, marched from PSU at SW Broadway to the Market Center Building, where PSU President Wim Wiewel keeps an office.

The protesters’ beef was with the university’s administration, their high salaries, and the budget-cutting knife they’re now wielding.

University higher-ups recently issued an administrative directive ordering all “academic units” identify eight percent of their budgets for possible cuts. The cuts are expected to take another bite out of student services. But the rub, says AAUP reps, is that this starvation diet might not be necessary at all.

“There’s this history of uneven investment on the campus,” Mary King, economics professor and president of the PSU chapter of the AAUP, told the Mercury.

On King’s wish list of possible cuts are what she says are some of PSU’s more ill-conceived investments. Not the least of these is the University Place Hotel—the former Double Tree at 310 SW Lincoln Street that PSU bought and has been running since 2004. King says the hotel has sucked money from student tuition and should be sold.

Of course, union members have their own more personal complaints against their bosses, and—surprise! surprise—it’s over money. But before you think the teachers are greedy bastards not pulling their own weight, consider their argument. (Which, if you wanted to incite class resentment, isn’t a bad one).

The AAUP claims there’s a lot of fat at the top of PSU’s food chain. According to numbers compiled by the union, over the last decade, the average administrator’s salary has gone up substantially. The provost’s salary shot up 46 percent. For vice provosts it was 43 percent. For vice presidents it was around 29 percent. To give this some perspective, consider PSU President Wim Wiewel’s salary.

According to a Chronicle for Higher Education study released earlier this year—and partially disputed by the Oregonian—during 2011-2012 accounting period, Wiewel was paid $627,000 in salary and compensation. The Oregonian’s Betsy Hammond puts the number closer to $513,000. Ranking him somewhere between 42nd and 70th highest paid university administrator in the country.

During the same period, according to Oregon University System numbers, salaries for PSU faculty were $92,800 for full professors, $73,600 for associate professors, $60,300 for assistant professors, and $41,700 for instructors. PSU also has a lot of part-timers, about 52 percent of its faculty, well above the OUS average of 35 percent. In fact, the school has about 173 adjuncts compared to 409 tenure-track faculty members, and 100 “fixed term faculty” (whatever that is).

Yet, in its on-going negotiations with the university—the union’s current contract with the university expires on November 30—AAUP rep Marissa Johnson says PSU administration has asked the faculty to take just a one percent cost of living increase despite the fact, she says, cost of living has gone up by more than two percent recently, and administration salaries went up by 13 percent in the last biennium.

The context for this bickering is, of course, a slow and steady divestment of state funds away from PSU and other Oregon universities. As a result, much of the financial burden for propping up Oregon’s higher ed—and, if the union is right, its well-paid administrators, and an occasional hotel—have fallen on the backs of students in the form of tuition hikes.

King tells the Mercury the AAUP is planning on releasing a study with a larger set of numbers that’ll further break down and compare the salaries of PSU administrators with that or its faculty. (And, presumably build more resentment against the school’s administrators).

On November 25th—that’s next Monday—the AAUP will also be hosting a meeting to further discuss the budget, and nail home its point. The meeting will be at Cramer Hall from 3-5PM. And it’s open to the public.

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