Board of Regents to look at faculty, staff compensation

Andrew Henderson

The Board of Regents Finance Committee has been tasked to look at the issue of compensation for WKU employees.

At the Sept. 17 University Senate meeting, Chairwoman of the senate Kate Hudepohl spoke about a meeting she and several others had with regent Gillard Johnson, chairman of the Board of Regents Finance Committee. She said during their meeting, she learned Frederick Higdon, Board of Regents chairman, had charged the Finance Committee to look at the situation of compensation.

Hudepohl said she, senate Vice Chairwoman Julie Shadoan and Chairman of Staff Council Josh Marble met with Johnson on Aug. 28, when they learned about his interest in the issue of employee compensation.

During the meeting with Johnson, Hudepohl said, Marble presented the idea of having compensation being attached to a stable revenue stream. Hudepohl said she believed this would be ideal. That way, compensation would become a priority and not a question. If enrollment goes up, then money would be available; if state funding becomes available, then compensation increases would occur. 

Hudepohl said Higdon was aware of a May senate resolution that concerned compensation for employees. This information was given to Johnson for addressing the matter with the Finance Committee. 

The resolution in question from the May senate meeting was from the Faculty Welfare and Professional Responsibilities Committee and was unanimously approved electronically by Faculty Welfare. 

The resolution states that “faculty and staff have not experienced a merit raise or merit pool since 2007; and faculty salaries at WKU at all ranks are below benchmark.” 

“Be it further resolved that the University Senate encourage faculty to consider pursuing whatever means necessary to help the administration in this refocusing effort,” the resolution states. 

In an attempt to refocus these efforts, Tamela Smith, manager of audiovisual services and staff regent, has been collecting input from staff members about their concerns. 

In an email sent to university staff members on Sept. 29, Smith asked staff to email her comments and concerns about current salary levels and how they believe compensation increases should be implemented. 

Smith said staff expressed concern about the lack of merit pay, the cost of insurance and other services that are becoming more difficult to pay for due to the lack of raises. She said while a cost-of-living raise would help, the overall morale of staff members is dismal. 

“We have an excellent working environment, and people really enjoy being a part of the university. But those things aren’t enough anymore to keep staff here,”  Smith said. 

Smith approximates that staff make up some 60 percent of employees at the university; members range from building service attendants to office associates and vice presidents. 

“Sometimes people overlook the staff. We certainly all care about the students — we want to take care of our students — and faculty certainly are important to that, but the staff are equally as important,” she said. 

Both Smith and Hudepohl commended Johnson for the work he’s doing with looking into employees’ compensation. 

Hudepohl said she’s grateful the Board of Regents has taken up this matter and hopes it will move into action.

“I would hope there’s some real action taken, not just words,” she said.