Union fueled up for vote

Upset over a number of issues, including salary raises throughout various departments of Oakland University that took place right before OU President Gary Russi announced a wage freeze, OU faculty will be holding a vote of no confidence in late March.

The American Association of University Professors’ OU chapter planned to have a similar vote in late November 2009, but postponed it to give Russi a chance to make good on promises he made at an open forum held with faculty earlier that month.


Last June, Russi announced a “salary freeze,” effective July 1, 2009, which stated that virtually every OU employee would not be receiving any pay raises until Michigan’s economy improved.

While in contract negotiations last summer, Karen Miller, history professor and chair of the department, said faculty heard that employees throughout the administration and Athletic Department had received salary raises prior to July’s wage freeze.

The AAUP filed a Freedom of Information Act request, seeking to obtain documents verifying this, but was initially “stonewalled.”

On Jan. 8, the AAUP received the requested material after paying necessary fees.

The documents showed that on June 30, 2009, nine members of the Athletic Department staff received raises ranging from 3.25 percent to 34.23 percent.

Nine other staff members took raises ranging from 3.25 percent and 14.14 percent in late 2008 or early 2009.

In 2008, OU created two new Vice President titles as well as the positions of Senior Vice President and Executive Assistant to the President.

These positions came with raises ranging from 5 percent to 13.7 percent.

Miller said faculty are upset most by the “rhetoric of having to sacrifice” when it seems not everyone had to.

“In the same way that President Russi argues that we want to keep our good coaches, we want to keep our good faculty,” Miller said.

Officials said these raises brought OU in line with the market rate, according to Miller. All university base salaries are paid for by the general fund.

“There clearly are areas of the university that are treated differently than the rest, and treated far more favorably,” Miller said.

David Garfinkle, president of AAUP’s OU chapter, said that “the revelation of the hypocrisy of Mr. Russi’s ‘wage freeze’ announcement has further eroded faculty confidence.”

“These salaries were adjusted in response to two key elements: One, individual contracts, and two, the athletic conference agreements as a member in good standing,” said Russi. “So any adjustments to salaries and so on are consistent with those two.”

According to Russi, salary raises like the ones brought up are common practice in athletic programs at universities across the country.

FOIA docs

The AAUP has been seeking accreditation documents presented to the Liaison Committee on Medical Education.

“The longer they remain secret, the more concerned we are,” Miller said.

According to Miller, AAUP filed court papers in December, issuing a deadline for the documents.

Russi promised in a November open forum that the documents would be made available.

He said the application and other medical school documents are now available in Kresge Library.

As of press time, The Oakland Post was unable to locate the specific LCME accreditation materials there with the help of librarians.

The vote

On Jan. 15, the AAUP issued a flier reiterating the above points with the words “get angry” written across the top. The flier has been posted around campus.

Garfinkle said the vote won’t be canceled again unless Russi resigns.

“The postponement of the vote until the end of March was to give Mr. Russi one last chance to change and to earn the confidence of the faculty,” Garfinkle said. “His foot dragging on fulfilling even the minimal promises made at the November faculty forum is also contributing a further loss of confidence in Mr. Russi and his administration.”

Russi told The Post that he is following up on the requests made by the union at the open forum.

“I’ve never said they should consider stopping it even when they first considered it in November, but there have been several meetings as you know; theirs was an open forum with the faculty. During that meeting, we made commitments to do certain things and we are doing those things,” Russi said.

With the help of OU media relations, Russi is cataloging his efforts to satisfy those complaints online.

The vote will be online and anonymous, but the exact details are yet unknown.