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WSU employees call for administrative salary cuts

Nov. 22, 2017 Updated Wed., Nov. 22, 2017 at 4:58 p.m.

Washington State University President Kirk Schulz received a petition Tuesday, Nov. 21, 2017 signed by 50 WSU employees outlining an alternative plan for the university to save $30 million in the next three years. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)
Washington State University President Kirk Schulz received a petition Tuesday, Nov. 21, 2017 signed by 50 WSU employees outlining an alternative plan for the university to save $30 million in the next three years. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)
By Taylor Nadauld Moscow-Pullman Daily News

A group of Washington State University employees has a solution to balance WSU’s budget: cut administrators’ salaries by up to 30 percent.

Fifty WSU employees, current and retired, have signed a petition addressed to WSU President Kirk Schulz outlining an alternative plan for the university to save $30 million in the next three years.

Last month, Schulz announced sweeping budget cuts would be necessary to reduce WSU’s $30 million deficit spending by $10 million each year.

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 and declared WSU’s Performing Arts program no longer financially viable. The program will be canned by the end of performance season.

It is unclear what repercussions departments will face if they do not meet the 2.5 percent reduction goal.

“I guess we haven’t really had that conversation,” WSU Marketing and Communication Vice President Phil Weiler said Tuesday.

The announcement drew instant backlash from some, especially from the Performing Arts program, whose faculty and students are currently searching for a different department to take them under their wing.

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.”

But Weiler said WSU’s financial situation is not as big as people make it out to be and does not require a crisis-mode solution quite yet.

Though he said neither he nor the administration had seen the petition by 2 p.m. Tuesday, Weiler commented on some of the petition’s details regarding administrative salary cuts.

“I see those kinds of actions as the actions you take when you’re in a crisis. We are not in a crisis,” Weiler said.

Rather, Weiler said, the university is slowly turning the ship to address a situation most institutions face at some point.

“These kinds of things happen all the time and people just aren’t aware of them,” Weiler said, adding Schulz, in particular, has chosen to be transparent about the situation.

According to data from Washington’s Office of Financial Management, 36 WSU employees make more than $300,000 a year. At least 21 of those employees are administrators.

Three of those administrators make more than $400,000; as the petition points out, that is “more than the President of the United States.”

Desiree Hellegers, an associate professor in the Department of English at WSU Vancouver, spearheaded the petition along with colleague Elizabeth Siler, professor emeritus in the Department of Fine Arts.

“I understand it’s not a crisis for WSU administrators making over $300,000 a year,” Hellegers said, “but it might very well be a crisis for the faculty and performance arts who are facing the fact of entirely losing their livelihood.”

Siler offered similar comments.

“One person’s 2.5 percent may very well be someone else’s crisis,” Siler said.

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