Q & A with President Vartabedian over pay increases

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Salary increases for 2012-2013 school year

One-on-one interview between President Dr. Robert Vartabedian and opinions editor Matthew Hunt over the 2 percent?pay increases for employees.

Q: When was the pay salary increase decided, and by whom?

A: It came up in the June board meeting after we sorted out all of the various budget adjustments and state appropriations. Then the Board decided to make the decision.

Q: How many years has it been since the university has seen a pay increase?

A: We have not had across the board a pay increase since 2008. We have gone?three consecutive years without an across-the-board pay increase for employees.

Q: Who will benefit from the pay increases? Will it just be the administration or professors and students as well?

A: It will be all personnel, faculty, staff, and administrators who have been employed by the university since April 1, 2012. So anyone who is considered a full-time employee as of that date will get a 2 percent?across the board increase in their salary.

Students are a different situation — if they are not full-time employees with the university, then they are generally paid hourly wages. There has been recently a minimum wage adjustment, as opposed to the across the board raises. So student employees are separate from this 2 percent?increase.

Q: Where is the money for the increase in salaries coming from? Is it coming from the tuition that students pay each school year?

A: It comes from a variety of sources. Last year I had hoped that we could do a minor salary adjustment, but at the eleventh hour we received this 8.2 percent?cut. It was 1.2 percent?more than most universities throughout the state. There was an extra $260,000 deduction to Missouri Western that really made us have to step back.

This year after everything played out, particularly the state appropriations and on balance we received half a million dollars more than we received last year in state appropriations through equity money. We played it out, and waited for the money to come through. We were able to give a small increase; it’s at least something to offer in?three years.

Q: How will this benefit the university?

A: With the increase in salaries will the university be hiring new employees? I believe it’s important to the staff, and faculty to have a symbolic raise. We thought after?three years of moral it would be good to do something symbolic. I think it helps us in retaining good people. Our employees read the newspaper and they know what other universities are doing. Last year many universities gave raises and I probably would have done something, or asked the board to do something symbolic last year, but then we had that extra cut.

Q: If professors believe the 2 percent?increase in raises is not efficient, what do you say to them?

A: Well if they don’t, then I would agree with them. I’ve never been anywhere where I’ve been surrounded by a circumstance where people haven’t gotten a raise for?three years. This is as bad an economic downturn we have seen since the Great Depression. So, I guess that’s not too surprising.

If they aren’t completely satisfied then I can understand that I would have liked to do have done more, but I think the climate is still a little unpredictable to-do more.

I received a few very gracious emails from faculty saying that they appreciate something that was symbolic.

Q: Why are we seeing pay increases this year and not in previous years?

A: It is about 2 percent. It’s not a significant increase. If your base salary is $50,000 with the 2 percent?increase that isn’t a lot of money. That’s just about a $1,000. It’s fairly symbolic raise to their base salary, which I think people appreciate.

Q: Do you believe that we will see pay increases for the next several years or is it too early to tell?

A: I am hopeful, really hopeful. There is a kind of light at the end of the tunnel that gives me a good feeling. I think we have seen some hope for the future. It just hasn’t happened as quickly as we have hoped.

It’s slow going, especially for the state of Missouri. We have to be very cautious. There are other indicators of the state appropriations that can make me feel a little more optimistic. One would be the cigarette tax which will be on the ballot in November. If that passes, higher education will get 30 percent?of that, which can help us considerably.

The other option is through the General Assembly’s mandate that higher education has to come up with some sort of formula funding by December 2013. Since we are one of the lowest funded Universities per student, we are hopeful for that to be at our advantage.

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