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PSU faculty, administration at loggerheads on budget

Threatened budget cuts at Portland State University have soured labor relations between the administration and faculty.

The university has been unable to come to terms on a new labor contract with its largest faculty union, the PSU chapter of the American Association of University Professors, which represents about 1,250 full-time faculty. The most recent contract expired in August but was extended into December. The union and university held an all-day mediation session Jan. 8, and another one is scheduled Monday if necessary.

The faculty are “up in arms,” says Mary King, president of the AAUP chapter. “They are as close to a strike as I might have seen in my academic career.”

The Faculty Senate also adopted a resolution Monday demanding that the university provide faculty with a copy of the all-funds budget, which would include detailed line items. The motion passed by a 48-0 vote, with four abstentions, says Bob Liebman, incoming presiding officer of the Senate.

Both issues stem from the university’s looming budget shortfall.

In early November, PSU President Wim Wiewel announced the university faced a $15 million shortfall for the 2014-15 budget year. Managers were subsequently asked to submit potential cut lists for the coming year equaling 8 percent of their spending.

Wiewel subsequently announced a pay freeze for some administrators, a plan to make the football program self-sustaining and unexpectedly high tuition revenue. Those and other cuts reduced the shortfall to $7.5 million, Wiewel announced Dec. 5, though he still is asking managers to submit 8 percent cut lists.

Faculty are concerned that 8 percent budget cuts will require entire programs to be eliminated, including tenure-track faculty positions, King says.

“The faculty is at the point where we are questioning the priorities in the budget and we are questioning the case being made for substantial academic cuts,” she says.

Public budget information

Faculty and union members are having a hard time analyzing the university’s budget, King and Liebman say, because they have been denied access to complete line-item budgets.

Scott Gallagher, PSU communications director, says university managers prefer to discuss labor talks at the bargaining table, not in the press. “We won’t talk about the specifics of the negotiations,” Gallagher says.

He blamed the labor strife on PSU’s budget woes. “It’s a time when labor relations are contentious, simply because we have a budget deficit.”

Despite halving the projected shortfall, Wiewel still wants to see 8 percent budget cut ideas, Gallagher says. “It helps us identify efficiencies and making cuts if we still need to.”

He says the university’s complete budget is a public document and faculty are welcome to view it. However, a full line-item budget is not posted on the Web and is not necessarily kept in one place on campus, since it is comprised of multiple book-length publications.

Faculty who want to see line-item budgets merely need to suggest which department budgets they want to see, and those will be provided, Gallagher says.

For more information, to to www.pdx.edu/fadm. Click on the What’s New box on the right.

Steve Law can be reached at 503-546-5139 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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