By Samantha Phillips
At last month’s Youngstown State University Board of Trustee meeting, the board approved $40,000 in raises for five senior administrators.
Martin Abraham, YSU provost; Holly Jacobs, vice president of Legal Affairs and Human Resources; and Neal McNally, vice president of Finance and Business Operations all received $10,000. Shannon Tirone, associate vice president of University Relations and Sylvia Imler, executive director of Multicultural Affairs, received $5,000.
Ted Roberts voted against the measure, which set him apart from his fellow trustees.
“I thought that raises were inappropriate at this time,” Roberts said. “People see things differently — different members of the public and board have different backgrounds and experiences — my background and experience led me to vote no on the raises.”
The employees receiving salary increases signed three-year contracts. In the contracts, YSU President Jim Tressel said the university agreed to provide raises to “get closer to what they should be paid,” because the university was facing a budgeting crisis when the contracts were negotiated.
Abraham said salaries for YSU employees — including senior administration — are lower compared to the same positions at other universities.
“All of us are being paid less than we should be,” Abraham said. “We aren’t paid what our colleagues at other universities would get.”
Tressel said two years ago, when the university was facing a budget shortfall because of low enrollment, they made $923,000 in cuts to the administration.
Several people were required to take on more responsibility, he said. For example, when the former vice president for Finance and Administration left the university, McNally assumed his duties while continuing his work as director of Budget Planning and Treasury Operations.
“We still needed to do the work, so we spread it to workers who remained,” Tressel said.
Now that the budget is in better shape, those workers are being rewarded.
In addition to salary increases, Abraham said they’ve put the money they saved towards improving underdeveloped programs and departments, including academic advising and international programs. They also intend to use some of the money improving campus infrastructure.
During the open forums to discussion of the campus climate survey, faculty and staff complained about having to work harder to compensate for positions left open after others left or retired.
According to the most recent collective bargaining agreement, faculty received a two percent raise this year. But with half of that going to health insurance and half going to retirement, there was no increase in take-home pay.
“What I have come to understand is that it hasn’t helped faculty, because there are other places where money is being taken out of their paycheck,” Abraham said.
Chet Cooper, chair of the Academic Senate, said it’s understandable for senior administrators to receive raises they were promised, but faculty and staff also deserve more.
“You can understand the sense of frustration by both faculty and staff when they are being asked to do more with less,” Cooper said. “You see these large increases, and it makes people think hard about what are they contributing and whether they are being appropriately compensated for their work.”
Faculty are doing more work, and in some cases work that’s outside their job description, he said.
Abraham and Tressel said they want to see more money go to faculty and staff in the next round of union negotiations.
“I think our faculty are working very hard,” Abraham said. “I think they are doing very good work, and I’d like to see them fairly compensated for the work they are doing.”
Now that the budget is stabilizing, Abraham said they want to focus on filling some of the positions that were left open.
“[The goal is] to meet enrollment challenges to fulfill positions that we desperately need to fill and to have more money to do things to increase the compensation of our folks who are particularly uncompensated,” Abraham said.
This will require more money from the state, he said. The state provides funds based on enrollment and student performance.
“Good news is, enrollment was up this year, so we have a little more money than we were budgeted to have,” Abraham said. “The other question that we are trying to find an answer for is how do we allocate our resources to meet some of these unmet needs at YSU?”