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THE FACULTY'S ROLE IN ITS OWN FATE



By
Thurston E. Doler

October 1984


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


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