For better pay, faculty look to union

Members of the union that represents Portland State faculty are unhappy with a pay raise offer that the PSU administration made to faculty at a contract bargaining meeting Tuesday, according to a news update posted on the union’s Web site.

Members of the union that represents Portland State faculty are unhappy with a pay raise offer that the PSU administration made to faculty at a contract bargaining meeting Tuesday, according to a news update posted on the union’s Web site.

The administration made an offer to the union to raise faculty salaries by more than 8 percent over the next two years, according to the union’s Web site. Some faculty members, according to the Web site, would only receive a 5 percent increase over the course of two years if they did not need the larger raise to meet average pay standards.

At 2.5 percent each year, that increase would not match the current 3 percent rate of inflation nationally.

The union, called the PSU chapter of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), meets with the PSU administration every two years to create a Collective Bargaining Agreement-a contract for all professors that are a part of the union. The AAUP, which secured a 5 percent raise for PSU faculty in 2005, represents over 1,000 full-time faculty and other academic professionals.

The contract for the 2005-07 biennium has ended, and the union has been working with the university since April 2007 to create a new contract for the next biennium.

Historically low pay

Faculty salaries at Portland State are notorious for being low. The average PSU faculty member–on almost all levels–is paid anywhere from $3,000 to $7,000 less than the average faculty member from both the University of Oregon and Oregon State University, according to data provided by AAUP.

When compared to schools that are similar, PSU faculty member average salaries seem meager: They’re anywhere from $5,000 to $13,000 less than average faculty salaries at comparable schools, such as San Diego State University or the University of Illinois, Chicago.

A pay raise for administrators

Multiple members of the PSU administration received raises at the beginning of the 2007-08 school year, which ranged from 5 percent increases to as much as 25 percent increases.

Michael Fung, the PSU budget director, was given a 25 percent raise from $91,956 to $114,943 for the year. Dee Wendler, the associate vice president for finance and controller, was given a 21 percent pay increase from $105,084 to $127,151.

PSU faculty members say that they are not mad that administrators, who are also commonly underpaid, received raises. However, they said they wonder why administrators can get such large raises, while faculty cannot. Lindsay Desrochers, the vice president of finance and administration at PSU, could not be reached for comment late Wednesday afternoon.

‘I’m losing money’

Megan McLaughlin, an advisor in the international studies department, said she does not want to make it seem like she thinks administrators are the “bad guys,” but she said it is very difficult to live on her close to $37,000 salary.

“There’s a tipping point where you have to say, ‘I’m losing money to work at this university,'” McLaughin said.

McLaughlin is an advocate for getting faculty members higher pay raises, and has attended each of the AAUP bargaining agreement meetings. McLaughlin, like most PSU faculty members, said she works at Portland State because she loves the university and not for the pay.

However, because her pay is so low, she has had to start working a second job at night to afford living in the city. McLaughlin, along with other faculty members, said that such low pay and such major job requirements stretch faculty members too thin, hurting students’ opportunities for time they deserve with faculty.

Past raises too low

Faculty members are given a salary for the three core academic terms (fall, winter, spring) during which classes are held. Many faculty members work during summer term for additional pay.

Faculty members say that few, and low, pay raises have made it difficult to keep their salaries in pace with inflation and at a rate to pay for a reasonable cost of living. Faculty members say that workloads have increased, but pay has not increased accordingly.

Elizabeth Ceppi, the chair of the English department, said a salary-freeze on pay raises in 2001 prevented the university from going bankrupt, but it also caused the PSU faculty to sacrifice reasonable pay. Ceppi, who earned her Ph.D. from the University of Chicago, recently was given a raise to $55,000 when she was appointed chair of the English department.

A new job for a raise

Ceppi, who is in her seventh year at PSU, was paid $50,000 as an associate professor before becoming chair. When faculty members ask for raises, Ceppi said that they are often told to apply for a job at another university, so PSU administrators will be able to bargain with them for a raise.

From advisors to tenured professors, each of the 10 faculty members interviewed by The Vanguard Wednesday said the biggest problem they have is dealing with an increased workload and, despite a desire to do all of the work, too little compensation.

The high expectations but low salary has made work difficult for Karen Gibson, an associate professor who specializes in community development. Gibson makes $53,000 a year, serves on four committees, teaches six credits a term and, on top of that, is expected to research in order to get tenure.

“The incentives are not to spend time with the students,” she said, “its just out of your own conscience.”

Millions from the state

Oregon universities did receive about $10 million from the state legislature that is specifically meant to increase faculty salaries at the seven Oregon schools over the next two years. Close to $7 million was also earmarked for the seven schools, to let administrators reduce rising student-to-faculty ratios, which is 33:1 at PSU according to AAUP.

Roy Koch, the provost of Academic Affairs, said PSU’s portion of the $10 million will be used to increase faculty salaries, but could not say by how much. He said PSU’s portion of the $7 million will be used to hire new faculty members that will help alleviate PSU faculty member’s workload and reduce student-to-faculty ratios.

Although the bargaining process may not end soon, Koch said it is necessary to get faculty pay raises.

“It’s a system. We have to work through the system to get things done,” said Koch, who received a 1 percent pay increase in January 2007 from $178, 512 to $180,300.