Kudos to the Maroon for devoting space to the Administration’s decision to cut the hours of Residence Halls and Commons (RHC) workers. Unfortunately, however, the recent editorial on the topic (“Reasonable Hours,” 11/10/09) included some incorrect information.
“The administration,” opined the editors, “could have simply cut pay by 8 percent without a similar reduction in hours.” No, the administration could not have simply cut pay. RHC workers enjoy a contract, and that contract does not allow for unilateral wage decreases.
In a similar vein, the editors praise the Administration for managing affairs “in the middle of the recession...with only a few layoffs.” While the editors are surely referring here to the four RHC jobs recently lost, their phrasing may mislead readers who were not on campus last February when administrators cited the recession as their reason for laying off 450 workers. That’s more than a few.
The editors also remind us that it is impossible for either readers or the union “to fully evaluate the University’s decision,” since the University budget “is not publicly available.” It seems a bit perverse to prohibit us from questioning administrative spending decisions because we lack access to a budget that the Administration itself keeps secret (unlike, for example, the many public university administrations that operate with open budgets). Leaving this irony to the side, however, the argument that we lack knowledge of the Administration’s spending patterns is substantially incorrect. Although—as the editors rightly point out—no uninitiated person can see the line-item budget, everyone may access the University’s latest 990 at foundationcenter.org. Those who do will learn that the 19 top-paid administrators brought home a combined total of $9,772,226. By my very rough calculations, an 8 percent cut in these administrators’ pay would have been enough to prevent 208 workers in RHC from losing their five hours a week.
I am most concerned, though, by the editors’ claim that “student activists and campus workers continu[e] to protest the University’s decision last summer to cut the hours of RHC workers.” Let’s be clear. The Administration made a decision to cut the RHC workers’ hours. The University is us—undergrads and custodians, postdocs and pipefitters, bleary-eyed security guards and nervous junior faculty, and (even) administrators. If we were making the decisions together, then maybe the brunt of the hard times wouldn’t be falling on those among us who already make the least.
Anthropology and School of Social Service Administration