Faculty Forum Papers
THE FACULTY'S ROLE IN ITS OWN FATE
Thurston E. Doler
THE FACULTY'S ROLE IN ITS OWN FATE
Some significant changes have occurred in the last three years in the procedures for generating
budgets for higher education and the shepherding of these budgets through the Legislature. An
awareness by faculty of these changes could make a great difference in the faculty's decisions
about their role in that process.
In the thirteen years preceding the tenure of the present Chancellor, support for higher education
in Oregon declined steadily. In 1967-68 the Department of Higher Education received 24.4% of
General Fund expenditures, but in 1979-81 that percentage had decreased to 12.5%. This
represented a decline of Higher Education's share of Oregon personal income from 1.09% to
0.83% in the same period. [A CASE FOR EQUITY (1981); Prepared by the Faculty Salary
Committee of the Association of Oregon Faculties, P.O. Box 12945, Salem OR 97309.]
This decline in support for higher education in general was reflected in the buying power of faculty
salaries during the same period. Real buying power of UO-OSU salaries declined twenty-five
percent (25%) during that same period. [Ibid., Table I.]
A sign of our declining fortunes in the Legislature during that period is seen in action taken by the 1979
Legislature in its returning of $70,000,000 "surplus" dollars to the taxpayers. In that same year, based
on the Portland CPI, inflation in Oregon was 13.9% and the appropriation for salary and wage adjustments
for state employees, including faculty, was the State's assumption of a 6% PERS "pick-up," which is still
in effect. This action was the result of a collective bargaining agreement negotiated by the Oregon Public
Employes Union, consisting of classified employees, with the Executive Branch. Ironically, faculty were
represented, de facto, by a union in which they had no representation and no voice!
When William "Bud" Davis became Chancellor, he initiated a strategy of bringing to bear on the promotion
of higher education the resources and influence of all available agencies. In the initial months of his
tenure, his out-reach to the grass roots included his visiting of every area of the State and all the
newspaper editors in Oregon.
A second move was to establish the Vice Chancellor for Public Affairs position in Salem, the site of
political activity. And, thirdly, he sought the cooperation of available faculty groups in formulating
educational objectives and budgets and in taking his case to the Governor and the Legislature. The
Association of Oregon Faculties (AOF) with Bob Davis as its Public Affairs Counselor, has been utilized
primarily, although AAUP has also been a consultant. The basic strategy has been to focus on the
channels of political power the influence generated through these various sources (i.e. grass roots, AOF,
AAUP) in promoting the fortunes of higher education. Advice and information from these groups were sought,
obtained, and utilized as the Strategic Plan was put together in 1982-83. Parenthetically, the OSU Senate's
Executive Committee also, in response to the invitation to do so, supplied extensive revisions of the plan to
Larry Pierce, the Chancellor's representative.
The same coordinated procedure that was used during the last biennium in formulating budgets for higher
education and taking them to the Legislature is again under way. Prospects for having a coordinated effort
in taking the case to the Legislature presently look good. There is, however, fierce competition for General
Fund resources from which higher education is financed. [If the Property Tax Limitation Measure passes,
(Ballot Measure 2) that competition is bound to escalate greatly.]
A second significant decision that was made in preparing the 1981-83 budget was to disconnect salary
budgets for academics from those of classified staff. For several biennia prior to 1981, decisions on salaries
and wages were usually postponed to near the end of the legislative session awaiting a Collective Bargaining
agreements between the OPEU and the Executive. When these agreement were reached, their basic
provisions were applied to all public employees, including academics. However, budgets presented by higher
education to the 1983 Legislature provided for salary monies independent of classified employees. This
disconnect procedure allowed for treating faculty salaries and benefits independent of other State employees.
During that 1983 session, salary adjustments for faculty, although funded retroactively for the denied
adjustments of the previous year, were 2% higher than those for other agencies. This approach has its
inherent risks, but it also presents the opportunity for us to make our own case for the needs of academic
employees and higher education.
There are several critical, although manageable, steps in the process of formulating budgets and getting
them passed. The first step is generating budgets, such as salaries and program improvements, and
having them approved by the OSBHE. That has been done for 1985-87. The second step is to have higher
education's salary budgets included in the budget that the Governor presents to the Legislature. That is
now in process as the representatives of faculty work with the Chancellor and his staff.
A third, and final, step is the taking of the package to the Legislature and securing its passage. That step
has a new and vital ingredient that began in 1981. That new ingredient is the influence of the faculty
through its selected representatives. This dimension needs an immediate boost if faculty are to realize
the maximum influence for which they have the potential. The Oregon State System of Higher Education
presently has about 4285 faculty members with 0.50 FTE or more with the rank of instructor or higher.
Approximately eleven hundred (1100) of these belong to the Association of Oregon Faculties (AOF) and
approximately six hundred (600) to the American Association of University Professors (AAUP). There is,
of course, considerable overlap in these memberships, but the maximum membership is 1700 faculty, or
39%. I suspect the number of people involved as members would come closer to 32% of the total potential.
In spite of this low membership level, the Chancellor, the Governor, and key legislators have worked
extensively with these faculty representatives. Their influence could be significantly increased, however,
if a majority of faculty were members. The impact of faculty groups is generated in two ways. First, political
impact tends to be proportional to the extent to which faculty representatives are perceived to speak for
their colleagues. Secondly, the additional monies generated through increased membership finance more
readily and completely the gathering of information, the financing of publicity, and the employing of staff who
are involved in our lobbying effort.
If another 1700 academics decided to join the present 1700, the results could be astonishing!
Up to this time, the Chancellor, the Oregon State Board of Higher Education, and the Governor seem to be
working in concert to improve significantly the funding of higher education for the next biennium. The State
Board at its meeting July 26-27, for example, approved an 11-1/2% per year salary adjustment for each year
of the 1985-1987 biennium. This salary item is one of a group of "Decision Packages" totaling $147,800,000
which is part of a budget request package of $641,267,000 for 1985-87. [OSBHE Minutes for July 27, 1984,
Schedule 1.] This budget, which represents a substantial increase over the 1983-85 Biennium, will be
submitted to the Governor and, we hope, to the Legislature.
Our present coordinated activity is the continuation of a long process back to necessary funding for higher
education and it has no guarantee of success. Its probability of success, however, would be enhanced
greatly if each person who reads this paper became a member of the faculty groups which are promoting
our budgets for the next biennium.
Thurston E. Doler
Department of Speech
July 26, 1984
Opinions expressed by authors of Faculty Forum articles are not necessarily those of the
OSU Faculty or Faculty Senate.