Four faculty union supporters delivered over 400 letters from students, faculty and staff supporting salary increases for faculty to Portland State President Daniel Bernstine’s office Tuesday.
The American Association of University Professors – the union which represents over 1,000 faculty, librarians and other academic professionals at PSU – has been in contract negotiations with the university since the previous contract expired Sept. 30. A salary increase for professors has been one of the core issues on the table in negotiations.
As of Tuesday, when Professors Gary Brodowicz and Heather Hartley, PSU-AAUP chapter coordinator Julia Getchell and Louise Paradis of the Career Center delivered the letters, the union and the university have not reached an agreement.
The letter campaign was part of union efforts to mobilize student support for a faculty salary increase. AAUP members of began circulating copies of the letter after an Oct. 12 union rally on the steps of Millar Library.
“Our goal is to communicate to President Bernstine the depth of feeling on this issue,” said Sy Adler, a professor from the College of Urban Studies and Planning and AAUP chapter president.
“We hope that students and faculty are united on this issue,” Adler said. “Students need a faculty that feels engaged and committed to what they’re doing.”
The letter asks the president to “Please demonstrate you commitment to education by negotiating a salary increase that will allow us to recruit and retain high quality faculty.” Slightly modified versions of the letter were later written for faculty and staff that expressed interest in the campaign.
The salaries of Portland State’s faculty are ranked among the lowest 10 percent nationally, according to a recent survey conducted by the AAUP. No salary increases have been granted since a January 2003 salary freeze. However, the salary freeze was lifted last July.
The AAUP rejected Portland State’s offer on an immediate 3 percent salary increase and a 2.25 percent increase next year at an Oct. 4 contract negotiation session. The union also asked for PSU to “account for [in writing] its level of commitment” on financial issues such as salary advancement and faculty development.
The tight fiscal times facing PSU for the past several years are of great concern to both the faculty union and the university administration. Many facets of the university must compete for limited resources, making finding funds for faculty salary increases all the more difficult.
“In times of limited budget it makes it difficult to rectify several years of no salary increases,” Bernstine said Tuesday. “We are starting from the point of doing as much as we can.”
It should not be assumed that the administration does not want to pay faculty better, Bernstine said. Poor faculty pay eventually impacts the quality of education at PSU when the university is unable to retain professors that do well, Bernstine explained, but the university and the union have to reach a compensation package that makes sense under budget limitations.
“All of us in the administration are very concerned about faculty salaries and are addressing them in as positive a way as possible,” he said.
Adler said that Portland State’s achievements have been neglected in the state’s funding decisions for the university and he hopes that Bernstine will raise that concern when the State Board of Higher Education meets at PSU in November.
“Portland State needs to be treated fairly in regards to what we’ve accomplished here,” Adler said.