If you’ve read about the previous bargaining session, you know that we were pretty surprised to find out that the university couldn’t get a financial proposal together in five weeks. On Friday, July 30th, we met with them again to hear their revamped financial proposals that they’d had seven weeks to get ready. It made for interesting reading. (You can download their July 30th proposal here, along with copies of other proposals that have been made during bargaining.)
For the first time, the university brought numbers to the table – a cost estimate to back up their proposal. Let’s walk through the various parts.
1. Fees. The university proposed to eliminate the $300/term differential and replace it with a $120 differential with three caveats: That no incoming grads will get the $120, that grads in the MBA program and College of Engineering won’t get it, and that the university refused to confirm or deny that non-BU employees (if your dues are $10/month, that’s you) will be getting ANY fee relief in the coming year. The State Board of Higher Education has also voted to include the Technology, Registration and Programmatic Fees in with tuition, which means everyone’s fee bill will be about $450 next year before fee relief. Note that this means CGE was not consulted, but that OSU is attempting to get grad employees to pay for this decision.
2. Salary. Despite both sides previously proposing that the minimum stipend be increased to match what the Graduate School recommends, the university had withdrawn that proposal. They claimed that it would create pay equity issues with instructors. They also claimed it would cost more than we had estimated, but refused to document that claim. Instead, they are proposing that anyone who makes below the Grad School’s recommendation receive a one-time 5% increase in salary at the beginning of their second year. This increase won’t even come close to bringing people up to the grad school’s recommended minimum.
The university is continuing to propose no change to health insurance.
Before even getting into the costs and benefits of their proposal, the bargaining team can’t agree to something that makes the fee situation worse for the majority of graduate employees or something that creates inequality among new and returning students as well as between students in different programs.
Looking at the university’s cost estimate, the picture gets even less palatable. According to their estimate, they will be spending $161,000 more on graduate employees overall under their proposal – but 95% of that, or about $153,000, will be spent on graduate employees in the College of Engineering. This is a third reason we can’t agree to their proposal.
The fourth reason is that they’re either not very good at math or simply trying to obscure the true cost to graduate employees. In their cost estimate, they include the 2010-2011 costs for eliminating the $300 differential, waiving some fees, and the $120 differential. However, they also include the cost of the 5% one-time increase to salary they propose. Unfortunately, that increase occurs in Fall 2011, i.e. in a different year. If that’s properly accounted for, then the university’s proposal is an immediate $200,000 cut to graduate employee compensation – and things only get worse in subsequent years as the $120 fee relief differential is phased out. So it’s not actually a $160,000 increase, but a decrease in graduate employee compensation.
Financially, the bottom line is that the university’s proposal is substantially regressive and increases inequality among graduate employees. To a certain extent, we understand why: The State Board of Higher Education voted to roll certain fees into tuition + the university’s desire not to invest in graduate employees + the administration trying to make it appear that no graduate employee loses money. The combination of those things explains a lot about why the university’s proposal is structured as it is, but it is no more acceptable because of that. Equally unacceptable is asking grad employees to cover the cost of rolling in programmatic resource fees that never should have been separated in the first place.
We’re in the process of scheduling another session that will either be on August 10th or August 23rd. It might be the last session before we enter into mediation.
One thing that is becoming clear is that OSU faculty and staff have no idea what the university is proposing. From the few contacts with faculty the bargaining team has had, it’s just as clear that faculty and staff disagree with the idea of making it harder for them to recruit and retain graduate employees. If you have the time, please let your adviser and department head know what OSU is proposing to do (again, you can find their July 30th proposal here) and encourage them to voice their opinion to their Dean or to the university’s bargaining team.