UI faculty mulls pay cuts

BY ANNA LOTHSON | MARCH 11, 2009 7:17 AM

Having to speculate on hypothetical financial scenarios may seem to be nearly impossible, but UI faculty have no other choice until final decisions are made.

And that may not be for months.

But in the meantime, lengthy and often animated discussions — such as that of the Faculty Council meeting on Tuesday — will continue as UI officials figure out how to implement Gov. Chet Culver’s proposed $26 million cut from the school’s budget.

“There are lots of complexities in this,” Faculty Council President Michael O’Hara said after asking the faculty body to debate the logistics of taking across-the-board temporary reductions in pay versus a percentage cut that would vary depending on the qualifications of individual faculty members.

The consensus of the members showed the across-the-board cuts to be more beneficial because it would create less animosity among departments.

But English Professor Adalaide Morris raised concerns about the proportion of the cuts.

“I think it will be an attack on undergraduate education,” she said, noting her worry that the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences will be more deeply affected than others.

History Professor Katherine Tachau echoed a similar sentiment, saying she had concerns about departments that don’t have the ability to garner many grants, which may cause them to be overlooked.

“It’s crazy to have the majority of [the cuts] be in the liberal arts and sciences,” Tachau said.

Jeffrey Cox, also a history professor, said the most critical consideration during the budget crisis is maintaining the quality of education, because loosing more faculty would harm the UI.

Any official decisions must remain both transparent and quantifiable so faculty can truly understand the outcome, he said — something university administrators have all vowed.

“Then the faculty can see the visible results of their sacrifice,” Cox said.

Faculty Council Vice President David Drake acknowledged the UI is just one entity among many in the state that are suffering.

“It’s really important that we show the state and Legislature that we will share the pain,” he said.

O’Hara said taking a temporary reduction in pay will save the university money, and most budget talk has shown that the cuts will be between 1 and 5 percent.

But Richard Valentine, a professor of civil/environmental engineering, said given the economic morale of the state, simply a 1 percent cut would look poor for the UI.

“It will not fly very well,” he said, and the small number may not seem sufficient to the public. “It’s just going to throw another piece of wood on the fire.”

Recently, officials have also been discussing furloughs and cutting back on faculty to save money.

On Monday, state Board of Regents President David Miles also said he plans to ask regents to freeze salaries for non-bargaining unit employees — UI faculty, professional, and scientific employees, and institutional officers — for fiscal 2010.

While the budget talk remained just conversational, O’Hara said Tuesday’s discussion will be brought to the administration on Friday.

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