Budget update

What’s really going on with the budget issue?

WSU President Kirk Shultz gives a presentation on the budget during a university town at WSU Vancouver on Sept. 19, 2017. Photo courtesy of Zeke Estes

For the last four years WSU has been spending more money than it collects in revenue. The university has relied on fiscal reserves to supplement its budget, but to avoid exhausting  savings, WSU is implementing significant funding reductions.

On Oct. 23, WSU President Kirk Schulz sent a system-wide email announcing widespread cuts to department budgets. “For the current fiscal year, each unit has been instructed to reduce its spending by 2.5 percent,” he announced. In addition to the broad cuts, Schulz said that the entire Performing Arts Program (along with related positions) is being eliminated. Additionally, several positions in the Office of Multicultural Student Services and in the Office of Equity and Diversity that were funded for two years are being discontinued. These positions were never intended for long term employment, Schulz wrote, “Several two-year temporary positions were established to support an increasing number of diverse students. However, no permanent funding was designated at the time of their creation and no permanent funding has been identified since then.”

While the current cuts do not specifically eliminate positions beyond those mentioned above, Schulz admits in the email that because salaries and benefits comprise 85 percent of the budget, “it is inevitable that we must eliminate and restructure some positions and units in order to get our budget in balance.”

In recent weeks, some departments have announced how cuts will affect paid positions. On Oct. 29, The Daily Evergreen reported that “about 350 teaching and research assistants in the Voiland College of Engineering and Architecture” would have their stipends reduced by 16.5 to 19 percent.

A recent online petition presented a more critical view of the budget solutions, and proposes balancing the budget by cutting salaries of the university’s highest-paid employees. The proposal advocates a reduction in pay by at least 3o percent for all administrators making $300,000 and above;  20 percent for administrators making $200,000 to $299,999, and by at least 10% for administrators making $100,000.00 to $199,999.99. The petition notes that 36 WSU employees currently make more than $300,000 a year. The entire petition is available at https://sites.google.com/site/financeproposalwsu/

The petition has gained some attention on social media and online. From Nov. 27 to Dec. 8 the petition went from 591 to 945 signatures. The proposal does not list a specific signature goal.

Desiree Hellegers, a co-author of the petition, said that her reason for contributing was the unjust amount of cuts being made in certain areas, with roughly 70 WSU employees earning a salary of more than $200,000. Hellegers was astonished to discover that many WSU Administrators were making more than Governor Inslee. She believes that this information needed to be exposed to the public.

According to Hellegers, students have been paying more for tuition and have been carrying more debt because of having to work multiple jobs while still being a full time student. Hellegers said “every time there has been a budget cut, administrators tell the faculty to suck it up and trim the fat from their budgets.” She said that she’s been trimming the fat for decades and there’s nothing left to trim. Since they cut the performing arts program in Pullman, Hellegers said “I am furious that administrators can still afford for themselves to go to New York City and see a broadway show even though WSU students can’t even see any theater show on campus.” Many professors and other writers of this petition are apart of the WSU chapter of the Association for American University Professors, and strongly believe in addressing these kinds of issues nationwide.

Another of the petition’s authors, Elizabeth Siler, said that while they each had their own “tipping point” as to why they contributed to this proposal, Siler was bothered by the stipends for graduate students being cut in the Engineering and Architecture program. Siler said, “I believe that this is a direct attack on the weakest, most impoverished, and most necessary part of our whole system.”

Whatever the final result of the cuts, Schulz promised in his email to be transparent about the university’s decisions. “We will continue to keep you informed about our budget situation on a monthly basis throughout the academic year,” he stated.

                                                                       WSU has been losing money for the last four years. Graph courtesy of wsu.edu
About Katie O'Boyle 3 Articles
I’m going to travel the whole world, learn everything about it, and then write about it.

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