« Latest from President Bruininks on Furloughs | Main | RESOLUTION ON SALARY REDUCTIONS »

Important Message from U of M Faculty Liaison on Upcoming Faculty Salary Reduction Vote

I thank Professor Martin Sampson for his permission to post a recent email that he sent to the University of Minnesota faculty list.

I make no editorial comments. This is the full message:

17 March 2010


As a faculty legislative liaison to the State Legislature, I and my colleague Caroline Hayes attend legislative hearings on behalf of the U of M faculty and send occasional information bulletins on legislative decisions on U of M budget issues and other matters. We are part of the faculty governance system and are ex officio members of the Faculty Consultative Committee.

Yesterday in St Paul at the State Senate Higher Education Committee hearing an event happened that I think is important to share with the faculty.

Unexpectedly I was called out of the audience by the committee chair to comment on the forthcoming pay cut issue. I explained the procedures, the reason for the March 25 Faculty Senate meeting, and the provision that requires the administration to secure faculty approval of pay cuts. I also said that in my view many of the faculty are prepared to make sacrifices on behalf of the wellbeing of the University but that it is not clear how the vote will turn out or what kinds of adjustments we will have to make to get us through the next biennium.

A flurry of hands went up for recognition from the chair to speak. Both Democratic and Republican Senators asked pointed questions in regard to whether the faculty "gets it" that huge numbers of people are unemployed, that Minnesota is in a very deep recession, and so forth. The tone of a wide ranging discussion was not friendly. The clear, ardent message is that the U of M faculty voting against a temporary pay cut would be a statement that the faculty does not "get it."

Two observations of my own.

(1). The State Senate Higher Education Committee has been a crucial defender of U of M budget requests and U of M priorities of other kinds at the State legislature. Many of the hands in the air were from people who have voted again and again to support U of M requests. They will be very critical if the faculty rejects a temporary pay cut.

(2) Whether U of M faculty, many of them tenured, are willing to endorse a temporary pay cut or are not willing to endorse a temporary pay cut is the only message that most of Minnesota will get from the March 25 Faculty Senate meeting. The complexities that concern many faculty about how a pay cut should be handled will likely be irrelevant.

Other comments yesterday. As a long time employee of the Mayo Clinic, one Senator told the story of Mayo employees in the 1930s agreeing to take a 10% pay cut, which both saved the Mayo Clinic and produced a sense of community among Mayo staff that became an important part of Mayo's subsequent success. Another Senator observed that rather than identical percentage cuts there is something to be said for gradations so that people with lower salaries get lower percentage cuts. I commented that this latter point is part of the discussion among faculty.

Should I have sent this message?
Whether or not to send this message has troubled me. The risk of sending this is that the message looks like an effort to manipulate the vote next Thursday. The risk of not sending the message is that faculty go into next Thursday's meeting insufficiently aware of a crucial aspect of the atmosphere at the state legislature. I think this latter risk is contrary to the role of the legislative liaison.

Martin Sampson
Faculty Legislative Liaison

Post a comment

(If you haven't left a comment here before, you may need to be approved by the site owner before your comment will appear. Until then, it won't appear on the entry. Thanks for waiting.)