Employee leaders appeal to regents for pay increases

In anticipation of their discussion of university budgets at the June 5-6 meeting, state Board of Regents members heard pleas for more generous employee pay during their April 18 meeting in Iowa City. Stacy Renfro, president of the Professional and Scientific Council; and Peter Martin, president of the Faculty Senate, were among the presenters.

Renfro, a program manager in the Center for Statistics and Applications in Forensic Evidence, told regents implementing Workday and new models for human resources and financial transactions created an unusually challenging year at Iowa State. P&S employees are being asked to "take on temporary duties, learn new processes, hold off on filling vacancies and wear many hats," she said.

"In the face of extraordinary change, it's imperative that we find sustainable ways to retain and reward over 3,000 professional and scientific employees who are affecting every component of the Iowa State University mission and operation," Renfro said.

Citing data from Iowa State's 2017 campus climate survey, Renfro noted just 23% of P&S respondents said their salaries and benefits are competitive, and 50% said they've considered leaving the university. Their top three motivators for leaving were related to compensation: low pay, limited opportunities for advancement and increased workload.

Renfro thanked President Wendy Wintersteen for her commitment to keeping employee salary increases a priority. She implored board members "to make any efforts possible" to recognize P&S staff contributions to their universities and help the schools do a better job of retaining and attracting productive and engaged staff members.

Martin, University Professor of human development and family studies, told board members ISU faculty salary data tells the story: Second-to-last among its peer group (and trailing the top university in the group by more than $40,000), and very low or no salary increases for the last half-dozen years. Moving Iowa State even to the faculty salary average among those peers would take a salary boost of $13,300 for every ISU faculty member, Martin said.

"I hope you know we strive to be an above-average university," he added.

But Martin said it's not just about money. It's about recognizing "ambitious, dedicated reliable faculty" who care about their students and believe their students deserve the best.

"Low or no salary increases give us the message that we're not appreciated, we're not a priority at the university, nor perhaps with the Board of Regents," he said.

The predictable outcome has been a high number of faculty resignations in the last two years and the challenge of replacing them with the best and most creative candidates, not those other universities rejected. The loss of top-notch faculty, he noted, "compromises the student experience."

Martin also told the board there's work to do to make salaries equitable across gender, race, ethnicity and age.

"At Iowa State, we strive for a university that is fair and equitable to all faculty who contribute so much to our mission," he said.

Board president Michael Richards told the presenters, "This board is working toward your same goals, perhaps not as fast as you'd like, but we're on the same team."

Tuition discussion, faculty promotions delayed

Richards reiterated the board's commitment to setting tuition rates one time, and to understanding state appropriations before setting them. On April 23, the Iowa Senate approved a $12 million increase to the general university appropriation to the three regent universities or the year that begins July 1. That's two-thirds of the $18 million increase the board sought. An earlier House version of the bill would have provided $15.9 million in additional support. The legislation awaits Gov. Kim Reynolds' signature, but the board hasn't announced how it would distribute $12 million among the universities.

The board's tuition "guiderails" for Iowa State and Iowa include a 3% increase for resident undergraduates if the state fully funded the regents' general university appropriation request, an estimated 5% (3% plus projected Higher Education Price Index) if appropriations stay flat, and somewhere between 3% and 5% for a partially funded request.

Richards said the board will hold a special meeting in late April or early May for a first reading of 2019-20 tuition rates, with final approval at the June meeting. He acknowledged the delay impacts students and families who need to line up funding for fall.

Final approval of promotions and tenure for 70 Iowa State faculty members also could come at that special meeting. Because the item inadvertently was omitted from the April consent agenda, the board could not take final action. State law requires a 24-hour public posting of all agenda items.

Final approval

The board gave final approval to these ISU items on the consent agenda:

  • Request to begin plans for $25 million in improvements to Hilton Coliseum. Key pieces are new concessions on the north and south concourses, remodeled north and south entrances, and upgrades for the mechanical systems and two elevators.
  • Schematic design and budget ($3.7 million) to expand the Veterinary Medicine Field Services facility at the College of Veterinary Medicine. The plan would renovate 1,500 square feet of the existing 9,000-square-foot building and add 6,000 square feet.
  • Honorary Doctor of Science degree for Robert Easter, professor of animal science emeritus and president emeritus at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, to recognize his efforts to advance agricultural education and research at the national and international levels. Easter, an expert in pig nutrition, was an Illinois faculty member and administrator from 1976 to 2015. Faculty in the animal science department nominated Easter.
  • First and final reading for a new board policy on freedom of expression at the three regent university campuses, as required by Iowa Code chapter 261H, enacted March 27.
  • Parking permit rates for the year that begins July 1. Employee permits will go up $5-$25, departmental and vendor permits will go up $10 and $15, respectively. Permits for the Memorial Union ramp will go up $5-$12.
  • Student housing and dining rates for next year. Residence hall and campus apartment rates will go up about 2%, and flex meal packages and academic year meal plans would increase by a similar range, 1.7-1.9%. The guest rate at campus dining centers will be $10.50 for breakfast and $13.50 for lunch or dinner.
  • Program name changes, from agricultural biochemistry to biochemistry, and from M.A. in graphic design to M.A. in experiential graphic design.


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Faculty promotions list goes to regents for approval, April 11, 2019