Western Washington University's faculty pay raises out of line
Western Washington University President Bruce Shepard may look good to the faculty members he lavished 13 percent raises upon, but not so good to families and students paying higher tuition for raises.
Seattle Times Editorial
GOV. Chris Gregoire and state budget writers have every reason to be furious at Western Washington University for lavishing big raises on school faculty.
Washington is still in an excruciatingly slow economic recovery. Revenues are flat. It was no time for WWU President Bruce Shepard to agree to a deal that calls for university faculty to receive 5.25 percent annual raises in 2012-13 and 4.25 percent per year increases in the 2013-15 biennium.
"Shepard Claus" didn't stop there. WWU faculty and instructors getting a promotion will be in line for a 10 percent raise. Department chairs will see a 15 percent increase in their stipends.
Back in the real world, state employees have been under a wage freeze since 2009. The Legislature also froze salaries for faculty at the University of Washington and Washington State University. Classified staff pay at other institutions have been either reduced by 3 percent or frozen.
The governor is not mincing words.
"My signature is barely dry on the (state) budget — a budget that protected funding for higher education," Gregoire wrote in a letter to Shepard. "Your agreement seems to ignore the shared sacrifice that other state employees in government and institutions of higher education have made."
College faculty agreements are not subject to state review. But state lawmakers who spent political capital to protect higher-education funding should treat any cries of poverty from Western with skepticism.
"I'm looking forward to seeing what Western's budget looks like next year and how they plan to pay for these raises," said Rep. Ross Hunter, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.
Shepard also handed a headache to his counterparts at the other universities. They must explain why campuswide raises remain off the table as the state tries to get back on its financial feet.
Western recently raised tuition by 16 percent, more than the other regional universities. Parents and students are right to wonder how Western found money for raises, but not for avoiding steep tuition hikes.
Yes, institutions need to use salaries to attract or retain sought-after faculty. But Western's raises were not strategically aimed. The school made an agreement that was ill-timed and unsustainable.