COLUMBIA — A group of MU professors reacted negatively Wednesday to a proposal to make faculty pay a portion of their retirement benefits and give furlough power to the University of Missouri System's president.
A letter to UM System President Gary Forsee asked for a delay in seeking approval of the plan by the UM Board of Curators to allow more time for faculty consultation. Objections centered on a lack of faculty input before the proposed policy changes were announced Tuesday.
The letter addressed to Forsee came from the executive committee of the MU chapter of the American Association of University Professors. The group acts as a bargaining unit for faculty in matters of academic freedom and monetary issues.
“We do not dispute that the administration makes the final decision about policy changes,” the letter stated. “However, decisions that impact the faculty should be tempered through discussion with them, especially given the impact of policy changes on faculty and staff morale.”
In a memo sent to UM faculty and staff on Tuesday, Forsee outlined the recommended changes including asking the curators to approve 1 percent for any salary up to $50,000, and 2 percent on any salary earned above $50,000*. He also asked the board to freeze wages and authorize him to impose furloughs, or unpaid leaves of absence, “if necessary.”
The letter called the proposed contributions to UM’s retirement plan “a backdoor salary cut.”
“It seems paradoxical when there’s a money shortage that the first thing they do is take a lot of money away from the faculty,” said Eddie Adelstein, president of the AAUP MU chapter.
The letter detailed several objections to the proposed retirement plan, including that salary cuts were not part of the plan envisioned by the administration to address revenue shortages.
The professors were also concerned with the proposed required contributions specifically hurting those with the least income.
“My main concern is with the reduction in salaries, which is permanent and will just keep building year after year,” said Sudarshan Loyalka, Curators’ Professor of Nuclear Engineering and an executive committee member of MU's AAUP chapter.
The group also explained that faculty who retire now will not have paid anything, while the current faculty members will have to pay a lot to compensate retiring faculty benefits as well as the benefits of much more highly paid administrators.
“I think it would be more helpful if the faculty had been consulted beforehand, or if there had been an open debate with these kinds of changes implemented,” Loyalka said.
There was also a strong objection to the furlough authority that Forsee asked curators to cede to him. The professors said that such a shift would undermine the checks and balances that have been built into the system for a reason.
The curators will meet Thursday and Friday in Columbia.