Faculty: Not an Academic Wal-Mart

The Easterner Online
Eastern Washington University, Cheney

“No corporate greed on campus.”

“Highest paid administrators, lowest paid faculty.”

Those statements, along with many others, were found on a number of signs held by EWU faculty members at a rally May 16 in the campus mall.

Mediation between the faculty union and Eastern’s administration over salary and workload issues are about to begin, which was the reason for the rally.

No classes were cancelled for faculty to be present at the rally, and that the faculty cares first about the students was made clear by demonstrators on several accounts throughout the rally.

Lower education because of lower pay was a common theme by all speakers.

“(The) faculty’s first concern is always the students,” said Tony Flinn, president of United Faculty of Eastern. “When [students] go off and become alumni they don’t say, ‘man, I had the greatest dean.’ Much as we all love of our deans, and we all do, they have their many endearing ways. [The students] remember the exchanges in class, after the class, in offices, out here with the faculty; they know we’re here for them.”

Doug Orr, the faculty organization executive committee treasurer, said at the rally that the administration and faculty do have one thing in common; making sure Eastern is offering their students a quality education. To do that, however, class sizes need to be smaller and faculty deserves to be compensated for their work, he said.

“The [Board of Trustees] has no history in higher education, none of them have ever taught, few of them have ever had any sort of experience in any an sort of situation with any teaching or learning situation,” Orr said. “Their idea is, how do you be a good corporate manager? You be a good corporate manager by making your workers work more for less. And we keep hearing that phrase, ‘do more for less’ and we’ve been hearing it for the past five years.”

If the faculty receives the wages they feel are fair and deserving, the money would come from a number of places. One of which could be a tuition increase, other avenues to use are donations or the $11 million reserve fund Eastern has.

“I believe every member of the Board of Trustees has the best intentions for the university,” Flinn said. “But-it’s a limited spectrum. They haven’t seen both sides of the story. They haven’t talked to enough people.”

The UFE hopes to see change with the new president, Rodolfo Arevalo.

“Our new president has a window of opportunity, and that window is closing very, very rapidly. He’s not responsible for the fact that the bargaining broke down; that’s the Board of Trustees, Orr said. “But he can be responsible for making sure we reach a collective bargaining agreement very very quickly that benefits the faculty. He’s already said our workloads are too high, he’s already said our salaries are too low, well now he can step to the plate and do something about it.”

The faculty union says that its members are underpaid compared with similar schools, with the lowest salary for its level in Washington, according to an article in the Spokesman-Review.

On May 8, the EWU Academic Senate censured the Board of Trustees (BOT) for “faltering in its responsibility to ensure the quality of the students’ academic experience to the detriment of the health of the university” as quoted from an e-mail sent to all faculty members from Sally Winkle, president of the faculty organization, and Bill Youngs, vice president.

Instances of failed searches for new faculty, as well as concern that junior and mid-career faculty are leaving because of workload and salary issues, were among the concerns expressed by the senate in the e-mail.

“These are alarming examples that demonstrate ways in which salary and workload, which are under the purview of the UFE, also inevitably affect the quality of education and faculty ability to teach their students, which are under the jurisdiction of the Academic Senate. Over the past two years, we have heard many faculty express frustration about their ever-increasing class sizes that not only add significantly to their workload but also undermine their ability to give students the personal attention they deserve,” as stated in the e-mail.

The censure, which means the senate strongly disapproves the BOT’s actions, “does leave room for the two sides to work together” to find a mutual agreement that will benefit the university.

On May 12, Dr. Arevalo sent an e-mail out to all staff in regards to the censuring of the BOT.

Surprised by the censuring action of the Faculty Senate, Arevalo said his reaction was caused by the appearance of blame being assigned for the issues facing the University in the “stalled bargaining process.”

“There is no doubt the issues that remain on the table in these negotiations — principally faculty workload and wages – are difficult issues that rightly provoke passionate debate. There is, however, a legal process through which the union and the University have been and are working to find solutions to those issues,” Arevalo said.

The mediation sessions are scheduled for late May.