Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Plateau of Faculty Salaries

Okay, one final graph and then I'll knock it off. Readers may be suffering from graph fatigue. This one, again forwarded by Gary Brodowicz illustrates how faculty salaries, once you adjust for inflation, are nearly flat.

Unfortunately, given the state of the economy, we can probably rest assured that a few more years won't affect the current trajectory.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Salaries Adjusted for City-Specific Cost of Living

Just two more posts that come out of the rich data from the most recent AAUP annual report on salaries. This one deals with dollar-buying power. In previous posts, I highlighted how woefully PSU faculty are paid. But of course, these aren't apples-to-apples comparisons because it's more expensive to live in some cities than others.

In an email forwarded from GaryBrodowicz, we now have the weighted averages for selected "comparator schools" (those identified to be similar to PSU). These comparators are in cities with relative costs of living that all over the map, some more expensive than Portland, some less. (Numbers based on calculations from this site.) Have a look:
School_______________% PDX's S/L
George Mason Univ._______31.6%

Western Michigan Univ.
Univ. Toledo
San Diego State Univ.
Univ. Memphis
Univ. Texas Arlington
Univ. Ill. Chicago
Wisc. Milwaukee
Oregon State Univ.
Univ. Oregon
When to total all these up, Portland ends up more expensive by about 9%. Nevertheless, PSU faculty earn less than every school, despite the lower costs for many of them. Even more amazingly, our faculty earn less across the board--in no category do our faculty exceed faculty at another comparator school. Here's how the averages shake out:

It doesn't matter how you slice it, PSU faculty have really fallen behind.

April Bargaining Update

April Bargaining update

The PSU-AAUP bargaining team has met twice with the University during the month of April.

During our first meeting, we negotiated ground rules for negotiations and set a schedule to discuss all of the open articles. During our second meeting, we learned about the campus budget situation from Vice President for Finance and Administration, Lindsay Desrochers. We also reached a tentative agreement on Article 20: Intellectual Property Rights/ Distance Education.

Financial crisis
As you all know, the economic situation in the nation, state, and university is not rosy. At PSU we are facing possible cuts of 20% in state funding. Our CFO predicts a $28 million problem that would be only half way alleviated by a proposed tuition increase. Depending on the Governor’s mandate for reductions by state employees, the university may consider filling some of the remaining budget hole by making some form of cuts to salaries. We will know more after the May revenue forecast.

PSU-AAUP recognizes the gravity of the state’s financial situation. The bargaining team is keeping a close and critical eye on budgetary issues and examining the university’s priorities and spending choices. Your bargaining team is committed to working across the table to craft a contract true to the following principles. First, we will work to keep jobs on campus, preserving PSU’s human capital. Second, we will work to shield lower-paid bargaining unit members from cuts, should they be necessary. Third, we will work to preserve current levels of health care coverage. Fourth, we will work to craft language so that if cuts prove necessary, the situation will “snap back” to the current one at a designated time or threshold. During this time of economic difficulties, the bargaining team is working to preserve the gains made in the 2007-2009 Collective Bargaining Agreement.

Intellectual Property Rights Agreement
The new language on Intellectual Property Rights represents a major step forward in AAUP’s ability to protect members’ rights to the teaching and scholarly materials they craft through their intellectual pursuits. The bargaining team thanks PSU-AAUP’s IPR/DE task force members (Michael Chamberlain, Carol Holdt, Kal Toth, and Jonathan Uto), who have worked tirelessly with their counterparts from the university for over a year to reach this agreement. The success of the IPR task force raises hopes that during this round of negotiations the bargaining team will also be able to make significant progress with other non-monetary issues (such as workload and fixed term faculty job security and promotion).

Get involved
  • Interested in learning more? Keep an eye on our new Labor Blog at
  • Interested in getting involved? Are you a full member of the union? If you’re not sure, you can check your pay stub. If you see a line that reads “AAUP Union Membership Dues,” then you are a full member. If you see a line that reads “AAUP Union Fair Share Deductions,” then you are not a full member. For a few extra dollars a month, you can receive the benefits of membership, including the right to participate in contract ratification votes, run for the Executive Council, and get reimbursed for renting or buying academic regalia for Commencement. See for more information on membership benefits and for a membership form.
  • Interested in doing more? We are recruiting Unit Representatives for some units and members for several committees headed by Executive Council members. Contact me, Jonathan Uto, or Gary Brodowicz for more information.
Annual Meeting - Please come!
Finally, please join us for our Annual Meeting, which will be held from 4:00 – 6:00 PM at the Simon Benson House on Thursday, 7 May. Meet the Collective Bargaining Team, welcome our new Executive Council members, and learn about union initiatives and the status of bargaining. We will have great food catered by Madison’s Grill. Please RSVP to so that we can get a rough head count for ordering the food. Please invite your colleagues to join you and hear what’s happening. I hope to see you at the meeting!

In solidarity,

Michele Gamburd

Thursday, April 23, 2009

OSU May Cut Sports to Save Money

In today's Oregonian, Paul Buker reports that some sports programs may be on the chopping block at Oregon State University:
A report this week from Oregon State athletic director Bob De Carolis paints a grim picture of how the economic downturn could influence sports on the Corvallis campus, including potentially killing some teams...

Recently Oregon State has been paring its $47 million athletic department budget, which helps fund 17 sports, to better weather an economy that has hobbled even big-time athletic departments across the nation.
Earlier this year, PSU announced it would cut wrestling.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Graph: Decline of Tenure-Track Faculty

This week I'm highlighting some of the more important findings in the newly released AAUP annual report on faculty salaries. The following graph illustrates rather starkly the decline in the percentage of tenured and tenure-track faculty in American universities. (Click to enlarge.)

In 1975, 57% of university faculty were tenure or tenure-track, and just 30% were part-time faculty. By 2007, the numbers had reversed: 31% were tenure or tenure-track, and 50% were part-time. That's a remarkable change for just three decades. Even if current trends flatten out, what will this graph look like in another three decades?

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

How Are PSU Faculty Doing?

AAUP released its annual report on faculty salaries last week. Every year, I look through the listings to see just how far PSU faculty have fallen behind. This report has no rosier news--we're still at the very bottom for Ph.D.-granting public universities, trailing even in-state (and low-performing) Oregon and Oregon State. And these are data from 2008--before the economic crisis and 12.4% unemployment hit Oregon.

I will have more analysis throughout the course of the week, but I thought it would be useful to see the numbers, with some pretty little graphs, first. AAUP assembles these figures for teaching faculty only--researchers and academic professionals are not represented here. Yet while the entire membership isn't represented, we can see how faculty are doing--and perhaps make some larger judgments about Portland State University's priorities.

AAUP breaks out salaries by category--professor, associate professor, assistant professor, and instructor--and then gives an average of all faculty. As you can see in the graph below, Portland State faculty do uniformly bad at every level. Our faculty are in the bottom quintile in each case (finer-grained categories are not available beyond quintiles). Click on the graph to enlarge it:

The breakdown in salaries, with the first number representing PSU averages and the second representing national averages, is:
Professor: $88,700, $115,500
Associate Prof: $67,800, $80,000
Assistant Prof: $55,700, $68,000
Instructor: $39,800, $45,500
All Professors: $66,600, $84,900
If the span between those two numbers seems to gape, it's not just your eyes playing tricks. Here's the PSU salary of each category as a precentage of the average:

Keep in mind that this disparity is between PSU faculty and the average of American faculty at public, Ph.D.-granting universities.

I'll have more later this week--

Update. Gary Brodowicz was doing some calculations of these data himself, and he forwards along a graph with total compensation (includes benefits and salary). It is much like my first graph above:

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Wim Wiewel on the Budget

Yesterday afternoon, PSU President Wim Wiewel, along with VP Lindsay Desrochers, addressed an overflow audience about the current budget situation. (It really was overflow--they had to remove a wall to accommodate all the anxious staff in attendence.) He had prepared a nice Powerpoint Presentation, the slides of which were provided to attendees--flip through it if you want more detail than this post provides.

Where We Are
The current situation is this: recently, the state legislature asked PSU to develop a 30% budget reduction scenario (a third of the PSU budget comes from the state, or $234 million). President Wiewel said flatly that this isn't possible; in addition, it appears to violate the terms of the federal stimulus. PSU is actually planning for cuts of 20-22%--which is worse than their worst-case scenario of a few months ago. To meet these cuts, PSU is developing a strategy that includes:
  • Tuition increases (13% resident undergrad, 10% for grad and non-residents).
  • Differential tuition.
  • A potential 4.6% reduction in salaries (the state's request). Unclear whether this means furlough days or actual cuts.
  • Staff reductions. Likely, 40-50 FTE, but could go up to 120 (out of 3,500).
  • Campus closures during holidays, reductions in travel, equipment, and so on.
Bottom Line
In her discussion of the budget issues, Lindsay Desrochers noted that the salary reductions are a "bargainable issue." Neither the state nor PSU can mandate cuts (without declaring exigency, which is another matter altogether--one not discussed yesterday). Since we don't know how bad the situation is or will get, no one could discuss actual numbers.

Later, during Q&A, someone asked what the practical difference between salary cuts and FTE reductions were. President Wiewel, who was impressively candid throughout the meeting, responded wryly: "Practically, it means you have less money in your pocket." He elaborated, mentioning that for salaried workers it wouldn't make much difference; however, there are so many categories of workers at PSU that it would depend on individual situations. He also noted that SEIU had offered to take furloughs.

Finally, Linday Desrochers, responding to a question, did say, "there will be cuts" to jobs (I considered titling this post "There Will Be Blood, but it seemed a little melodramatic). President Wiewel was optimistic that the churn of employees might mitigate this somewhat, but again, it's too early to tell.

I was impressed with the candor and collegiality of the presentation. It never seemed like we were being managed or that it was a PR effort. Things are bad, and President Wiewel appears to want to keep the community as informed as possible with news as it develops.

If you want more detail about the budget or budget process, the PSU Budget page has a lot of detail. If you'd like to comment or ask questions, send those to budgetcomments(at)

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Faculty Salaries are Not Driving Up Costs

Yesterday I quoted from a nice piece talking about the state of higher ed and the sharp increase in the use of adjuncts to cover cost spikes. Below is from an email AAUP General Secretary Gary Rhoades sent out a couple months ago adding to the argument. He offers three critical data points to debunk the myth that faculty salaries are driving cost spikes. I'll quote from his email and then distill it into three handy talking points. First, his points:
  1. You can't blame faculty salaries for increases in tuition and costs. Faculty salary increases have been well below increases in tuition and well below increases in senior administrators' salaries, which have increased disproportionately. Adjusted for inflation, tuition increases between 1989 and 2005 averaged about 6 percent a year; between 2002 and 2006, tuition at public universities increased by over 29 percent. From 1999-2000 to 2007-08, the yearly increase in overall average faculty salary ranged from 2.1 to 3.8 percent; adjusted for inflation, faculty salaries either decreased or increased less than 1 percent in six of those years (see table A in the 2007-08 Annual Report on the Economic Status of the Profession). Between 1995-96 and 2005-06, presidential salaries increased by 35 percent, adjusted for inflation, compared to 5 percent for average faculty salaries (figure 3, 2006-07 Annual Report on the Economic Status of the Profession ); from 2005-06 to 2007-08, the two-year increase in senior administrators' salaries outpaced both inflation and the increase in average salary for full professors (figures 1 and 2, 2007-08 Annual Report on the Economic Status of the Profession).
  2. You can't blame increases in faculty numbers for increased tuition and costs. Full-time tenure-track faculty numbers have increased at a far slower rate than have numbers of other professionals and administrators. Between 1976 and 2005, full-time tenure-track positions in the United States increased by only 17 percent, compared to a 281 percent increase in nonfaculty professionals and a 101 percent increase in administrators (see figure 3 in the 2007-08 Annual Report on the Economic Status of the Profession).
  3. Spending on instruction has declined in all sectors of higher education, while spending on administrative costs has increased. Between 1995 and 2006, overall spending increased, but the share of instruction was down in all sectors (for example, in public master's institutions it was down from 53.9 to 50.8 percent; in private master's institutions it was down from 45.0 to 43.0 percent). The share of student services increased (from 9.9 to 10.9 percent in public master's institutions and from 13.9 to 15.6 percent in private master's institutions), as did that of administration and other support (from 36.2 to 38.2 percent and from 41.1 to 41.4 percent, respectively--See figure 8, Trends in College Spending, Delta Project).

Talking Points

The take-away from the data is stark. Costs are up, but priorities have shifted. Tenure-track and tenured faculty positions are frozen while non-faculty and administration positions have proliferated. As a proportion of the pie, the amount going to faculty continues to decline.
  • Faculty salaries have increased far more slowly than tuition increases or administration salaries.
  • Since the 1970s, universities have barely added new tenured faculty, but nonfaculty numbers are up 281%, and administration numbers have doubled.
  • Administrative costs continue to eat up a larger proportion of total spending, while money devoted to teaching declines.
The question to ask is: are these the right priorities for our universities?

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Trouble With "Flexible Faculty"

Among the many problems besetting higher education is the increasing reliance on adjunct faculty to manage teaching loads. The Nation recently had a great story on this issue:
Nienow is among 391,000 part-time or "adjunct" faculty at community colleges and public universities, positions that have increasingly replaced full-time, tenure-track jobs. Despite being the source of most of the teaching at colleges, these short-term appointments pay only about a fourth as much, per course, as tenure-track positions, seldom come with benefits and offer little job security or possibility of advancement....

The percentage of "contingent faculty"--a term that includes part-timers and full-time, non-tenure-track lecturers--on university payrolls has risen from around 43 percent thirty years ago to 70 percent in 2005. The rate of these hires at many colleges has only accelerated amid the economic downturn. To cash-strapped educational institutions increasingly run like corporations, adjuncts and part-timers are cheap labor--stopgaps in university budgets.

"We're the flex faculty," said Niame Adele, a sociologist and part-time instructor at the University of New Mexico.

Call them flexible or fungible, it is precisely this vulnerability that makes part-timers and adjuncts an expedient solution to budget shortfalls.

"Flexibility" is a word we're going to be hearing more and more, particularly as economic times worsen. But it's important to recognize the reason universities are cash poor--ballooning administrative costs, not rising faculty salaries.
But this change has not come about because of the increased cost of educating students: over the past 15 years, tuition at public institutions has risen 2 to 3 percent above inflation, per year; yet the amount of money spent on educational services has remained stagnant. This is due in part to a decline in state support, but also to a shift in priorities. The money, Bousquet says--and the savings reaped by hiring adjunct faculty--has gone toward ballooning administrative costs, positions and salaries; venture partnerships with corporations; and the construction of costly, extravagant facilities that critics say have more show value than instructional utility.

Now that these sources of income are strained, administrators say they must trim back elsewhere to proceed with scheduled construction. Many colleges, however, are stopping short of reducing salaries for top-paid administrators, which have risen 35.6 percent in the last five years. Ohio, which announced it would cut overall spending on public higher education by $25 million, is sparing any cuts in salaries of its 154 top administrators, among them the highest-paid university president in the nation, Ohio State's Gordon Gee, who makes $775,008 per year (before bonus). The median salary for public university presidents in Ohio is $355,000. On top of rising administrator salaries, the number of administrators at many colleges has risen as well, according to the Associated Press.
Times are tough, and universities are asking to shoulder the pain. These numbers help explain why universities are struggling through tough times in the first place.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Welcome to the Blog!

Hello to the members of PSU's chapter of the American Association of University Professors. My name is Jeff Alworth; I've been a unit rep for the past few years and this year I am new member of the collective bargaining team. I thought it might be useful for the union to have a blog so we can share information and get feedback from you all. This is an important year for our members. With the economy in crisis, our jobs, incomes, and benefits are in jeopardy; we need to have a pipeline for discussion, so we're giving this blog a try.

Please feel free to click around the articles as they go up. We'll be tagging each post with a label; if you want to learn more about a specific topic, you can click on the label and find all archived posts relevant to that topic. Please feel free to contact me at any time about bargaining, and ... welcome to the blog!