05 February 2012

Rules of Discussion

Since the blog of the WSU chapter of the AAUP is moderated, any comments will be considered before posting.  As long as the poster or commenter is writing material that is relevant and respectful to the rest of the WSU community, we will publish it.

To encourage everyone to feel comfortable enough to participate in the discussion, we invite members of the WSU community to submit postings and comments to be published under their own names or pseudonyms.  However, at least the editor (currently me) or some member of the WSU-AAUP board needs to know the name, status and contact information of anyone publishing in our blog.

If you wish to post on the blog and remain anonymous to the general public, I recommend using an e-mail account not linked to the university and sending material to us at wsu.aaup@gmail.com.

--Lynn Gordon


27 January 2012

Union! Union! Union!

The administration has let WSU professors down; time to organize

Published 1/20/2012 Daily Evergreen / Washington State University
By David Demers, associate professor of communication

Sometime during the next couple of weeks the WSU chapter of the American Association of University Professors will decide whether to begin the process of forming a collective bargaining unit for WSU professors. Here are five reasons why faculty should unionize:

1. The provost’s policy for evaluating and terminating tenured faculty violates AAUP guidelines pertaining to academic freedom. The provost’s office has forced at least “five to 10” tenured faculty to resign or retire in recent years because they received below satisfactory ratings in as few as three annual reviews.

Vice Provost Frances McSweeney revealed this practice under oath during a deposition she gave in fall of 2010. I am the plaintiff in that lawsuit (Demers v. Austin, et al.), which is pending before the U.S. Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit. AAUP says annual reviews for tenured faculty should be used for faculty development, not for termination decisions, mainly because annual reviews can be easily manipulated to fire faculty who are openly critical of administrators and their policies.

2. President Elson S. Floyd’s administration did not provide faculty with “ample voice” in the budget-cutting process, which also was biased. These were some of the key findings of an online survey of WSU faculty conducted last year. WSU faculty have low job satisfaction and low morale. Although budget cuts are partly responsible, the results of the study suggest that the “termination policy” mentioned above may also play a role. The survey found that even tenured WSU faculty (50 percent of all faculty) believe they have little job security. In fact, WSU scored lower on this measure than 80 percent of comparable universities and organizations.

3. Floyd and his administrators do not support free speech rights for faculty in their service roles. They made that clear last year when they convinced a federal judge to toss out my free-speech lawsuit, arguing that faculty, as employees, do not deserve First Amendment rights outside of the classroom or their research programs. If the administration wins the appeal, it means WSU can punish faculty who criticize administrators and their policies. If faculty cannot criticize without fear of reprisal, then shared governance is, for all intents and purposes, meaningless.

The irony is that WSU’s most famous graduate, broadcast legend Edward R. Murrow, was a staunch supporter of free speech rights and the First Amendment.

4. Administrative salaries have increased five times faster than faculty salaries. From 2001 to 2009, salaries of administrators working in the provost’s office jumped about 80 percent, according to state salary records. In contrast, salaries for faculty during that eight-year period increased about 15 percent, less than the rate of inflation. The average administrator in the provost’s office now earns nearly $160,000 a year. The provost’s salary, $250,000, increased 66 percent. The president’s salary, $625,000, also more than doubled. Administrators also get to cash in some of their “banked” sick days when they leave the university. Faculty on nine-month appointments do not.

5. There is no independent appeals procedure for faculty who believe they have been unfairly treated at annual review time. Currently, they can appeal only to deans or the provost, who almost always side with unit supervisor. The Faculty Status Committee can but usually refuses to hear annual review appeals, because it is too busy with tenure-denial cases. But even if the committee heard such appeals, it has no power to force the administration to change a review rating. A union, on the other hand, would have more power to force administrators to follow due process procedures.

David Demers is an associate professor of communication at Washington State University.

19 September 2011

Elections and Membership

I strongly urge all eligible members of the WSU community interested in shared governance and the future of tenure and higher education in the US and here at WSU to consider joining the AAUP and the WSU chapter in particular. Visit http://public.wsu.edu/~wsu-aaup/join.html and see how easy it is. We are about to send out an e-mail ballot for all the offices in the local chapter and we would like to see as many eligible voters as possible! Join today and vote tomorrow!

06 September 2011

Next General Meeting

The next general meeting is scheduled for 4:30 on Thursday, 8 September, in the Bundy Reading Room in Avery Hall on the Pullman campus. We have a lot to cover and we hope that you can make this important meeting. Topics to be addressed include:

  1. Election of officers for WSU-AAUP. Nominations and self-nominations for positions including president, vice-president, treasurer, secretary, and members-at-large should be sent directly to Elizabeth Siler at elizabethsiler@gmail.com by September 7 at 5 p.m. 
  2. Budget cut related matters 
  3. Issues related to shared governance/informed faculty participation/ budget transparency
  4. Revision of the faculty manual section on curriculum (a faculty responsibility) 
  5. Issues related to possible unauthorized changes to Faculty Senate bylaws 
 Light refreshments will be served. As always, feel free to bring a friend!

Interesting Article in Washington Monthly

A very interesting article in the Washington Monthly on some of the budget/finance issues that we have been discussing has been brought to our attention from several sources.  We thought that the rest the WSU community might be interested in "Administrators Ate My Tuition".

Response from President Floyd

President Elson Floyd responded on 31 August to Judy Meuth's 25 August letter. With his permission, we are posting his response here:

Dear Judy:

I appreciate your feedback regarding the proposed budget plan.

Let me provide some historical information that may prove useful. Over the last 10 years, WSU has consistently spent about 63% of state and operating tuition revenue in support of our core research, instruction and public service mission. We have used the remaining 37% to provide critical academic support. Academic support services include course development, course scheduling, advising, accreditation/certification, learning assessment, research compliance, student recruitment, admission, registration, information technology, payroll, campus maintenance and libraries – just to name a few.

With this historical context, one can easily see the tremendous protection the proposed FY2012 budget plan provides for the academic areas.

The proposed $3.2M reduction in the Academic Affairs budget represents about 16% of the required $20M budget reduction. Thus, while WSU invests 63% of our state and tuition budget directly in our core research, instruction and public support mission, it will carry only 16% of the total reduction. Critical support areas and branch campuses will shoulder the remaining 84% of the $20M reduction. This disproportionate reduction for academic support services is intentional. Yet we will soon hit a breaking point where we can no longer afford to erode these critical services.

The Academic Affairs proposed plan deliberately meets most of the reduction through consolidations and streamlining of academic administration. We simply must do all we can to protect our strong academic programs and our faculty who carry out our research, instruction and public service mission.

During times of economic scarcity and uncertainty such as these, it is human nature to direct frustrations and worry inward, struggling amongst ourselves over a seemingly ever-declining state funding base. Yet to do so threatens the fabric that is WSU. For it is the research, instruction and public service performed by our faculty and the intricately related support services provided by staff that form the inseparable tapestry that has and will continue to make WSU world class. In times such as these WSU is best served when we unite our efforts to expand our available resources, become more efficient, effective and focused in all that we do.

Sincerely,


Elson S. Floyd, Ph.D.

President
Washington State University

25 August 2011

Letter to President Floyd and Provost Bayly from the President of the WSU Branch of the AAUP

WSU-AAUP                                                    http://www.wsu.edu/~wsu-aaup/

August 25, 2011

Dr. Elson Floyd, President
PO Box 641048
Washington State University
Pullman, WA 99164-1048

Dr. Warwick Bayly, Provost and Executive Vice President
PO Box 641046
Washington State University
Pullman, WA 99164-1046

Dear President Floyd and Provost Bayly:

The WSU Chapter of the American Association of University Professors (WSU-AAUP) is gravely concerned that the proposed budget cuts announced on July 20, 2011, call for more cuts to the academic mission of the university.  Over the last decade, there has been a disturbing shift in funding from the core academic mission to administrative and support entities; this clear trend was documented in WSU Professor Greg Hooks’ report, ‘Meeting Challenges, Maintaining Priorities’, a report which examines the university's expenditures from 2004-2010 as detailed in its Financial Statements1.

We believe that WSU must reverse this trend and begin increasing academic funding immediately.  Expenditures on the university’s core academic mission slipped from 49% in 2004 to 47% in 2010.  Although revenues from the state, tuition, and fees grew 15.4% in the same period, expenditures on instruction increased only 11.4%2. What is the percentage of expenditures going to the core academic mission in the 2012-2014 budget plan?  WSU-AAUP fully supports Hooks’ recommendation that a minimum of 50% of revenues from the state, tuition, and fees go to instruction. This move would begin to reverse the erosion of spending on instruction. 

It is imperative that the university community has access to full and understandable accounting data to allow faculty and other interested individuals to determine the income and expenditures allocations in proposed and accepted budgets.  For instance, how exactly will the merger of the College of Sciences and College of Liberal Arts result in substantial financial savings?  

Prior to the university budget forum on Friday, 8/26/11, WSU-AAUP calls for WSU to make public the details of the proposed 2012 budget cut, including projected financial accounting and actions for all asserted savings in the plan. 

Equally important, calculations, categories, allocations, revenue and expenditures on which the all WSU financial statements are based must be made publicly available as soon as possible.

We wecome your mention of ‘shared governance’ in WSU budget announcements and forums. However, lack of public availability of comprehensive budget information online or at the fora thwarts real exercise of shared governance.  Making public the financial information described here to the university community and for Faculty Senate deliberations will provide an underpinning for meaningful shared governance.


Sincerely,



Judy L. Meuth
President, WSU-AAUP
509-335-4383

26 June 2011

My Question for the Week (And, yes, I know that the last one was months ago)

How many administrative units and academic units does WSU currently have?  How many did it have ten years ago? -Lynn Gordon

07 June 2011

Meeting Challenges, Maintaining Priorities

On 23 May, Gregory Hooks (professor and chair, sociology) distributed a report on the budget/financial status of the university to the president, provost and members of the Faculty Senate committee on the budget.  We strongly recommend that everyone interested in the future (and immediate past) of Washington State University, not just budget issues, should read Greg's report (linked here).

Report from the Trenches: Status of Demer's Lawsuit

Professor Appeals Dismissal of Free Speech Lawsuit Against WSU Administrators
    The First Amendment does not protect college professors who criticize the quality of university programs, even if they offer, as citizens, plans to improve the program and pledge to donate $100,000 of their own money to implement them, a U.S. district court judge has ruled.
    Robert H. Whaley of Spokane, Wash., has dismissed a 2009 lawsuit filed by tenured journalism and mass communication associate professor David Demers against four Washington State University administrators.
    The lawsuit accused the administrators of fabricating evidence to discipline Demers in his annual reviews from 2006 to 2008, partly in retaliation for a “7-Step Plan” Demers created in 2007 to improve the quality of the Edward R. Murrow College of Communication professional programs. None of the programs is nationally accredited.
    Demers’ attorney, Judy Endejan of Graham & Dunn, Seattle, is filing an appeal this month with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which previously has ruled that speech similar to Demers’ is deserving of First Amendment protection.
    However, to justify his decision to dismiss the case, Whaley cited a 2006 U.S. Supreme Court (5-4) decision that overturned a Ninth Circuit decision and upheld the power of a former Los Angeles district attorney to discipline one of his subordinates who revealed that law enforcement officers had made false statements to obtain a search warrant before arresting a man. In Garcetti v. Cabellos, the court ruled that government employees have no First Amendment protection for statements made as professionals, even when they act as whistle blowers. Employees have protection only for statements made as citizens.
    Although Demers formally submitted the 7-Step Plan as a citizen, not as an employee, Whaley ruled that the plan was part of Demers’ job responsibilities. He also ruled that the quality of university programs is not a matter of public concern, another condition the Supreme Court set in Garcetti for plaintiffs to win free speech cases. And Whaley ruled that the university administrators have immunity from prosecution even if they falsely accuse faculty of violating university rules.
    Despite Whaley’s ruling, the legality of professors’ rights to criticize university administration is far from settled. On April 6, 2011, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that a University of North Carolina professor whose professional publications criticized administrators were protected speech even though he submitted them as part of his case for promotion (Adams v. The Trustees of UNC).
    Whaley did not mention or address the issues raised in the Adams case.
    If Whaley’s decision is upheld, it means that faculty at public universities can be disciplined for any criticism they make of university administrators. The American Association for University Professors and groups representing whistle blowers believe public employees have a right to criticize their superiors without fear of retribution, but the five members of the Supreme Court disagree. 
    Although most plaintiffs are upset when their case thrown out of court, Demers said there is a thick silver lining.
    “First, Whaley’s decision and the appeal now mean that much more attention will be given to an important, unrecognized social problem in America: the lack of legal protection for public employees and whistle blowers who draw attention to mistakes, incompetency and illegal behavior in public bureaucracies. A democratic, just society clearly needs to protect these public employees.
    “Second, the case shows that WSU administrators are more concerned about controlling their employees than in protecting their free speech rights and supporting democratic processes. Professors extol the principles of free speech and democracy in their classes, but university administrators often act in contrary or authoritarian ways. If WSU university administrators felt strongly about free speech rights, they would have fought this case on substantive grounds -- whether the evidence supported the charges -- rather than on procedural grounds.”
    Third, Demers said the most important principle is not winning the case, but fighting for First Amendment rights. “The First Amendment is a work in progress, not a fixed, unchangeable right. Courts and judges make mistakes, and cases lost now can become codified into the law in the future. I have confidence that the Supreme Court eventually will see the error of its ways. I feel good knowing that I did all I could to support First Amendment rights for government employees.”
    If Whaley’s decision is upheld by the appeals court, some legal experts say it will be the beginning of the end to shared governance at universities. Shared governance is the idea that faculty, not just administrators, have the right to participate in budgetary, administrative and curricula decisions. Demers also said that if Whaley’s decision stands, WSU administrators will ramp up their efforts to fire tenured faculty. His lawsuit revealed that administrators have quietly fired “five to 10” tenured faculty in recent years.


David Demers

03 May 2011

Another View of WSU's Financial Situation

Dr. Robert Rosenman responded to Professor Bunsis' slides before his talk on April 21st in a e-mail to his fellow faculty senators.  Since we are attempting to encourage a dialog, he has given us permission to post that e-mail here.  Given the opportunity to add to his comments here,  he chose not to.
As Chair of the Faculty Senate Budget Committee I would like to thank Gary for sharing the slides that will be the basis of the talk Howard Bunsis will give tomorrow.  They are informative and very comprehensive.  I believe they give a good review of the economic and political situation that has led to the dire circumstances facing WSU over the past few years, and likely continuing into the future. His analysis was especially useful in showing how a significant portion of the cuts from state appropriations are offset by tuition increases, assuming, of course, that the administration and regents choose to impose the full burden of allowed tuition increases on the students.  The crux of his arguments are summarized very clearly in the first bullet on slide 90:

Is there really a financial crisis at WSU? No, as WSU has solid reserves, revenues exceeding expenses, strong cash flows, and manageable debt. This conclusion is confirmed by the strong credit ratings of WSU.

Bunsis insists that WSU has room to cut administrative expenses more, possibly sparing any core academic units.  Moreover, he suggests that WSU use its reserves to balance the budget rather than further cuts, and that three are sufficient unrestricted reserves to do so .  The first point is certainly debatable, but I believe while the second point may be legally true, it may not be so in terms of implied contracts and promises made to faculty and staff who were responsible for generating much of those reserves.

The reserve situation is summarized in Slide 39:
  • Expendable net assets are the numerical sum of restricted expendable net assets and unrestricted net assets.
  • Restricted non-expendable have restrictions that prevent spending, such as contractual or donor-imposed (permanent restrictions imposed by donors)
  • Restricted expendable net assets are those that are externally imposed by creditors, grantors, contributors or laws, so that the money must be spent on that purpose. However, it is an indication of financial flexibility and freedom (money has been set aside to pay off principle).
  •  Unrestricted net assets represent the greatest financial flexibility and freedom for WSU, though the administration will claim these funds are “spoken for.” However, they are not firmly committed; if they were, the external auditors would not put them in the unrestricted category.
 My primary point of contention is whether WSU should expend the unrestricted net assets to cover any shortfall in state appropriations.  While legally the administration has the right to spend these funds in the manner suggested by Bunsis, most of these fund, I believe, face internally imposed restrictions based on promises made by the administration to the faculty and staff who were responsible for generating these reserves.  For example, I have some reserves the control of which has been promised to me by my dean because these reserves were generated by external grants I procured.  These funds will be used in the future to support my research and teaching.  There is an implied contract between me and WSU that these funds will be there for me.  While I doubt there is a legally binding agreement, there is, in my opinion, an ethically binding agreement. The dean of my college often tells me that my department, and even some individuals within my department, control more reserves than he does.  This situation exists only because he agrees to abide by promises made earlier.

Notice, please, that most of what I say here has been modified by terms like “my opinion” and “I believe” because there are no absolutes.  Like anything else, there are tradeoffs between different promises made – to me to have control over the reserves I generate, to others for continued employment, to students to try to keep tuition low.  Any choice from among the alternatives, or some compromise, has consequences for the future of WSU, and there is no easy solution.  People losing jobs is dire, but so is abrogating promises that could adversely impact incentives and productivity at WSU in the future, or raising tuition so that a college education moves beyond the ability of middle class students.  I do, however, believe that it is misleading to say that all reserves that are legally fungible can easily be spent to cover any deficit.  I see the situation as much more complex than Bunsis concludes.  The students, staff, faculty and administration at WSU deserve better, and need to work together to arrive what is best for WSU in the long run, even as we acknowledge that some individuals will be hurt.

Robert Rosenman
Professor of Economics
Chair, Faculty Senate Budget Committee 

02 May 2011

Editorial in Today's Daily Evergreen

Judy Meuth, president of the WSU-AAUP, wrote an editorial that appeared in today's Daily Evergreen:


Floyd refuses to hear AAUP claims

The WSU chapter of the American Association of University Professors agrees with President Floyd’s timeline of postponing the announcement of a budget cutting plan until fall, when faculty and students are on campus to give input to the plan. At the same time, AAUP considers the proposed budget cutting process flawed in consideration of shared governance, which is the standard procedure for universities where faculty and administrators work together to make decisions about educational operation.
At last Monday’s budget forum, Floyd stated that the university is a place for free speech and exchange of ideas. However, he refused to have a discussion of WSU financial information and alternative views on how to deal with cutbacks in state funding. He particularly rejected information from AAUP’s recent speaker Howard Bunsis, an Eastern Michigan University accounting professor and expert in higher education budgets. The president’s comment that he does not like someone from outside stirring up faculty and students ignores the fact that faculty and students have been stirred up and questioning the administration’s priorities and actions for some time. The comment also denies that the university community is fully capable of critically examining and evaluating differing information and philosophies. Varying points of view and analyses are vital in furthering discussion, critique and understanding of the full picture of WSU’s financial status, budget cuts and educational priorities. Concern about budget questions includes why the administration has made cuts to the core educational mission of the university before cutting senior administration positions. Moreover, inaccurate claims made by the administration obscure the priorities behind such decisions and exacerbate faculty and student concerns about finances. A case in point is the comment credited to Floyd in last week’s Daily Evergreen on the elimination of the Department of Theatre and Dance (4/27/11): “The reality is, my budget has been reduced, currently, a little over 30 percent in that last four years.” This statement clearly misrepresents the financial situation of WSU, because 30 percent has not been cut from the total WSU income stream, but only from the state contribution, which accounts for only one quarter of the total income stream. Therefore, the actual reduction is 30 percent of one quarter of WSU’s income. In addition to discouraging financial discussion, the administration offered no information when questioned at Monday’s forum on how it will proceed with the reorganizations of instructional units that it says will occur in its budget cutting. Curricular questions are the purview of the faculty, but what careful review by faculty will occur prior to reorganizations, realignments and relocations, potentially all of which will affect curriculum? We need a procedure by which such proposed reorganizations get a fair and open review by the Academic Affairs Committee of the Faculty Senate.
By refusing to openly discuss Bunsis’ analysis of WSU’s financial status and to make ‘transparent’ significant WSU financial information, as well as to address questions of priorities and reorganization, Floyd is obstructing shared governance. WSU-AAUP calls for an open discussion of these issues between the university community and the administration early in the fall semester. If the president believes in shared governance, as he says he does, why not promote and expand this discussion with the university community, so we can together discuss and weigh alternatives regarding curricular implications of WSU’s financial situation?

20 April 2011

Bunsis Report on the Financial State of WSU

Dr. Bunsis's (final) slides for his report on the financial state of WSU are now available at http://www.wsu.edu/~wsu-aaup/Bunsis.pdf. Whether or not you can attend his presentation on Thursday, 21 April, at 4:30, we highly recommend looking at these slides!

10 April 2011

The Financial Condition of Washington State University: Are Drastic Academic Cuts Really Necessary?


This presentation, sponsored by the Washington State University chapter of the American Association of University Professors (WSU-AAUP), will address the university's current financial status, funding, and costs to give us a better basis for discussion of how the univesity should go forward from here.  WSU-AAUP welcomes all members of the university community to this public presentation.

As a professor of accounting at Eastern Michigan University with a background in accounting and law (B.A. in Accounting from Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania; J.D. from the Fordham Law School; M.B.A. and Ph.D. in Accounting from the University of Chicago; CPA and licensed attorney), Dr. Bunsis is particularly well qualified to look at the economic situation of public universities, which operate with complex funding sources and within the constraints of state law.  He teaches graduate accounting courses in financial accounting and government accounting.  In addition, Dr. Bunsis teaches the law for nonprofit organizations as part EMU's nonprofit management program.  For more information about Dr. Bunsis, please see his bio at http://www.cob.emich.edu/include/biosTemplate.cfm?ID=1112&biosID=9.

Dr. Bunsis is currently the secretary-treasurer of the national AAUP and the chair of the Collective Bargaining Congress of the AAUP, with substantial experience in both his local AAUP chapter at Eastern Michigan University and the national AAUP.

The WSU-AAUP believes that a clear understanding of the financial status of WSU is essential to present and future plans for the university.  As faculty and members of the WSU community, if we are to contribute to that planning and participate in the governance of this university, we must understand the current financial condition of the university. 

04 March 2011

Interesting Documents from the Last General Meeting

Janelle Taylor, president of AAUP-UW in her conversation with the membership on February 16th shared several documents with us that we think are of general interest. With her permission, they are linked here:

17 February 2011

The Daily News Takes Notice

FYI: The Moscow Pullman Daily News pays attention.  In response to the WSU-AAUP press release about the numbers just released in the 2010 WSU Financial Statement, the Daily News  followed up in the 16 February 2011 edition of the paper.  It's good to see the community paying attention!

15 February 2011

GENERAL MEETING Wednesday, 16 February

Please join WSU's chapter of the American Association of University Professors in a conversation with Janelle Taylor, Associate Professor of Anthropology and President of AAUP-UW, to discuss collective bargaining efforts at the University of Washington. This conversation will initiate WSU-AAUP's commitment to learn more about collective bargaining in general and at other campuses.

Everyone is welcome to join in the conversation!

4:10-5:30 pm on Wednesday, Feb. 16, 2011
Bundy Reading Room in Avery Hall

This meeting will be teleconferenced to the Vancouver campus in VMMC 204.
This meeting will be teleconferenced to the Tricities campus in 260.


Contact: Elizabeth Siler mejia@wsu.edu

08 February 2011

Press Release from the WSU-AAUP

Press Release          February 10, 2011                Pullman, Washington

The WSU Chapter of the American Association of University Professors (WSU-AAUP) believes that a discussion of available university finances should be the next step in budget planning. In articles in the Daily News (1/20/11) and Daily Evergreen (1/25/11), President Elson Floyd and Executive Director of Planning and Budget Joan King presented views about the university’s financial status that seem inconsistent with the university’s published financial statements. The Administration’s assertions suggest that, since state allocations have decreased in the last two years, WSU is in severe financial crisis. However, the most recent financial statements suggest that the rhetoric of financial crisis may be misleading. In fact, these financial statements seem to allude to a surprisingly healthy fiscal state within the university.

The newly posted 2010 Financial Statement http://www.wsu.edu/genacct/finstat.htm reinforces WSU-AAUP’s previous assertion that overall revenue streams into the university are increasing. Although the state’s allocation to the university has decreased from 27% of total university revenues to 23% in the past 2-3 years, this decrease has been offset by increasing revenue, including tuition raises of 14% for the last two years, a period characterized by the highest student enrollment in WSU’s history. The university actually had total net assets increase by more than $70 million in each of the fiscal years 2008 and 2009, and by more than $39 million in fiscal year 2010.

The recent financial statements also appear to indicate reserves that could be used to avert program reductions and faculty/staff eliminations. Specifically, unrestricted net assets plus restricted expendable net assets totaled $144 million at the end of FY 2009 and rose to $165 million at the end of FY 2010. Unrestricted assets alone are currently in excess of $80 million. Restricted expendable net assets represent soft or non-contractual commitments for future projects. However, our understanding is that, generally, both of these categories of assets can be spent freely at the discretion of the Board of Regents.

The relationship between WSU’s financial status and budget discussions needs clarification. The Administration has sent mixed messages about the assets, whether they “can not” or “should not” be spent for certain purposes. Similarly, terms such as “targeting” of expenditures need clarification – targeting by whom, and for what? It is unclear how and when the administration’s fiscal decisions are limited by law and how and when they are limited by administrative priorities, which can change.

The WSU-AAUP Chapter’s goals are to broaden participation of the faculty in discussions of the budget and to include consideration of the overall financial health of the university in budgetary discussions and decisions, especially those that impact university instruction, curricula, academic organization, and employment. In the interest of shared governance, transparency of information, and fiduciary responsibility, the first step to clarify the financial state of the university, especially in light of the current fiscal reserves, should be an administration-sponsored, open forum.

Contact: Rich Alldredge, WSU-AAUP Member and Past President
alldredg@wsu.edu      509-592-7956      509-334-9008

28 January 2011

February 1 Meeting Cancelled

We regret that the conversation with the provost has been canceled.  We hope to reschedule at Provost Bayley's convenience.

18 January 2011

Press Release from the WSU-AAUP


1-18-11

NEWS RELEASE

Pullman, WA 

The Washington State University chapter of the American Association of University Professors wishes to highlight a major inconsistency between the grim budget projections provided by Washington State University's administration and the robust financial condition as reported in the university’s audited annual statements. Budgets are plans and projections, but financial statements report the actual financial condition of the university.

The current fiscal crisis has resulted in reduced funding for WSU by the State of Washington. However, as WSU’s audited Financial Report 2009 shows, state funding represents only 27% of the university’s income. The overall annual revenue from all income streams (tuition, grants, etc.) has, in fact, been increasing steadily for the university in recent years.  In addition, the Financial Report 2009 illustrates that WSU has approximately $144 million in reserve funds.   This information comes from the university’s most recent annual financial statements, which can be found at http://www.wsu.edu/genacct/finstat.htm. WSU's solid financial status is also attested to by a December, 2010 bond rating of Aa2 by Moody's (the third highest rating out of 23 potential ratings).  In short, WSU’s current financial condition does not appear to warrant the types of personnel and program cuts being proposed.

The Chapter believes that fiscal discussions and decisions should go beyond budget projections and consider the whole financial status of the university.  Budgets represent only part of the financial picture.  Financial statements report the actual fiscal condition of the university.  It's time to focus the fiscal discussion to consider WSU’s more complete financial state as the central administration makes plans to realign units, terminate employees, and impact students as a result of lower state funding.  This broader conversation, involving more representation from the wider university community, is vital to maintaining and growing the university’s instructional quality and educational opportunities for students of Washington State. 

Contact:  
Rich Alldredge
WSU-AAUP Member and Past President
509-335-3737
509-334-9008

16 December 2010

Open Letter to President Floyd and Provost Bayley


December 14, 2010

Dr. Elson Floyd
President
PO Box 641048
Washington State University
Pullman, WA 99164-1048

Dr. Warwick Bayly
Provost and Executive Vice President
PO Box 641046
Washington State University
Pullman, WA 99164-1046

Dear President Floyd and Provost Bayly:

The WSU-AAUP chapter has paid close attention to the current budget cut planning process and has been engaged in associated discussions regarding vision, process, and shared governance.  We want to convey to you our concerns regarding the budget cutting process.  Some of these concerns relate as well to the operation of the university at large. 

The responsibility of the faculty is the university curriculum, as is standard practice in universities across the nation.  Since many of the budget cut plan elements will impact curriculum, the faculty should have had a wide representation and approval power on the plan and on the final rendition of it.  This faculty power should be in place whether the issue in question is attributes of specific courses or policies on establishment, reorganization, and discontinuance of programs, departments, colleges, and larger programs of study.

Planning meetings regarding budgets should be public meetings to the extent of the law, and confidentiality requirements of members of any planning committees should not be made except in the cases demanded by law.  ‘Closed meetings’ and broad requirements for confidentiality from committee members stand in the way of shared governance.  Information dispersion to faculty and representation from a wide range of faculty voices should be standard practice.  On all committees whose decisions potentially affect contingent (non-tenure line) faculty members, contingent faculty should be full members of those bodies in a percentage reflective of their percentage of the university faculty. 

In the current round, after a semester of planning and a month after deans’ plans were due, the administration announced its budget plan on Dec. 3 and held a public forum on Dec. 8 on the plan.  The administration required, however, that the university community respond to the plan by Dec. 15, only a week and a half after the announcement.  Coincidentally, the final plan is also scheduled to be announced on Dec. 15.  How is it possible that university community responses will be seriously considered when they can be offered until the same date of the final announcement?  This confluence of dates makes more obvious perhaps the overall message of this short response time – that faculty, staff, and student responses were never going to be taken into account in the ‘final’ plan.  Likewise, announcing a plan and calling for responses at the end of the semester when faculty and students are deep in preparing, taking, and grading final exams and then departing from campus, is not at all conducive to a real consideration of any plan and well-developed responses.  This end-of-semester/vacation timing is a repetitive pattern for major announcements by the administration, even when not driven by state information releases.  Announcements of plans need to occur during a regular semester, not at the end of a semester/over break; more lag time is needed between the announcement and the response deadline; and the responses of the university community need to be seriously considered by the administration. 

Throughout this round of budget cut planning, ambiguous terms have led to confusion and anxiety in the university community.  There has been administrative talk of ‘everything is on the table’ when, in fact, the entire community understands that some programs are more at risk than others.  Terms such as ‘reorganization’, ‘realignment’, and ‘restructuring’ have all been used by various levels of administration, but these terms are not clearly or consistently defined, so the university community is left to wonder and worry. 

In the case of ‘reorganizations’ of programs (whatever that may be), WSU has no clear policy on what processes and conditions will be used to make decisions regarding tenure track and contingent faculty positions.  Faculty as a whole should be defining these processes, including  negotiation on moving positions, job responsibilities, retention of resources assigned to faculty, and potential rehirings in the case of terminations.

We urge that you delay the decision and announcement date for the final plan for cuts until the end of January to allow time for more input from the university community and serious administrative consideration of the responses. We ask that in any future deliberations regarding budget reductions, realignments, restructuring, or reorganizations, attention be paid to the requirements of shared governance and transparency.  We urge that the university operate within the nationally- recognized guidelines in the AAUP Redbook (http://www.aaup.org/AAUP/pubsres/policydocs/default.htm).

Sincerely,

Judy L. Meuth
President, WSU-AAUP
509-335-4383

05 December 2010

WSU-AAUP General Meeting 4:10 Wednesday, 8 December

Please come to the last general meeting of the WSU-AAUP for the fall semester. The meeting will be held at 4:10 on Wednesday, 8 December, in the Bundy Reading Room in Avery Hall. (We are trying to arrange for videoconferencing to the urban campuses. We will announce the locations as soon as we know them.)

Discussion Items on the Agenda:

  • Budget cut plans
  • Processes to be followed during the implementation of any cuts.  For example, 
    • what does AAUP propose should happen to faculty if a program is “reorganized” rather than closed. 
    • if contingent faculty are terminated and then ‘hired back’, what should be hiring criteria, etc.?
  • An accurate definition for administration the breadth of ‘curriulum’, in terms of what faculty should be able to control and/or have a voice in.
  • Ways to interact with the Senate to act on the faculty’s behalf.
  • Collective bargaining – should WSU faculty move toward unionization?
Once again, we invite all members of the WSU community.  Participation in WSU-AAUP general meetings is not restricted to members of the organization.  We would like to talk with all faculty (tenure-line or contingent (instructors, lecturers, clinicial)), students, and anyone else with an interest in the future of WSU.

17 November 2010

My Question for the Week

Can anyone tell me (in dollars--not percentages, not comparisons to the amount requested, just plain dollars) how much money the university had each year since 2001 for actual operating costs? Not money dedicated to particular research or locked into an endowed chair, money that the university could use to pay teachers, underwrite research, provide essential university services to students.

I look at the operating budget and get sums that are not coherent with the claim that WSU has lost enormous amounts from its operating budget--so I must assume (given my acceptance that no one would lie about the operating budget) that much more of the current money is locked down for specific purposes than in our prior budgets. Is there any way to get this information from any public source?

Lynn Gordon

An Interesting and Useful Article

Here is an article which should be of interest to all of us interested in the future of higher education, universities, public universities, and WSU specifically:

"A Faustian bargain: An open letter to George M Philip, President of the State University of New York At Albany" by Gregory A Petsko at http://genomebiology.com/2010/11/10/138

On edit: This is an excellent article, but it concedes as true the claim that the humanities/liberal arts are not self-supporting.  After reading this letter, also read  "The Humanities Really Do Produce a Profit" by Robert N. Watson at http://chronicle.com/article/The-Humanities-Really-Do/64740/

Lynn Gordon

13 November 2010

Sources of Information about the Budget

It is difficult to find all the information one might want about the WSU budget, but here are three sources of information provided by the university:

Lynn Gordon

12 November 2010

Unending Budget Numbers

A while ago I posted a brief commentary on our operating budget numbers over the last 7 biennia.  It occurred to me that I might not have been entirely fair, since I reported those in dollars, not in dollars adjusted for inflation.  So here's another round of contemplating the operating budget numbers from  the same source (http://ir.wsu.edu/utils/File.aspx?fileid=5956).  Converted into 2010 dollars using the U.S. government's inflation calculator (http://data.bls.gov/cgi-bin/cpicalc.pl), our operating budgets over the last seven biennia have been

  • 1998-1999     $956,770,690
  • 2000-2001     $947,017,550     (1 % cut from the preceding biennium)
  • 2002-2003     $1,044,491,010  (10% increase from the preceding biennium)
  • 2004-2005     $1,078,352,700 (3% increase from the preceding biennium)
  • 2006-2007     $1,084,138,730  (1% increase from the preceding biennium)
  • 2008-2009     $1,255,350,460 (16% increase from the preceding biennium)
  • 2010-2011     $1,229,711,000  (2% decrease from the preceding biennium)
With the best will in the world, I find it difficult to see this as a disaster that requires immediate, catastrophic restructuring.

We might also consider that the proportion of our operating budget that comes from tuition has been steadily increasing over this period--so why does it make sense to reduce the number and quality of undergraduate courses (since like most other universities, the bulk of our students are undergraduates)?

P.S.  I am a linguist, not an accountant.  I would be happy to see anyone with more experience working with budgets take over my self-assigned task of interpreting the operating budget.  Really I would.


P.P.S. Click here to see the proportions of the operating budget from each of the major sources.

Lynn Gordon


(edited to add link to chart and to correct typo)

11 November 2010

A Question

Background:  Twenty years ago, WSU underwent a retrenchment similar to the one we have been suffering through over the last year or so and at that time the decision was made to restructure the university by making vertical cuts.

Question: Has anyone studied the process and results of that 'realignment'?  (We are, after all, an academic institution--we believe in research and in general we believe that understanding the past can help us understand the present.  Or do we?)

Lynn Gordon

24 October 2010

Where is diversity going?

One change in the proposed Gen Ed curriculum would replace the Diversity requirement with something vaguely and disingenuously called “civic engagement.” The proposal’s definition of civic engagement is even more vague and elusive than  the name itself, and so effectively this change would mean that many of our white students—the numbers and percentages will surely increase—will experience an entire four-year degree program without taking classes taught by faculty of color or classes in which they are actually in a minority.  Recently WSU created a Faculty Diversity Committee, charged with boosting recruitment and retention of “diverse” faculty. This committee is not charged with influencing the undergraduate curriculum, but there is a clear connection between “diversity” courses and a diverse faculty, and so we can only hope that the committee is voicing its protest against the Gen Ed proposal. Prospective faculty of color would surely rather work in a school with a “diversity” requirement than in a school without one.  More important, in these times of extreme and vicious polarities in our nation’s and region’s political discourse, now is no time to eliminate courses that require undergraduates to learn the histories of race and racism, gender and sexism.    

John Streamas

17 October 2010

Funding Priorities in Hard Times

A while back, in writing a satirical lexicon of terms for university procedures and institutions, I defined a university as:
University, n. (1) (arch.) collection of people paid to engage in research, teaching, learning and service for the benefit of the larger community; (2) structured set of positions (temporarily filled by people); (3) collection of buildings continually being torn down and rebuilt, usually surrounded by trees and insufficient parking.
Unfortunately, I think this reflects more truth than I would have liked to believe when I wrote it. In a rational world, it should be clear that if a university is place to create and share knowledge the only crucial parts of it are people: people as students, as teachers and often simultaneously as researchers or artists.

A university (or any school really) is only a school when people are thinking and talking and trying to get closer to what best accounts for how the world works and how best to represent the concerns of humanity and share that with others. That can be done in brand-new, beautiful, well-equipped buildings or in tents. When the society as a whole is doing well, it can and should invest in beautiful and useful buildings, complex and useful technology, and convenient and well-planned landscapes. But when money is tight, the focus of spending in a university should be on the people--on making the university run. A university that is not teaching students is not a university. A university that is not supporting people to think and discover and share is not a university. No matter how beautiful the buildings, no matter how thoroughly equipped they may be, a university is the people in it.

We would be unwise to fail in our duty of maintenance for the physical body of the university, its buildings and grounds, but we would be far more unwise to fail in our duty to our faculty and students in supporting them in learning and teaching. We fail our students when we increase the cost of tuition and fees every year--as though educating students is only a profitable to the individual, not to the entire community. We fail our students when we decrease the time they have with teachers. We fail our faculty when we reduce their numbers and do not recognize their dual functions of pursuing knowledge and of sharing knowledge and therefore their need for the community of other students and teachers. We fail the university when we pretend it is the buildings. We fail the university when we act as though building new buildings is more important than keeping up those we already have and more important than supporting faculty and students in creation and discovery and sharing of knowledge.

It has been noted that when we move out of these hard times, we will be grateful for the money spent on new stuff—new buildings or equipment. Maybe. Maybe we will consider it already out of date. It is easier to build buildings than to build or maintain faculty and students. In times like these, we must again consider what a university is. The other day I heard someone refer to the university as its administration only. That is wrong--a university is all its people--its students and its faculty and those who work to make the work of the students and faculty more effective.

What does that mean from practical point of view? It means that in bad economic times the primary function of university funding should be to make the university operate. The accounting convenience of separating the budget into a capital budget and an operating budget and then allocating money to the capital budget while slashing the operating budget is wrong. We have to stop thinking of things as permanent and people as transitory.

New buildings can wait.

Education should not.

Lynn Gordon