Hello TT Faculty members,
I’d like to provide you with an update on the status of the negotiations for a successor to our 2015 contract. Since our last update, the parties have met twice: August 29th and September 5th. I regret to inform you that very little progress on salaries and benefits was made at either of those meetings and I fear that it is increasingly likely that we will end up in fact-finding as we did in the 2015 negotiations. The parties will meet again on September 19th.
After we informed you of our proposal on Article XII (Salary) on August 24th, the administration provided a counter-proposal. Their counter-proposal included none of the changes to specific language that we had proposed. Despite the fact that we had made clear that their three-tiered approach to the standard increment increase would increase salary compression and even cause salary inversion, they refused to move away from that approach in their counter-proposal. In fact, the only change made relative to their first salary proposal of August 9th was a change to a single number (the percentage standard increment increase for just one of the three tiers for just one academic year). The effect of that change in real dollars was to move from a proposal to increase Faculty salaries in AY 19/20 the equivalent of 1.58% across the board to the equivalent of 1.82% across the board. Their counter-proposal on salary would guarantee that the majority of Faculty fall behind inflation and see wage decreases in real terms even though the administration has already budgeted enough money for TT Faculty salaries in Fiscal Year 2019 to ensure that we keep ahead of inflation. Needless to say, the administration’s counter proposal on salaries was extremely disappointing.
Meanwhile, the administration has refused to make a counter proposal on Article XIII (Medical Benefits). They seem completely unmoved by the fact that TT Faculty at Kent State University already pay the highest percentage of any Faculty at a public institution with collective bargaining in Ohio for our 90/70 PPO plan and that their proposal would make us pay even more than we currently do for less coverage. The increased cost that would be seen by the median salaried TT Faculty member on their proposal is the equivalent of 1% of annual salary for single coverage and 2% of annual salary for family coverage. And yet, they continue to describe their proposal as a “modest change” in the PPO plan.
The administration continues to assert that our 90/70 PPO plan is “richer” than at other institutions despite the fact that we have provided them with evidence that University of Toledo and Youngstown State University have comparable 90/70 PPO plans and that University of Cincinnati has a plan that covers 100% of in network costs after the deductible is met. The details of the 85/60 PPO plan that they are proposing— especially the extremely high annual out of pocket maximum—would make it one of the weakest plans in terms of coverage of any public institution with collective bargaining in Ohio.
They also seem completely unmoved by the fact that, between Fiscal Year 2010 and Fiscal Year 2017, actual University-wide expenditures on benefits grew at a slightly slower compound annual growth rate (4.39%) than actual University-wide expenditures overall (4.52%). We have repeatedly stressed that, if they want to control expenses, they should look at the expenditure category of Administrative and Professional Salaries which has increased at the alarming compound annual growth rate of 6.42% between Fiscal Years 2010 and 2017. When confronted with these facts, the administration asserted that they want us to pay more for healthcare so that they can free up funds for other initiatives.
Financial Health of the University:
Despite all the fear mongering leading up to negotiations, the University remains in a strong financial position. The audited Financial Statements for Fiscal Years 2016 and 2017 make that very clear. And, while it is true that enrollment has dropped from what were record heights, the Restated Fiscal Year 2018 budget reflected a six million dollar increase relative to the Original Fiscal Year 2018 budget in enrollment-related-revenue coming from tuition and fees and from State subsidies. (The widely broadcast 24 million dollar revenue shortfall in Fiscal Year 2018 was entirely the result of a 30 million dollar revenue shortfall in Dining Services due to the Aramark contract which was offset by a corresponding reduction in Dining Services expenditures.)
President Warren just announced that the AY 18/19 Freshman class is the largest Freshman class ever. Additionally, the recent difficulties facing the University of Akron and the cold war that seems to have developed between Canada and Saudi Arabia can only benefit Kent State’s enrollment in the future. Importantly, a not insignificant part of our recent enrollment downturn after years of record growth is actually a success story: we are graduating more students on time than ever before. The Faculty of Kent State University have worked hard to contribute toward this success and should be rewarded rather than punished for it.
We have provided the administration with an abundance of information and documented evidence in support of our proposals. (Relevant Facts Pertaining to Article XII (redacted).pdf, Relevant Facts Pertaining to Article XIII.pdf) We have received very little from them in the way of supportive evidence for their proposals. The administration’s apparent disinterest in facts and evidence makes it more than a little difficult to negotiate with them. While we still hope to be able to secure a deal at the bargaining table, it is looking increasingly likely that the parties will reach impasse and ultimately end up in fact-finding. Should that occur, AAUP-KSU is optimistic that a neutral third party fact-finder will take interest in the data and evidence we have to present.
Deborah C. Smith
Chief Negotiator, AAUP-KSU Tenured & Tenure Track Unit