PULLMAN - A petition calling on Washington State University to significantly cut its administrators’ salaries was officially delivered to President Kirk Schulz’s office Wednesday night and on Thursday to the Washington State House Higher Education Committee and WSU Board of Regents.
By early Thursday afternoon, the petition had received 1,023 signatures from WSU professors, staff, students, alumni and other community members.
Elizabeth Siler, a clinical professor in the Department of English at WSU and a spearhead of the petition, said as of Thursday morning she had heard nothing back from Schulz’s office since word got out about the petition last month.
Schulz is expected to send a response directly to the petition’s authors in the coming days, Phil Weiler, WSU’s vice president for marketing and communications, told the Daily News.
The petition outlines an alternative plan for the university to save $30 million in the next three years, as opposed to a plan Schulz announced in October that calls for sweeping budget cuts across departments to reduce WSU’s $30 million deficit spending by $10 million each year.
That month, Schulz announced each university unit had been instructed to reduce its spending by 2.5 percent. In addition, Schulz announced several positions with Multicultural Student Services would need to be cut. It has since been announced those positions will continue to be funded. Schulz also declared WSU’s Performing Arts program as no longer financially viable, as the program had no designated funding and was running on university reserve funds. The program is expected to be canned by the end of performance season.
The petition proposes an alternative solution that would cut spending from the top. Administrators making $300,000 or more would receive a pay cut of at least 30 percent. Administrators in the $200,000 range would receive a pay cut of at least 20 percent and those in the $100,000 range would receive a pay cut of at least 10 percent.
In addition, the petition calls for administrators to publicly identify and cut other administrative overhead such as travel budgets, entertainment funds, start-up allowances and housing and relocation subsidies.
By making such changes, the petition claims all would keep their positions and benefits, no person would be fired and no person would be “forced to use food stamps and other taxpayer-funded subsidies to survive.”
The petition also claims graduate students would not need to see their stipends reduced.
Weiler told the Daily News that a decision has since been made to not reduce the stipends of graduate students in the College of Engineering during the next fiscal year. The students were initially reported to be receiving reduced stipends.
He said Schulz’s plan to reduce spending is not a cut, as departments will still receive the same amount of funding, but will be asked to keep 2.5 percent of it in savings.
Weiler said the university has made several strategic spending decisions that included raises for faculty and staff. Those decisions come at a cost, he said.
“It’s not appropriate to ask one category of employees to bear the brunt of these decisions that have been made over time that benefit the entire university,” Weiler said.
According to data from the Washington Office of Financial Management, 36 WSU employees made more than $300,000 in 2016. At least 21 of those employees are administrators, according to the petition, which defines administrator somewhere between a chair and a president.
The petition also points out that three of those administrators made more than $400,000, which is “more than the President of the United States.”
The petition can be found at https://sites.google.com/site/financeproposalwsu/.