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Faculty Forum Papers



Anthony Wilcox, Ph.D.

December 1994

EDITOR'S NOTE: The traditional Faculty Forum Paper is written for an OSU faculty audience which constitutes its initial readership. Professor Wilcox' paper, which follows, varies from this standard convention in that it was composed for and delivered to members of the Oregon State Board of Higher Education, as they met in Portland on December 16, 1994. Because of the vital importance of Measure 8 to everyone connected with higher education in Oregon, Professor Wilcox' full testimony is provided here as a Faculty Forum paper. Because the setting of the original message is central to its theme and impact, the paper's phrasing as testimony before a panel has been left unaltered. (GHT)

Interinstitutional Faculty Senate Report
to the Oregon State Board of Higher Education

By way of introduction, I am Anthony Wilcox, Chair of the Department of Exercise and Sport Science at Oregon State University and representative from that institution to the Interinstitutional Faculty Senate. I have been a member of the faculty of OSU since 1987. Thank you for allowing me to speak with you today.

I state the obvious when I inform you that since the passage of Measure 5, things have been very difficult in the Oregon State System of Higher Education (OSSHE): There has been an unconscionable reduction in departments, programs and degrees; student access has been hindered by precipitous increases in tuition; and talented faculty and staff have been lost due to cut-backs or flight to more promising positions. These have been hard times for educators.

But Measure 8 has outraged faculty and staff beyond anything I witnessed during the Measure 5 years. It may be that after years of struggling with the effects of Measure 5, Measure 8 is the proverbial straw that breaks the faculty's back. It may be because Measure 8 hits everyone across the State System, where the cuts brought on by Measure 5 could be directed within each institution in an attempt to preserve the strength of the remaining programs. Or the intensified outrage might be because, suddenly, with Measure 8, it got personal. The individuals in the State System were specifically targeted.

I know that the Chancellor and the members of the Oregon State Board of Higher Education understand that Measure 8 has had a demoralizing effect on faculty and staff, but it is unlikely that you appreciate the extent of this discontent. I am here today to try to convey that to you. The presence of so many of my colleagues in the audience should also be taken as evidence of the depth of feeling over this issue and the pressing need to respond. Focusing on the injustice of Measure 8, focusing on the lack of appreciation shown us by the citizens of Oregon, and focusing on the injury to our earnings has heightened our awareness of how badly our salaries compare to national standards. This has created a new urgency for the Chancellor and the members of the Board to act decisively to rectify this situation.

There have been some developments in the last two weeks that offer glimmers of hope. Governor Roberts has declared that the 6% contribution to our pensions will be taken pretax, which slightly reduces the financial impact. She has also delayed the implementation of Measure 8 until July 1, 1995. Also, the Republican leadership in the Senate may propose that the excess corporate taxes taken in by the state be used to support higher education rather than being returned to the businesses.

We have in Governor-elect Kitzhaber someone who pledges his support for education. President Frohnmeyer of the University of Oregon is leading one of the legal challenges of Measure 8. And President Byrne of Oregon State University has been strongly advocating across-the-board cost-of-living adjustments for faculty and staff.

We have seen where local units of government all over the state have approved salary adjustments for their employees. They know that these employees have been unfairly victimized by Measure 8. These officials have shown political courage in defending the interests of their employees. Measure 8 allows for this "window of opportunity" to adjust salaries before the measure goes into effect. Some simple-minded critics have pointed out that while such actions comply with the letter of the law, they violate the spirit of the law. An analysis of the measure reveals that it has a spirit that should be violated. Let's consider the violations enacted by Measure 8.

While teachers and city and county workers negotiate their salaries with their localities, we in OSSHE must negotiate with the State legislature. Since this is the case, the legislators should be able to fully appreciate the ways that Measure 8 is a breach of previous agreements between us and them. In one fell swoop, this measure violates two separate negotiations between OSSHE and the legislature: the 6% salary enhancement in 1979 and the wage freeze for this biennium.

As a brief recap, in 1979, when inflation was 11%, the State negotiated a 6% pick-up of the employee contribution to their pension in place of a pay increase. Faculty and staff did not request the pick-up; they preferred a pay raise, but the 6% pick-up was the only deal offered. The advantages of the pick-up to the State were the following: First and foremost, the 6% pick-up was a salary enhancement that was only 1/2 the rate of inflation at that time, so the State got away cheaply while faculty and staff saw further erosion in their earnings. Secondly, with the 6% pick-up, faculty and staff increased their take-home pay without receiving an increase in salary. Therefore, the State did not have to pay any of the increase in benefits that would be associated with an increase in salary. Thirdly, pay raises are given as percentages of the base salary, and a 6% increase in salary that year would have been compounded in future salary increases. With the base remaining unchanged, that compounding did not occur.

So the faculty and staff received a much deserved 6% salary enhancement, but it was very much on terms which favored the State. Fifteen years later, it turns out that these terms disadvantaged the OSSHE employees, for it provided a target for politicians and special interest groups with no sense of obligation to previously negotiated contracts. The true effect of Measure 8 was to rescind the 6% pay raise of 1979, but the backers of the measure disguised their intentions by targeting the 6% pick-up as a special benefit given by the State to its employees. If their motives had been honorable and they truly wished to have state employees contribute to their pensions, there would have been no condition barring the restitution of the earlier pay raise. We, the faculty, expect the legislators to see that the conditions they placed upon the pay raise given in 1979 left us vulnerable to Measure 8, we expect them to honor our previous agreement, and we expect the Chancellor and the Board to vigorously pursue this matter.

The passage of Measure 8 also violated the agreement between the State and OSSHE that salaries would be fixed during this biennium. While freezing salaries, legislators also directed OSSHE to increase teaching productivity and student access to classes. Faculty and staff were realistic about the salary freeze and responsible in accepting it as part of our contribution in dealing with the decreased funding available for Higher Education. And we rose to the challenge of increasing teaching productivity. Many of the people in the audience today were part of the teams of faculty that developed the productivity plans on each campus, and all of us have worked to implement these plans. We have increased the use of technology in the classroom. We have reduced the number of low enrollment classes. We have accentuated the role of senior faculty in undergraduate education. We have revised graduation requirements. We have shifted resources to be able to respond to student demand for classes. In short, we have changed the culture of the academic community. And throughout this process we have been vigilant about maintaining quality in undergraduate and graduate education. The commitment of OSSHE's faculty and staff has been remarkable, and by whatever yardstick used to measure it (such as student credit hour generation or graduation rates), the results are clearly evident. The House Interim Task Force on Higher Education Review has commended OSSHE for the way it has responded to the need to increase productivity in the face of Measure 5 cuts. With salaries frozen, faculty and staff stepped up their efforts to serve the citizens of the State. Implementing Measure 8 is an appalling breach of faith. At the end of this biennium, our income will be reduced by 6%. Outrage is the only reasonable response to these circumstances.

Our economic fate is in the hands of the legislature. We have bargained in good faith, and we have been betrayed. When bold and decisive leadership is called for from the Chancellor and the Board, we find them appearing to be timid in advancing our case to the legislators. There must be institutional memory in the halls of Salem. School boards and city and county commissioners have come to the defense of their employees; you must do the same. Since Measure 8 invalidates the agreement to hold salaries constant during this biennium, give us the cost-of-living adjustments for the last two years the moment Measure 8 takes effect.

At our most recent meeting of the OSU Faculty Senate, Professor Wil Gamble spoke very eloquently concerning his response to the passage of Measure 8. He described the lessons in living that he learned from his great-grandmother. Wil's ancestors were slaves, and he would ask his great-grandmother about slavery and how it could exist in a country founded on the principle that all men are created equal and possess certain inalienable rights. Her answers resonate in his memory: that "slavery is the total absence of personal dignity in a place that is lacking in compassion." She also told him that "people do not always take seriously those things that they write down, and profess to live by and believe." The goal in life, she said, was to "survive with dignity."

Dr. Gamble decried as an affront to our dignity the injustice forced upon us because someone can purchase 50,000 signatures at $1 apiece, place a measure on the ballot, and, by a mere plurality, change the Constitution of this state. We ask that the legislators take seriously those things that they wrote down in 1979 and 1993.

The significance of an African-American professor standing up at the Faculty Senate meeting and speaking about slavery, dignity, and Measure 8 should not be lost on the members of the Board. In a recent Board meeting, you reviewed the progress toward increasing the number of minorities on the faculties at the OSSHE institutions. While some progress has been made, much more is needed. Achieving these goals requires that we be very aggressive in attracting good candidates for positions, because it is extremely competitive among colleges and universities vying to hire the available minority candidates. And, once hired, retaining these individuals is just as important. One of the devastating effects of Measure 8 is that many faculty are looking for other opportunities. We cannot afford to wait until the end of the legislative session to respond to critical salary issues. It is imperative that the Board take preemptive action. Assure the faculty that they will receive a cost-of-living adjustment. In addition, you must make salary enhancement the top priority in your objectives for the next legislative session.

Oregonians must confront the implications of continued underfunding of Higher Education. The traditional role of public higher education in the United States has been to make education available to anyone, regardless of income, who was capable of taking advantage of it and willing to work hard. In Oregon, we are in danger of abandoning that at a time when other states and other countries have decided that the prosperity of their people depends on their education. We are also doing it at a time when the number of students graduating from Oregon's high schools is about to increase dramatically. The citizens and legislators of Oregon must now decide whether they wish to provide for this generation of students the kind of accessible, high quality education that was provided for previous generations. They must also decide whether they want a system of higher education that will serve the needs of professionals and so attract new industry to the state.

The October 19th edition of The Chronicle of Higher Education reported that Oregon had the largest reduction of all the states in its support for higher education over the last two years. While Alabama, Georgia, Idaho, Mississippi and New Mexico increased their funding of higher education by 13-37%, Oregon decreased it by 15%. As you well know, we have had to drastically increase tuition to help offset this reduction in support. As a result, it is becoming increasingly difficult for Oregonians to afford to attend their public institutions. We are fast approaching a time where the tuitions will be so high that the majority of our incoming freshman classes will be from out-of-state.

Using data published in the March/April 1994 issue of Academe, OSSHE faculty are paid approximately 20% less than faculty at comparable institutions in other states. This disparity must be addressed. Measure 8 has created a discontent among faculty that makes continued service to a state that undervalues our efforts increasingly untenable. Last July, the Board recommended annual 3% salary increases for the 1995-97 biennium, and I have seen no revision of that request to the Governor. That just will not do. Measure 8 has widened the gap between OSSHE salaries and the national norm. It is time we properly compensated the dedicated faculty and staff who have worked so hard during these difficult times to maintain excellence in our public institutions of higher education.

This is the charge we put to you, Chancellor Cox, and the members of the Board.


EDITOR'S ENDNOTE: Following upon Professor Wilcox' testimony, the State Board formulated a resolution, worded as follows: "First, to make equity for faculty salaries a priority in the 1995 legislative session. Second, to state our unanimous and heartfelt support for faculty and staff, gratitude for their past service to the people of Oregon, and our commitment to obtain the resources necessary to offset inflationary decreases and to provide for equitable increases in salary for faculty and staff." The resolution passed unanimously. (GHT)

Opinions expressed by authors of Faculty Forum articles are not necessarily those of the OSU Faculty or Faculty Senate.