Open forum involves MU faculty in salary discussion

Monday, October 22, 2007 | 7:43 p.m. CDT; updated 2:12 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Nearly 50 MU faculty members met Monday in the first of two open forums geared toward involving faculty in discussions of salaries and in MU’s efforts to match its salaries with those of similar research institutions nationwide.

Provost Brian Foster, faculty chairman Frank Schmidt and planning specialist Pat Morton led the discussion, which was followed by a question-and-answer period that many faculty members used to vent frustrations.

Morton estimated the budget for fiscal year 2009, which begins July 1. He said that of the $445 million general education budget that pays faculty salaries, 41 percent comes from the state and 52 percent comes from tuition. The other 7 percent comes from facilities and administration costs.

Administrators expect a $7 million to $11 million deficit in that budget for fiscal year 2009.

This estimate, which Morton said is a “best-case scenario,” includes predictions that the state legislature will increase funding for higher education by 4 percent and that tuition will increase by 3.2 percent.

It is too early to tell if these assumptions are accurate, Foster said.

Morton also said MU will need $50 million more from the state next year in order to keep up with inflation.

Foster said MU is looking at ways to offset the projected deficit while increasing salaries by 4 percent, a rate that will put MU on a competitive level with other comparable institutions. He said most savings will come from leaving vacant positions unfilled, a measure that won’t fix MU’s stressed financial situation but will keep the school afloat until it can find a long-term solution.

In order to address MU’s financial problems satisfactorily, MU needs to raise revenue, engage in effective enrollment management and reposition itself politically, Foster said.

The discussion became increasingly heated as faculty members vented about a perceived lack of instruction from administrators about what faculty can do to help the situation, the politics driving cuts in state appropriations, and cuts and reallocations in programs, such as reducing library acquisitions.

Some faculty asked whether self-supporting entities, such as athletics programs or the television station KOMU, could contribute some of their profits to MU.

Foster said MU wouldn’t ask them to do so because those programs are using the money they make to stay competitive.

Others asked for comparisons of faculty salaries between MU and other Big 12 schools and between public institutions and private institutions.

A second session will be held from 3 to 5 p.m. today in Reynolds Alumni Center.

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