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Commentary

Editor’s note: Commentary provides university faculty and staff an opportunity to express their opinions in The Miami University Report. Contributions should be no longer than 500-600 words in length and should be directed to Bill Houk (physics), houktw@muohio.edu.

Committee chair responds to questions
Susan Kay, political science

Because the issues raised are important to all of us at Miami, as chair of the Advisory Committee on Health Care Cost Sharing, I’d like to answer two questions that arose at a recent Senate discussion on the committee’s recommendations.

o Question one.

One faculty senator asked whether there had been a thorough study of the total compensation package at other colleges and universities. Although the administration does such an analysis yearly, the committee didn’t ask for the results because it didn’t need the data to carry out its charge.

Miami’s board of trustees has been quite clear that an increased share of Miami’s health care costs (these costs are estimated to total $18 million in 2002) is to be shifted from the benefits side of the total compensation budget to the salary side. Our task was to come up with recommendations on how to accomplish this. Moreover, I believe this administration when they say that they (and the board) are already committed to improving compensation for faculty and staff. My belief in their commitment is based not on blind faith, but hard evidence. For example, despite the current difficult financial climate, additional funding for a separate merit increase pool beyond the standard pool has been budgeted for both faculty and staff.

But if Miami is to continue to make progress on salary improvement, it has to do something about the alarming increases in health care costs or all additional funding for compensation will by necessity be targeted at health care. I believe that Miami and its employees — whether they be faculty or staff — are better served by compensation packages that allow for competitive salary increases.

o Question two.

To paraphrase another faculty Senator, why did a nice liberal like Susan Kay with a history of commitment to the faculty governance process through Senate willingly accept the assignment to chair the ad hoc committee? Or put another way, has Susan Kay become an administration stooge?

I took on the job because I do know and support University Senate. Senate is the only quasi-legislative body we have, but frankly, it doesn’t represent all the employees affected by this issue.

There is no representative governance body on campus for all 3,500 benefit-eligible Miami faculty and staff (a total that includes about 850 faculty and 2,600 classified and unclassified staff). Senate, dominated by faculty, has but one representative each from UPAC and CPAC.

The fact is that the administration really didn’t have to consult with employees at all. They could have come up with a plan to increase cost sharing without seeking any input. But I didn’t want "them" to bypass "us" in decisions about our compensation package. I saw the advisory committee appointed by Richard Norman as a good faith effort to include all constituencies (faculty, classified and unclassified staff) in the decision-making process.

And I have never before had the privilege of working with such a diverse group in which each person had the welfare to the whole university community as his or her foremost concern.

As a committee, we recommended a process of wide consultation with all the constituencies before any changes were finalized, and the administration has met with UPAC, CPAC, the union, committees of Senate and Senate itself.

The process of consultation has, indeed, uncovered some problems that did not arise in the committee, and the administration is acting to correct the problems before a final plan is adopted.

So, am I a "stooge?" Not on this issue. Given the state of funding for higher education across the United States and the crisis in endowments that affects us all, I’m convinced that there is no "us" vs. "them" on this. Chairing the committee was my way of saying that we are all in the same boat on this one.

Date Published: 11/14/2002
Volume: 22   Number: 16

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