Sam Dunaway | News Editor
Western administrators and faculty convened for the first time this year on Jan. 23 as part of the faculty bargaining process, a series of meetings where the faculty contract is negotiated between the Western Oregon University Federation of Teachers Union (WOUFT) and Western’s administration. The groups met periodically throughout winter and spring term, with the last session scheduled for June 21.
The faculty’s three-year contract, extending until 2020, was, in its conception, agreed to be re-opened and certain articles negotiated every year. The articles that manage salary and faculty development were re-opened for negotiation, and the faculty decided to review an article outlining the assignment of duties for faculty members.
As it stands, faculty are required to spend a certain number of credit hours teaching every term, but another part of the job description is service to the institution by taking part in various committees, senate bodies and advising students.
“Our concern was that in the last couple years we’ve been asked to do more and more institutional service, which is important and it’s part of shared governance, but it’s not teaching, and that’s the primary thing that faculty come here to do,” explained bargaining team chair Dr. Emily Plec. “We’ve found that the institutional service load is really taking time away from teaching for many faculty and making them feel as though they’re not giving their students the full attention that they’d like to give.”
WOUFT initially proposed a reduction in the teaching load from 36 credits to 24, to help offset some of the extra work many faculty members were doing to keep up with their institutional service projects. When the administration rejected this proposal, the conversation turned to increasing salaries.
“It’s begun to boil down to salary,” Plec explained. “If (the administration) can’t give us relief in our working week, we expect a better salary offer than the one that we’re seeing to compensate us equitably.”
Western has historically fallen behind peer institutions in salary. Now, after the revelation of the nearly $3 million savings in the university budget, many WOUFT members, like non-tenured track instructor Karla Hale, wish to see that money invested in both tenured and non-tenured faculty.
“(Western) salaries fall far below other local comparative community colleges and universities,” Hale explained. “Currently many of our non-tenure track faculty have to work part-time jobs — often at other colleges — to supplement their wages. I currently teach at Chemeketa part-time and get paid more per credit to teach there as a part time instructor.”
The administration team has offered tenured faculty an average increase in salary of 4.2 percent for 2018-2019 and 3.7 percent for 2019-2020. Additionally, non-tenured faculty have been offered a 3 percent salary increase for 2018-2019 and a 2.25 percent increase for 2019-2020. Carson Campbell, Associate Vice President and Deputy General Counsel, believes this is a generous increase for the resources that the university has.
“Over the two-year period, these percentage increases outpace the recent historical data on national average in faculty wage increases by a fair bit,” Campbell described. “Additionally, (Western) has offered a 25 percent increase, $50,000 annually, to the dollars invested in faculty development. All told, the University’s proposal carries a cost of nearly $1 million in 2018-2019 and $1.5 million in 2019-2020.”
WOUFT president Scott Beaver hopes that the administration provides both tenured and non-tenured faculty with competitive and fair compensation.
“No one gets into teaching at any level to get rich, but our faculty works very hard to provide (Western) students with a top-notch education and should be compensated accordingly for their diligent and thoughtful efforts,” Beaver said. “Our workload has increased but our pay has not kept up. We would like to see management put more of the millions they recently uncovered toward both non-tenure track and tenure track faculty salaries to help us attract and retain the best faculty for our students.”
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