WSU Budget Crisis Management Proposal

The Faculty Affairs Committee has created a proposal to create a process for addressing university budget crises through faculty furloughs and/or salary reductions.

Please Note:

  • This is NOT a proposal to impose faculty salary reductions or furloughs.
  • This is a proposal to develop a PROCESS by which, in certain defined circumstances (i.e. budgetary crises) and with specific expectations, the WSU administration might propose faculty salary reductions and/or furloughs for a defined period of no more than 1 (one) year. No salary reductions or furloughs would be enacted through the proposed process without Faculty Senate approval.

The Faculty Senate Steering Committee requested Faculty Affairs Committee develop this proposal as a proactive measure to address a budget crisis should such steps become necessary. We are now seeking comments. Faculty Affairs Committee Members, in conjunction with Senate Steering, will be scheduling Zoom Town Hall meetings to gather input.

Faculty Affairs Committee – Budget Crisis Management Draft Proposal


Please provide comments by February 18th by the end of the day. Please be constructive.

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24 comments on "WSU Budget Crisis Management Proposal"
  1. I like the idea of investigating the development of this process. Speaking honestly, I think we would need to ensure in that process that administration would only get the right to propose faculty reductions or furloughs after administration had furloughed itself as much as possible and taken substantial reductions. And any process developed would also need to ensure that those that make the most — take the largest reductions/furloughs. A 5% reduction for an instructor making 30K a year is huge. For someone making 150K a year — it’s not nearly as impactful. But we probably do need a plan to find a way to ensure that all remain employed at some level during times of financial exigency. So by all means — explore the idea of creating a process.

  2. I support the proposal to develop a PROCESS by which the WSU administration might propose faculty salary reductions and/or furloughs. It is critical that we support our fellow faculty who have less job security and pay during this critical time.

  3. I agree with Elizabeth Ann Siler’s comments regarding equitability of reductions rather than everything being equal. Is it possible to have salary donations, like we do for annual and sick shared/donated leave? I have family members and colleagues who work for the state in Olympia; taking furloughs seems to be very doable and less disruptive than salary reductions. Personally, it is a bit demoralizing to see our salaries remain stagnant let alone go down.

  4. I support the principle that it is better for faculty to take furloughs than for the university to lay-off people. Before implementing a furlough process, however, I would want to be confident that the university is being as frugal as possible at the administrative level. This is partly about administrator salaries. But it is also about the WSU management structure. WSU is currently managed using a matrix model. Do we have data regarding the cost effectiveness of the matrix model compared to other approaches to managing multi-campus university systems? Before cutting faculty salaries, I would want to see evidence that the matrix model is the most cost-effective option and that all possible efforts have been made to eliminate administrative redundancies.

  5. I enthusiastically support this proposal to create a furlough process and thank the Senate Faculty Affairs Committee for this thoughtful and considered first draft. I want to call out sections V.C.(2) and (3) for particular commendation. Subsection (2) suggests a progressive approach to salary reductions, which I believe addresses E.A. Siler’s comments above. I realize the “brackets” were only illustrative, but as they are developed I would encourage the committee to consider even higher percentage cuts for very high salaries (i.e. >300k). Subsection (3) would ensure that the administration and Athletics are required to take similar percentage salary reductions, which is fair. I sincerely hope that the faculty and their representatives can work quickly to amend and refine this proposal further so that it can be adopted by the end of the 20-21 academic year.

  6. I support the development of a faculty driven proposal for potential use in the event of furloughs. I would also urge WSU employees to follow current legislation regarding state employee furloughs and wage freezes (SB 5323). In addition to the comments provided in this blog and those provided in the process review, I would like to request that there be clear connection in any budget impact statement and rationale to COVID. Congress just reauthorized COVIDATRA which would allow those impacted by financial loss (such as furloughs) to continue to have penalty free draws from any retirement accounts among other provisions.

  7. I agree that the reductions should be scaled by salary. Also, if possible, I think that whether the individual is the only head of the household and has dependents should also be considered. Some households have two salary incomes, some of single incomes, some have dependents and some do not. If you want to be truly equitable, I believe this should be taken into account.

  8. I believe that whatever system is implemented it should be equitable. That doesn’t mean equal reductions, the top income earners have a greater reduction. The system should not reduce the lowest paid employees, a livable wage in the area they live should be protected. Also, the reduction should be implemented only after the administration have proven with date it has reduced expenses, but not at the reduction of its core land grant mission. Reductions should take place in cost centers that are losing money first. This includes not reducing Extension unequally, which has been proposed and done in the past.

  9. I appreciate the faculty senate’s effort to address this in case such issues arise. I would echo the comments of others previously about wanting to be sure that other areas are also being adequately considered for reductions to remove redundancies and create the most effective structure prior to furloughs.

    Another concern I would ask them to consider is how tenure expectations and guidelines would be altered in the event of such a furlough. As noted in the footnote, a furlough is a temporary reduction in the number of hours an employee is regularly scheduled to work. Therefore, I think it should also be addressed how that will be determined (or considered) in a way that will not negatively impact individual’s tenure or promotion considerations. For example, would the reduction come from teaching, research, or service, or somehow a combination of the three, and in that case, would expectations for a faculty member who is trying to earn tenure while under a furlough be different in terms of expectations. I think the option that is included in the proposal that this could go for up to two years makes this important to consider, as tenure for junior faculty is typically time-bound.

  10. Thank you for addressing this issue. I like the proposal and echo previous comments regarding equitable furloughs and attention paid to those on the “tenure” timeline. To ensure equitable furloughs, I’d like to see the section on ADRs and summer salaries revisited. Many on 12 month contracts perform “additional responsibility” (ADR) work to increase earnings; the ADR is “summer work”.

  11. For the Faculty Senate to approve any furlough agreement that reduces salary from academic/educational units, two conditions should be met:

    (1) A simultaneous, proportionally equivalent reduction must be made from both the administration and athletic units.

    (2) Any ab hoc funding distributed to administration or athletics must be returned prior to the implementation of furloughs. If the ad hoc funding cannot be returned, additional furloughs should be imposed to these units to account for the ad hoc funding.

  12. We had “furloughs” when I was a faculty member in the California State University system. We were required to take furlough days, but were asked to not take them on days that we were teaching, and of course, none of our other duties were reduced. For faculty, “furlough” just means reduction in pay. Let’s call it what it is.

  13. From Elizabeth Weybright:
    I appreciate the thought that has gone into this proposal. I would like to bring attention to the issue of equity in reductions. I support a graduated approach. However, the process of targeting state funds only has some cons that I want to be sure folks are aware of. A key challenge of only using state funds or tuition revenue is that people’s positions are funded in a lot of different ways with a lot of different fund types. This is especially true for Extension personnel who may be funded with state funds, federal Smith-Lever funds (which I believe are treated as grants), and county MOA funds, among other types. The composition of funding sources is varied so you could have one person on 100% federal funds while another is 33% state, 33% federal, and 34% county dollars, and so on. Almost all of the time, the employee has little to no say in how their position is funded. This means that two people in equivalent positions may receive different reductions to their salary.

  14. Anonymous:
    I don’t support this proposal as it would most definitely get used. As we all know, the definition of a crisis is subjective. If this goes through, it is imperative to make it objectively clear when this could happen and for how long or the specific conditions under which it would be ended. Also it should be specified that administration and athletics would take an equal, if not greater salary reduction or furlough in a progressive (higher salary = higher % reduction) rather than regressive manner (everybody takes the same % reduction).

  15. Faculty should not agree to any proposal that includes furloughs for faculty until WSU makes substantive cuts at the administrative level. As I note elsewhere (see my comments under the ONEWSU proposal), the percentage of tenure-track faculty at WSU has declined dramatically in the past two decades, while the number of administrators (and contingent labor) continues to rapidly expand. The cost of administrative bloat needs to be reckoned with before once again expecting instructional and research faculty to sacrifice.

  16. Anonymous:

    Adopting a resolution like this requires that faculty everywhere trust the judgment of the faculty senate. Having heard reports from senior faculty who has served on the faculty senate before, they say it is sometimes an exercise in rubber stamping. Here are some specific concerns: 1. Why only a simple majority? 2. Are WSU head coaches classified as faculty? Do their contracts allow them to be subject to furlough? I know during the initial phases of COVID that some coaches across the country agreed to salary cuts, including WSU coaches, but it seems that in most cases this was voluntary. Would this change affect existing head coach contracts, with the basketball and football head coaches being the highest paid employees of the university? 3. There were also comments by a colleague about how processes like this have been used as a bludgeon after it was instituted in the UC system during the 2008 recession. It would be interesting to hear the voice of someone who maybe has come here from the UC system and experienced it firsthand. Why have their faculty senates approved it regularly? Was it a heavy hand from administration? How was their process set up?

  17. I agree with the comments here that we should NOT have a furlough plan at this point, for it will be used if discussed and voted at the faculty senate and/or incorporated into the faculty manual for future budget crises. If the state legislature cuts our budget and/or we see a significant decline in enrollment and tuition dollars, then we should collectively advocate for the reduction in the bloated administration and the athletics program with the highest expenditures.

  18. Anonymous:

    I prefer furloughs over salary reductions, as with furloughs we (in theory) get our time back in exchange for giving up wages. Of course, this works only if duties and expectations for productivity are reduced accordingly. It would be nice if we could decide when to use our furlough days, e.g. take all 12 days at once to have a couple weeks off rather than a long weekend once a month. The financial impact on the state is the same either way. It also allows us to work around our teaching schedule, conferences, and other date-specific commitments. Employees should also have the option of using accrued annual leave. Our accrued leave is still a financial liability to the state–it is part of our paid benefits–so it should be eligible for use for furloughs. Regarding equity, will cost of living be considered? What might be considered a high wage in Pullman is not so high for someone working at WSU West in Seattle, for instance, where the cost of living is considerably higher. Also, people’s circumstances are different when it comes down to impacts of furloughs or salary reductions. At any given salary level, the impact on a dual income no kids household is different than on a single parent with 3 kids. Salary level alone doesn’t tell the whole story. As someone else pointed out, there’s also the issue of funding source such that employees in the same position might get hit very differently depending on their funding source. For instance, someone who is 100% on a federal grant would have no impact, and it doesn’t make sense to cut pay or furlough that person, as it wouldn’t save the state any money and creates a problem where WSU couldn’t provide the full, paid-for deliverables to the grant sponsor because of lost staff time. It’s not like WSU can say here’s 90% of the deliverable, but we’re also only charging you 90% because we furloughed our researchers. Things get really tricky here. Also, what about someone who is, say 90% grant funded and 10% state funded. If there’s a furlough to cut costs by 10%, does that person get a 1% cut (10% of 10% state funds), or do we take 100% of the state funds away so that the employee has a 10% cut. All these complications illustrate the need for a really sound process, so I applaud the Faculty Senate for trying to do this. Meeting state budget cuts, delivering on our commitments to extramural funders, and being truly equitable is going to be a hard needle to thread.

  19. Anonymous:
    Thank you FAC for tackling this important equity issue. One thing that might be worth mentioning is that, unless federal law has changed, international faculty on work visas cannot be legally furloughed. Not a major impact I suspect, but nonetheless something to be aware of.

  20. Anonymous:

    I fully support the primary underlying principle laid out in the proposal, i.e. a progressive approach to salary reductions to protect the most vulnerable of WSU’s employees. However, I am concerned by the seemingly low bar in what defines a budgetary crisis. Having been at WSU for over 20 years now, it seems like many included some form of “budget crisis” requiring salary/travel/hiring freezes, budget reduction exercises, etc. Therefore, before moving forward, it would be helpful to know: over the past 20 years, how many years would have met the defining criteria?

    Additionally, despite the proposed limitations that WSU could only enact it for a maximum of 3 every 6 years, I could easily see this happening on a cyclical basis with regular salary reductions becoming the “new norm” and something administration relies on to balance the budget rather than viewing it as an option of last resort.

  21. The idea that tenure (track) faculty should share the burden with contingent faculty and staff is noble. However, the proposal removes/weakens the protection that was there for a reason: to protect the faculty from administration. I wish to emphasize and comment on 3 statements from the draft:

    1. In V. Stipulations & Process: A. “The university’s proposed furlough/salary reduction plan must be approved by a majority vote of the WSU Faculty Senate.”

    This requires that we put our faith in the Senate. Can we trust the Senate to protect the faculty? I will address this question below (after listing other two items).

    2. In V. C 3) “Any salary reductions expected of faculty must also be applied to WSU administrators and their support staff, as well as WSU athletics personnel. ”

    This is essential for the protection of the faculty and must not get lost in the final resolution. I suggest a more specific language which would specify that administrators making decisions on pay cuts/furloughs must first bear their portion of the burden.

    3. V. C 2) “…The plan must reflect a progressive (i.e. non-regressive) approach analogous to IRS income tax brackets. …”

    The example given in the draft is only symbolically progressive. The cut rate should increase faster with the pay and should not end with the income in excess of 200K. What about income in excess of 250k? 300k?… 500k? If we really have a fiscal emergency, shouldn’t the income over 300k be cut by 50%?

    Let me now return to the first point: Can we trust the Faculty Senate?

    I have recently served my time as a senator (and I use the expression advisedly). What I have learned during these 2 years is how one should design an institution to be the least effective. Faculty Senate is supposed to represent faculty interests and participate in shared governance. Instead, the Senate agenda is loaded with micromanagement of the curriculum. Endless votes on the items that most senators know nothing about (and don’t wish to know) take all the time and, if any time is left to discuss the real faculty issues, everybody is already exhausted and only wants to leave. The result of such practice is that senators in general do not represent the faculty. They are not elected but drafted by the department chairs because “…someone has to serve and it is your turn now…”. So we serve. With little interest and no enthusiasm. Drudgery without honor. Ask yourself: Was there ever a competition for a senate seat? Why not? It should be an honor.

    In spite of such faulty design, the Senate has recently shown on two occasions that it can act (the issue of athletics debt and the attempt by administration to financially disenfranchise departments by taking away the research overhead money). While these battles are not over, one dares to hope.

    In balance, my current answer to the question Can we trust the Senate?, is – maybe.

    What would it take to answer yes? I wish to propose the following reform of the Senate:

    A. delegate curriculum issues to a separate body, without burdening senate agenda with it.

    B. Representing faculty interest requires hard work and engagement, which should carry compensation (a month summer salary would do it).

    C. The above compensation should raise interest for the work, so that we should be able to mandate proper election of the senators on the college level (the representation should be proportional to the number of faculty). Election results (number of votes) should be public.

    Then, we would have a Senate that we could trust.

  22. Anonymous:

    WSU did not have increases to catch up inflation already. There should be a process to increase salary, instead.

  23. Anonymous:

    Comments from my constituents (verbatim, no edits from me): 1. By developing such a process the faculty senate is opening the door to continuous salary reductions for supposed emergencies (such as paying off athletics ballooning bill). Therefore, the faculty senate in my opinion should NOT develop such a process or policy. Rather, let the administration justify a budgetary exigency (make sure there is some rigor in making such a claim). If the allocation from the state falls like 10% and enrollments fall by 20% then maybe a policy could kick in. But it is likely that these circumstances would qualify for an exigency anyway so why make it easier for the university to mistreat faculty by reducing faculty salaries. If they want to make reductions then reduce Athletics and the number of administrators and administrative salaries (accorind to Vestal at the Spokesman we are administrator heavy at WSU). Also we should stop all hiring until the financial problems have passed. If the faculty do this (create such a policy) it is analogous to shooting ourselves in the foot. 2. While I am not sure that a policy is the way to go, the example of reductions was alittle shocking and not fair either. While it makes sense that those making less than $70,000 should suffer no reduction, and that maybe those making 70-100 suffer only a 2.5 reduction (though this seems steep at the lower end of this figure), it is not fair to have a whole range of 101 to 200 suffering a 10%! reduction. How is that fair? I know these are examples but they are really poor ones. The 101 to 130 should be more like a 3% and the 231 to 260 should be a 5%, etc. In other words, reductions should be more graduated and smaller. Again, if the financial problems are so bad then let the administrators justify it through an exigency process.

  24. I come to this discussion late.

    Financial exigencies triggered by the present dire economic situation may broadly affect many institutions at once rather than being confined to individual universities, as in the past. Then, a common call by administrators was for elimination of individual programs or colleges. At its worst, individual faculty members were “cherry picked” for elimination. The idea of addressing genuine budget shortfalls by more-or-less uniform furloughs or salary reductions across the university is much more humane than shouldering all the misery on a small number of faculty members. My own preference is for furloughs over salary-reductions, and uniform treatment across the entire university. A salary reduction is an insult and may never be remedied.

    While the current situation clearly differs, I recommend that senators and other faculty principals review and follow “good practice” recommendations of the AAUP regarding financial exigency developed over almost a century; see, e.g.,

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