University administration responds to AAUP Survey Findings Wednesday, Sep 30 2020 

By Madelin Shelton —

University Provost Beth Boehm and Chief Financial Officer Dan Durbin have responded to The Louisville Cardinal’s request for comment over a recent story about the results of the U of L American Association of University Professors, or AAUP, survey.

In the survey, faculty reported substantial negative economic effects as a result of the University’s financial actions in response to COVID-19.

The survey provided recommendations for the university to mitigate these effects, including ending temporary salary cuts, putting the university’s full retirement benefit contributions back into place, putting faculty representation on important decision-making bodies in charge of budgeting, and planning for the 2020-2021 academic year.

The Cardinal asked Boehm and Durbin to directly address the concerns of the AAUP in their correspondence. First, they detailed representation of faculty on important decision-making bodies related to COVID-19.

Through the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, the statement from Boehm and Durbin said that faculty representation has been included on the Board of Trustees through Faculty Senate chairperson, who is a voting member of the board, on the COVID-19 Senior Leadership Group, on the Budget Planning and Monitoring Committee, and on the Academic Scenario Planning Committee.

Furthermore, Boehm and Durbin detailed meeting with faculty repeatedly through organizations including the Faculty Senate Leadership and the Faculty Senate Executive Committee throughout the COVID-19 crisis to update them on financial issues and seek their input on the budget and COVID-19 mitigation strategies.

In regard to following the AAUP recommendations of ending temporary salary cuts and reinstating full retirement benefit contributions, Durbin and Boehm said that salary reductions were temporary and only effective from April 1 through June 30, 2020.

“Retirement contributions were also partially restored on Aug. 1, 2020, to begin funding 2.5% of base salaries and the full 2.5% of optional contributions,” their statement said. “Future additions to the retirement plan funding will be evaluated in December based on the financial situation.”

When asked if the university administration had been in talks with the AAUP to seek out advice on the next steps, the statement said that Boehm had reached out to Melissa Merry, President of the U of L AAUP chapter, in response to the survey back in July.

The provost expressed being disheartened at the results of the survey, and detailed the tough financial situation the university has found itself in as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The solutions are not easy but will require us all working together and from the same set of facts,” Boehm said in the email to Merry.

Boehm expressed a desire for further information about the results of the survey and the conclusions drawn from it.

“Once I have a better understanding of the survey instrument and of what the results tell us, I’d be happy to engage in the dialogue you suggest,” Boehm told Merry.

File Photo//The Louisville Cardinal

 

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U of L faculty say recent financial decisions hurt them Monday, Sep 7 2020 

By Madelin Shelton–

The University of Louisville chapter of the American Association of University Professors says U of L’s financial strategies for mitigating the effects of COVID-19 have placed significant hardship on faculty. The results came from a poll conducted recently.

The AAUP is a national organization that focuses on supporting faculty, academic professionals and others engaged in teaching and research and advancing the goals of higher education.

U of L has been forced to make tough financial decisions due to COVID-19.  AAUP found the university’s response “has created significant financial hardship for U of L employees, imposing the greatest burdens on people of color and women.”

These added burdens, according to U of L AAUP Chapter President Melissa Merry, are compounded by data indicating that women and people of color at U of L are significantly under-compensated compared to their counterparts at peer institutions.

The survey was sent by email to a random sample of 2,650 faculty members with 498 respondents. Among the findings, the survey found that 36% of faculty respondents reported low morale among their fellow faculty members and negative effects on retention and recruitment.

Faculty reported high numbers of looking for or finding employment elsewhere and budgetary limitations causing difficulties in replacing colleagues, hiring top candidates within departments and retaining faculty.

Other reports included a concern with economic well-being and negative effects on the university’s mission of teaching and research. For instance, 70% of faculty revealed a decrease in their job satisfaction due to a lack of salary increase.

In the area of teaching and research, faculty found that there were increased incidents of canceled classes and fewer selections being offered, along with 54% reporting reductions in their research budgets.

Furthermore, the survey found financial hardship and concerns about shared governance amid COVID-19 among faculty.

Over half of the respondents reported spending an increased amount of their own money on things like computers and office supplies. Over half did not agree that “faculty interests and perspectives are adequately represented on the President’s ‘Leadership Team.’”

In response to these findings, the U of L AAUP chapter recommended ending temporary salary cuts and putting the university’s full retirement benefit contributions back into place as soon as possible. The press release suggested that any necessary retirement benefit cuts follow the “progressive” model, meaning the highest paid employees would take the greatest reductions.

They also recommend putting faculty representation on important decision-making bodies in charge of budgeting and planning for the 2020-2021 academic year.

“We hope that this report can promote dialogue among faculty, staff, students, and administrators about shaved governance and equity in decision-making at U of L,” AAUP U of L Chapter President Melissa Merry said.

The Cardinal has reached out to university admin and is still waiting for a response to the survey’s findings. This story will be updated.

Graphic by Eli Hughes//The Louisville Cardinal

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