Faculty Senate talks raises, guns

Chance Swaim

Despite what Wichita State faculty were told last spring, they will not receive a raise this year.

University President John Bardo spoke at a faculty senate meeting Monday to address a growing faculty concern that salaries have not kept pace with cost of living increases and inflation.

Bardo’s address came as a response to a letter from the Faculty Senate Planning and Budget Committee.

“Particularly frustrating is the fact that the faculty were told in the Spring of 2015 that there would be a 1% pay raise for (Fiscal Year 2016) which could be applied in the Fall, or a 2% increase to be applied in the Spring 2016,” the letter said.

Bardo said the lack of raises resulted from a shortfall created by “significantly lower” enrollment this year than last year.

“Last spring we were working on trying to do something of a salary increase this year,” Bardo said, “but that was based on the assumption that enrollment would be OK, and at the time we didn’t know anything about legislature intending to limit tuition.”

Last summer, Kansas Legislature placed a cap on tuition increases to 3.6 percent for the next two years.

Another barrier, he said, was that the Kansas Legislature did not increase the base budget of the university this year and that he doesn’t anticipate that it will increase any time soon.

The state of the stock market, with fossil fuels lowering in value, also played a major role in faculty salaries, Bardo said.

“Enrollment is the one source of revenue, if we can work it, we have most control over,” Bardo said. “The growth of enrollment is in your hands as well as mine.”

“There is a perception among faculty that although we are told ‘there is no money’, there is money available for other projects, including hiring additional administrative positions, as well as a number of consultants,” the budget committee letter said.

The budget committee also requested specific short term and longer term strategies to allow Wichita State to offer more competitive salaries to its faculty.

One of Bardo’s future plans to combat stagnant faculty salaries, he said, is to increase enrollment and “rationalize the budget.”  

When pressed by faculty senate to define rationalizing the budget, Bardo said the plan would function as an “institutional physical,” and would involve an evaluation of university spending, department-by-department, and moving funds based on criteria set by an oversight committee. He did not rule out the possibility of dissolving departments.

“No one will be happy, but it’s going to have to happen,” he said.

“I don’t how much money we will pick up if we do that, but it will be more than zero. And whether it will be enough to change salary structures, I don’t know.”

When asked about a timeline for rationalizing the budget, Bardo said “anything big, don’t do fast.”

“What might happen is some programs that are saying ‘We sure are needing three more faculty,’ then we can say ‘No you don’t.’”

“We look at whether what we’re doing is rational and reasonable, or if what we’re doing is not.”

Guns on Campus

Peer Moore-Jansen, President of Faculty Senate, presented findings of a survey conducted this winter of Wichita State faculty regarding the expiration of an exemption that bans concealed guns on campus.

The survey’s goal was to highlight faculty concerns regarding “issues of general safety in an environment of academic freedom conductive to good teaching and learning.”

The presentation was meant to put Wichita State’s survey results in the context of a broader survey commissioned by the Kansas Board of Regents.

The survey found 72.7 percent of Wichita State faculty and staff respondents opposed permitting guns on campus. One-fifth of faculty and staff were in favor of allowing the campus exemption to the conceal carry gun law to expire. Around 6 percent responded that they “did not know” or were undecided.

“I suspect these feelings extend and are shared by students,” Moore-Jansen said.

Faculty and staff favored spending the necessary resources for adequate security measures, with 78.4 percent responding in favor. A quarter of those respondents qualified their answers “depending on cost.”

Moore-Jansen said a memo from Wichita State Vice President Anthony Vizzini stated the university is forming a ‘Critical Incident Committee’ to address the safety concerns of faculty and staff.

Moore-Jansen said faculty and staff must be careful how they express their concerns about guns.

“We are very restricted in what we can say as faculty members, but we have free speech as private individuals,” Moore-Jansen said, referring to a Kansas Board of Regents social-media policy that resulted in University of Kansas professor David Guth’s placement on administrative leave in 2014 for a controversial tweet in response to a mass shooting. Guth was using a personal Twitter account.

“Do not use your WSU email, do not use any kind of institutional message board, do not represent yourself as WSU faculty or staff or employees of the university. This is something we have to be very careful about.”

Several faculty members have refused the Sunflower’s requests for interviews about guns on campus and faculty salary.

Moore-Jansen said the government liaison for the university would be the best person to whom faculty should voice concerns, so they can be passed on to the legislature.

“The most important thing we can do is create some kind of sense of safety among those people who are clearly distraught by the potential presence of guns,” Moore-Jansen said.