WSU professors: Cut administrators’ salaries

Their petition says it’s more equitable way to address budget woes

By Katie Gillespie, Columbian Education Reporter

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More than 700 people have signed a petition calling for cuts to top Washington State University administrators’ salaries in light of pending budget cuts.

University President Kirk Schulz announced cuts in October in an effort to reduce the university system’s $30 million annual deficit by $10 million every year until the deficit is eliminated. But Associate Professor Desiree Hellegers and Clinical Assistant Professor Elizabeth Siler, who launched the petition Nov. 20, believe those reductions should come from what they described as bloated administrative salaries, not from instructors or academic programs.

“What we are aware of is a long-standing pattern of the lowest paid workers at the university being most impacted by these cuts,” said Hellegers, who teaches English at WSU Vancouver.

The petition calls for pay cuts to 70 administrators whose salaries exceed $100,000, ranging from a 10 percent reduction for those making between $100,000 and $199,999.99, to a pay reduction of 30 percent for those making more than $300,000. That includes WSU Vancouver Chancellor Mel Netzhammer, whose 2016 salary was $364,000, according to Washington State Fiscal Information.

Schulz called for 2.5 percent budget cuts across the board. In Pullman, WSU is eliminating its Performing Arts department, eliminating temporary positions in the Office of Multicultural Student Services and trimming graduate stipends for students in the College of Engineering and Architecture.

“There’s a lot of poverty (in Whitman County), and this is a proposal that addresses making the problem worse by throwing people out of a job,” said Siler, who teaches in Pullman.

Lynn Valenter, vice chancellor for finance and operations at WSU Vancouver, said local impacts will be “fairly modest” compared with the rest of the university system. About 1.5 percent of the cuts will come in the form of the university not allocating revenue to individual departments, while the other 1 percent will be made from cuts in every department. That could mean professors won’t travel for professional development, or academic departments will delay buying new equipment.

“It’s not that we’re recovering those funds, it’s that we’re being asked not to spend it,” she said.

Valenter said she was aware of Hellegers’ petition, but declined to comment further.

“I’m only aware of the informal process,” she said.

The pair intend to print and deliver a copy to Schultz, but will leave it open for additional signatures.