"I'm sorry."

"It's complicated."

"It's not clear."

Participants uttered each of these statements at least half a dozen times during Thursday's meeting of Oregon State University's Faculty Senate.

Although the agenda had multiple items, the primary focus was on looming budget cuts and proposed temporary pay reductions for faculty.

Faculty, staff members and students crowded into a 200-capacity auditorium at LaSells Stewart Center. Some sat in the aisles; more than 100 gathered around tables in the main lobby and watched the meeting on a projection screen.

OSU President Ed Ray outlined the budget challenges facing the university and possible actions to mitigate some of the problems.

The president apologized several times in his 15-minute presentation, part of a meeting that stretched from a scheduled two hours to three.

"I apologize for adding to people's anxiety and concern," Ray said. "I am as culpable as anyone in creating confusion about what gets decided when."

He emphasized that there are four or five months to have a conversation about what changes are needed to cover the projected budget shortfall.

But he also suggested that faculty members might have to accept some pay reductions in the interest of saving as many jobs as possible.

Provost Sabah Randhawa offered a budget overview, using a PowerPoint

presentation, complete with pages of graphs and columns of numbers and percentages.

At times the graphs were confusing, both to Randhawa and members of the audience.

The 2009-2010 budget is balanced with $5.4 million in cuts. The 2010-2011 budget has a savings target of $10 million to $15 million, depending on the outcome of tax referendums in January. Some of that money can be partially offset with tuition increases and growth in nonresident enrollment, Randhawa said, but not all of it.

Randhawa stated that the administration did not want "to put everything on the backs of students."

Thus, two Faculty Senate committees submitted a joint proposal for a temporary pay reduction for all faculty except grant-supported salaries, to take effect Jan. 1 through June 30.

As proposed, faculty would take leave days in exchange for salary reductions. The pay cuts would be tiered, with reduction percentages based on monthly salaries. The money saved would be retained by the university to preserve faculty positions, although the committee members admitted they had "nothing in writing" to guarantee those savings would stay with the university.

Faculty Senate President Paul Doescher opened the floor to questions and comments.

Several people raised concerns about the equity of the pay cuts and the haste of pushing through a vote on the proposal.

Joan Gross, a professor of anthropology, suggested the cuts would affect people on the lower end of the salary scale more severely. She cited a difference between people who are "investing in retirement funds versus food for the family."

"We're all in this together," said Extension Service employee Michael Bondi, who's worked at OSU for 32 years. "One for all and all for one."

He suggested campuswide shutdowns. "No taxes, no work," he said. "To show people we're not on holiday."

Numerous people spoke in favor of the proposal. Others advised a delay and more discussion.

"There are enormous risks to many people's livelihoods," said Joseph Orosco, an associate professor of philosophy. "Let's not be hasty until we understand the implications."

"I took a 20 percent pay cut last year," said Doug Russell, from the Department of Art. "Twenty percent was enough to give. I don't want to get cut again."

"You're not going to get cut again," Ray said.

Ray said he would abide by the Faculty Senate's decision on the proposed pay reductions.

"Your decision is the decision I will honor. I won't influence it."

In the end, those gathered couldn't decide how to handle the proposal or close the meeting. After a flurry of parliamentary rules and definitions, a motion was passed to continue the discussion of the proposal to a special meeting on Thursday, Nov. 19.

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