March 21, 2019

Administration discusses faculty input, transparency in budget process at Faculty Assembly

Webster University administration discussed faculty input on the salary proposal and transparency in Webster’s budget process to Faculty Assembly. All seats were taken and some faculty members stood in the crowded library conference room for the Tuesday, April 16 meeting. President Elizabeth Stroble, Provost and Senior Vice President Julian Schuster and Chief Financial Officer Greg Gunderson attended.

Faculty Senate called the April 16 meeting after faculty expressed concerns at its regularly scheduled Faculty Assembly meeting the previous Tuesday. Gwen Williams, next year’s Faculty Senate president, said there was a “great deal of anger” from faculty at the April 9 Faculty Assembly meeting.

The anger, Williams said, was in part because the administration hadn’t recently met with the Salary and Fringe Benefit Committee, which works with the administration to put together a proposal for faculty pay, to work out a salary package.

“We didn’t have a (salary) proposal (from the administration) that the faculty had been part of,” Williams said. “The proposal itself was a fairly low raise (1 percent). And I think there are a number of other areas in which the faculty feel there has not been complete transparency, faculty input into budgeting and a number of things.”

A faculty member at the April 16 Faculty Senate meeting said the faculty’s understanding was that the faculty’s Salary and Fringe Benefit Committee didn’t have a lot of access to Schuster. The faculty member asked Schuster to clarify if faculty pay was a negotiation or not.

Schuster said discussions regarding the budget included academic deans, faculty, Webster Staff Alliance representatives as well as administration.

“If anybody thinks that this is a charade and that there are a small group of people who decide behind closed doors where money is going to go, I assure you that this is not the case,” Schuster said.

Schuster said it is a negotiation, and the administration wants to give faculty the “best deal” when it comes to employee pay.

Williams said to her knowledge, the Salary and Fringe Benefit Committee had emailed and called Schuster several times to request a meeting. She said some meetings had been scheduled but were canceled. Jeff Carter, chair of the Salary and Fringe Benefit Committee, was out of town on April 16 and was not available for comment on the committee’s communication with the provost’s office.

“(Regarding) access to me, as I said, I was spoiled by (previous committee member) Joe (Stimpfl). Somehow Joe always found a way to find me,” Schuster said. “I said my door is always open, and it truly is.”

Schuster said the lack of contact between him and the committee was due to scheduling, not because of “deliberate avoidance.”

“Each and every individual who wanted to see me did eventually see me,” Schuster said.

Schuster said there was a change in administrative assistants and an assistant may not know what the Salary and Fringe Benefit Committee is. However, Schuster said he didn’t blame the lack of meetings with the committee on a change in administrative assistants.

Ralph Olliges, Faculty Senate president, said the provost and the Salary and Fringe Benefit Committee didn’t meet as often as they should have to discuss faculty pay.

“For whatever reason, it didn’t happen. Without blaming someone, it just didn’t happen the way it should have happened, and I think both sides took credit for the problem,” Olliges said.

One Percent 

Stroble said a one percent raise pool is not adequate.

“It takes a community to build enrollment,” Stroble said. “We need the revenue base to be better than it is.”

Stroble said she looks forward to building a stronger base and “business as usual” will not do.

Williams said if salaries don’t increase with the rate of inflation, the result is less money over time.

“Salary increases for some people have not kept up with the rate of inflation,” Williams said. “Therefore, they are making less money now than they were a few years ago.”

Moving Forward 

Olliges said a vote on faculty compensation needs to happen this spring.

“My hope is that the committee and the administration will get together and work out a joint agreement,” Olliges said.

Olliges added that it appears this is happening. Once Olliges has a documented proposal regarding faculty salary from the committee and Schuster, he will call a Faculty Assembly meeting and vote.

“I think the administration provided data (at Faculty Assembly on April 16) that will help make (the budget) more transparent for everyone,” Olliges said.

Olliges said Dan Hitchell, associate vice president for resource planning and budget, invited him, Professor Michael Hulsizer, academic deans and students to a fall 2012 meeting regarding the budget. Olliges was not able to attend the meeting.

The fall 2012 meeting is the only one Olliges has been invited to this school year regarding the budget.

Williams said to improve transparency, she recommends the Faculty Senate appoint faculty members to be “vigorously involved in all the steps of budgeting process.” Those faculty members could provide feedback and report back to the senate as the budget is being created. Williams said this would improve faculty input and transparency throughout the budgeting process.

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