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Editorial: Fine line to walk with university raises

Editorial: Fine line to walk with university raises

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Say what you will about University of Oregon President Richard Lariviere — and the man has picked up something of a maverick label during his term at the Eugene campus — he might be the next best friend for faculty members throughout Oregon’s public universities and colleges, including Oregon State.

Lariviere made headlines — and some waves — recently when it was revealed that the University of Oregon had handed out raises averaging $4,800 per year for faculty members. Those raises, of course, came at a time when faculty members at other state institutions were facing pay freezes and furlough days. (At Oregon State University, for example, faculty members voted to take furlough days.)

Lariviere wasn’t apologetic: He said the raises, which he termed “equity increases,” were to keep wages competitive for faculty members.

Now the other shoe is dropping at some of Oregon’s other public universities and colleges, according to a Monday story in The Oregonian. Faculty members at those other schools took note of the University of Oregon raise and started to raise questions about what they could expect in the way of pay increases.

OSU’s provost, Sabah Randhawa, is quoted in the Oregonian story as saying the University of Oregon raises increase the pressure on OSU administrators to dig a little deeper for its faculty. (Faculty members at both OSU and Oregon are not represented by a union, as is the case at some of the state’s other universities and colleges.)

OSU officials have said the university will announce raises this week for faculty members and that the topic would be addressed in President Ed Ray’s annual “State of the University” speech to the Faculty Senate on Thursday. And we’d guess that OSU’s pay increases to faculty members will fall somewhere between 6 and 8.4 percent.

Gov. John Kitzhaber has asked the universities to hold increases in wages and benefits to 6 percent over 2011-13. But George Pernsteiner, the chancellor of the university system, has set the cap at 8.4 percent, basing that on the recent agreement between the university system and Service Employees International Union Local 503, which represents classified workers.

It’s a tough line to walk. University presidents like Lariviere and Ray worry, with real justification, that the salaries paid to faculty members at their schools are losing ground rapidly to those being paid at comparison schools and that they need to find more money to retain top faculty.

But state leaders like Kitzhaber have to worry about the message sent to other public employees — and hope that the message there doesn’t get received as “Too bad you don’t work for the university system.”


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