Sunday, June 13, 2010

Update on the Resolution on Salary Reductions

At the March 25 Faculty Senate meeting, FRPE proposed a Resolution on Salary Reductions (see Although the Resolution was defeated, the FCC asked the Senate Committee on Faculty Affairs (SCFA) to meet with FRPE to discuss our concerns about the regressive structure of this year's pay cuts. In April, several FRPE activists met with the SCFA, which quickly acted on our concerns by crafting and passing a revised resolution. Although FRPE differs with the SCFA about the extent to which the administration introduced progressivity into the pay cuts, and also disagrees with its framing of merit raises as offsetting the regressive structure of the pay cuts, we applaud the SCFA's sincere effort to make progressivity a key component of future discussions regarding the structure of pay cuts. (Read the text of the Resolution here: SCFA chair Kathryn Hanna is to be commended for moving forward in good faith.

Unfortunately, even this very modest proposal went down in flames at the most recent FCC meeting. Several members of the committee has serious reservations. Professor Curley objected because "the resolution tries to influence what a future set of faculty should be doing; he said he is willing to let future faculty decide for themselves and does not want to tell them what they should be doing." (Even though he notes earlier that Senate resolutions are not binding!) Professor Luepker argued that "from the viewpoint of the Academic Health Center, it may be difficult for some to understand the impact progressive salary reductions will have on recruiting and retaining highly-productive faculty...if there are significant reductions—it would be a job-killer." Agreeing with Professor Luepker, Professor Kahn noted that progressive cuts would "affect the recruitment and retention of faculty." Professor Chomsky added that "the problem is not so much about the people already at the University, it is about recruiting. There is already trouble in recruiting, and if prospective faculty members see that higher-paid individuals see larger salary cuts, they may choose to go elsewhere. The proposal could have an impact on getting people to Minnesota." (Yeah, because other universities are hiring like crazy, you know, and all of our best and brightest only care about money.)

Professor Cramer proposed that the resolution be amended so that it merely called for the administration to present alternative models that incorporate greater and lesser degrees of progressivity to the relevant governance bodies. In effect, he recommended that any support for a more progressive structure to the cuts be expunged from the Resolution.

In response, Professor Hanna "reported that there is a lot of sentiment on the Committee on Faculty Affairs in favor of more steps in the progressivity of the reductions (beyond the 1.15% and 2.30% for senior administrators)." Professor Gonzales added that "she understood the argument that more progressive salary reductions could cost the University some of its "stars," but said she would like to point out that it is the hard work of people who are NOT stars that allows the stars to be stars. She said she supported more progressive salary reductions because the stars are not often mindful of other people who do work—teaching and service work, for example— that allows them to be stars, and the stars also need the Minnesota "brand" to which all employees contribute."

Finally, Professor Cramer (the future vice chair of the FCC) "commented that he has not heard today anything he has not heard before, and asked that the resolution be tabled. (It was noted that a motion to table was not necessary because there was no proposal before the Committee to do anything.) He said he did not want to discuss the subject again and did not want the resolution to go to the Faculty Senate. Professor Hanna noted that the FCC retreat in the fall includes a session with some of the faculty members who initially proposed more progressive salary reductions, so the Committee might wait to hear what they have to say. The Committee took no action on the resolution."

The minutes from the FCC meeting also indicate how little consultation there was regarding the structure of the cuts. Kathryn Hanna noted that the administration "did not seek any feedback on them [alternative models] as they were developed." Instead, the administration only presented more progressive models to Professors Chomsky and Oakes, and these data were not shared with others "because some of the numbers (percentages) were so high." (Er, if the numbers were so high, then it would seem that presenting them would have strengthened, rather than weakened, the administration's case.)

So don't hold your breath waiting for the FCC to bring forward a meaningful resolution on progressivity in pay cuts to the Faculty Senate next year. The SCFA could still bring forward its resolution, but we consider this to be unlikely given the strong opposition from the FCC.

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