Oregon State University Faculty Senate President Paul Doescher started the last meeting of the year with a joke and ended with a poem.
"Looking out over the audience, it's a little bit lighter," Doescher said, comparing attendance to the previous two meetings, when proposed budget cuts and furloughs created long debates. About half the senators - 73 - attended the meeting.
Joanne Sorte presented the highlights of the Interinstitutional Faculty Senate meeting: costs are increasing and funds are decreasing for Oregon universities.
"State funding for education will continue to decrease," Sorte reported. "(They) anticipate a 15 to 20 percent decrease in funds."
Portland State University employees have taken salary reductions and plan to close the campus Dec. 18 to 28. The University of Oregon reported discussion around unionization and no plans for furloughs; no plans are set for cutting, Sorte said.
"I called them the Emerald City recently, and I'm still thinking they're in the Land of Oz."
OSU's cuts were outlined in reports recently submitted to the provost.
"I couldn't tell if anyone had been laid off," said Becky Warner, chair of the Strategic Alignment and Budget Review Committee. "It's unclear."
She did offer some round numbers. "More than half - 55 percent - is coming out of personnel."
Provost Sabah Randhawa gave an overview of the implementation of furloughs, which begin Jan. 1, 2010.
General Counsel Meg Reeves came forward to quash rumors of impending legal action for faculty members who refuse to take the furloughs. "I have not heard one word, nor given thought one, to pursuing legal actions against employees."
Some concerns raised in previous meetings had been addressed by OSU President Ed Ray. Others still festered.
Several faculty members questioned the ceiling of the tiered salaries at approximately $120,000 a year.
"The voters are being asked to impose a higher income tax of 1.8 percent on people earning more than $250,000," said Roger Hammer, an assistant professor in sociology. "Make our furlough rates more commensurate with what the voters of Oregon are being asked to do."
Hammer also noted that because the furloughs are starting halfway through the fiscal year, people on a nine-month appointment will take a 25 percent bigger cut.
"It's putting more of the burden on the nine-month faculty."
Several senators from the College of Engineering stressed their desire to make the effects of the cuts more visible to the public and the Legislature.
"They'd like the message to be out to the voters prior to the elections," said Brian Bay, associate professor in engineering.
"Unquestionably, the past year has been relatively difficult," Doescher said in closing. "I wish for all of you take some time to relax, unwind ... and lighten your spirits."
Then he read Frost's 1923 poem "Dust to Snow," thanked the members for their service and wished the assembly "Happy New Year. Happy Holidays."