Faculty senate approves pay cuts

The senate voted 130-26 Thursday to approve a 1.15 percent salary reduction.

by Danielle Nordine

The University of Minnesota faculty senate voted Thursday to allow a 1.15 percent reduction in salaries for faculty in the academic year 2010-11. The faculty salary cuts are one piece of University President Bob BruininksâÄô budget plan, which also includes a 2.3 percent reduction in administrative salaries and three required furlough days for hourly employees. Any University employee would also be eligible for up to 10 voluntary furlough days. As the proposal stands, the furlough days and reductions in pay would only last for one year. âÄúIt is important for our entire community to participate in this process,âÄù Bruininks said. âÄúThis is the most evenhanded and fair model weâÄôve come up with, and this will provide us with the breathing room we need to work through a longer-term plan and solutions.âÄù The results from salary decreases and furloughs, as well as delaying planned pay raises, will save the University $28 million, Bruininks said. The proposal came in light of a University budget shortfall of $132.2 million for 2010-11, including a $36 million funding cut from the Legislature on Monday. Faculty are the only employees able to vote on salary reductions. A provision in the tenure code states that if the president considers the University to be in a state of âÄúfiscal stringency,âÄù he may decrease the pay of tenured faculty temporarily with a vote from the faculty senate. Student employees, including graduate assistants, would not be subject to furloughs, according to the Office of Human Resources. âÄúThis is one of the most significant votes the faculty senate has been asked to make in over a decade,âÄù said Marti Gonzales, chairwoman of the faculty consultative committee. âÄúNobody has a crystal ball and can predict whatâÄôs going to happen two or three or five years out, but I think the president is making the right decision, given the alternative.âÄù Bruininks had told faculty in an e-mail that if the proposal was not approved, he would have to consider other means of trimming the budget, including layoffs. The final vote came after the senate rejected two substitute motions. The first asked the administration to perform an extensive audit of expenses and decide whether they align with the UniversityâÄôs mission. The second substitute motion proposed a sliding scale of pay cuts. That would likely have resulted in a higher percentage cut for faculty, but would have implemented a cutoff point where employees making less than a certain amount would see no change in their compensation. During the Great Depression, a sliding scale of cuts was implemented at the University. âÄúObviously, the University isnâÄôt rolling in dough, but it wasnâÄôt made clear that pay cuts were really necessary and that all other options were explored,âÄù said Gil Rodman, professor and member of Faculty for the Renewal of Public Education. âÄúThe crucial parts of the budget decisions have been completely opaque.âÄù Some faculty expressed frustration with BruininksâÄô refusal to support the sliding scale and his emphasis on the fact that a decision needed to be made soon. âÄúI feel like weâÄôre being held hostage, because weâÄôve known about many of these issues for years,âÄù anthropology professor Karen-Sue Taussig said. âÄúI feel like weâÄôre being held hostage by hearing that this is the only acceptable proposal to the administration.âÄù Currently, a proposed 2 percent increase in faculty base salaries would still occur, which Bruininks said is necessary to keep pay at the University competitive and retain quality faculty. Many faculty have asked that the raise be delayed as long as possible to save money, while others have said it isnâÄôt needed at all, said Kathryn Hanna, chairwoman of the senate committee on faculty affairs. An extra pay period in the 2010-11 academic year for some employees âÄî a byproduct of the biweekly pay system âÄî is also a budget concern for the next fiscal year. Other schools, including the University of Wisconsin, the University of Illinois and the University of California system, have also implemented furloughs for their employees.