Academic workers speak out on campus budget and tuition issues

In the process of addressing tuition and workers’ pay at the UW on Thursday night, the Academic Workers for a Democratic University (AWDU) brought up new and surprising statistics.

“In order to do social change in a university like the UW, we have to understand how it works, and a part of that is learning about the budget,” said Garrett Strain, a student at the UW Evans School of Public Affairs.

Budgets determine tuition, where money is allocated, and who gets funding, Strain said. The AWDU consists of academic workers at the UW who seek to learn more about these issues and fight for student and worker rights.

One of the issues addressed in Thursday’s meeting was the rise in tuition at the UW, up 230 percent since the year 2000.

Via The Daily

“A budget is a moral document,” Strain said. “It is a statement of priorities.”

The Board of Regents and other UW administrators often point to the lack of state funding as a major contributor to increasing costs. However, the AWDU insists the fault belongs to more governing bodies than just the state.

“The overall pie of dollars at the UW has actually increased over these years,” Strain said. “So this explanation alone cannot explain the rising inequality that has happened on our campus.”

According to the UW’s 2014 financial report, 27% of incoming funds are from grants and contracts, 24% from patient services at UW Medicine facilities, 17% from tuition and fees, 10% from investment, 5% from state funding, 5% from auxiliary enterprises, 4% from gifts, 4% from sales and services of educational departments, and 4% from other sources.

The Board of Regents is integral in determining where these funds go. Part of the revenue is divided among faculty and administration. 

Currently, Interim President Ana Mari Cauce alone started at $524,784 annually, with deferred compensation at $50,000 to $150,000 yearly. The UW’s previous president, Michael Young, was making $622,008 yearly base salary.

There are a handful of administrators at the UW who are making more than $150,000 a year. Yet, there are more 12,000 workers on campus who make less than $15 per hour, according to a public records request obtained by the AWDU. The UW reports that there are 2,600 students on campus who currently make less than $15 per hour. 

“It’s fundamentally a question of equity and how you allocate resources,” Strain said. “Clearly, when it comes to making those decisions, they don’t prioritize low-wage staff on campus, but instead, they prioritize themselves.”

A large portion of the information compiled by the AWDU came from members making trips to Special Collections, a part of the Suzzallo library’s basement, where they took pictures of documents that aren’t allowed to be copied or checked out.

The UW annually creates digital copies of the UW Salary Stratification Report, however previous years are completely inaccessible. The AWDU argues this is inadequate, and a step towards democracy in the university is having all monetary information available.

“When it comes to the budget, it is very transparent and we share full information with elected faculty governance and elected student governance,” Cauce said in an email to The Daily. “I solicit information about budget priorities and they are free to, and do, ask for any additional budget items or documents they would like.”

Elected faculty and student governance, however, doesn’t necessarily include the student body at large.

“We need to arm ourselves with knowledge and knowing these details will strengthen our cause,” said Maya Barron, graduate student in the UW Evans School of Public Affairs.

Along with tuition increases and wage inequality, the AWDU discussed their perception of the ways in which the UW creates a dichotomy between excellence and affordability. 

“For me, in all honesty, excellence is more important than access,” said Phyllis Wise, a recent interim president of the UW, quoted by The Daily in 2011. “[Yet] I realize from a political point of view, that we have to talk about it in terms of access.”

Similarly, Cauce referenced the need to balance excellence and affordability during a Town Hall meeting in February.

Some students feel otherwise.

Yasi Naraghi, a graduate student in comparative literature, was one of four people who passed out index cards at the teach-in, asking crowd members to explain what they thought a democratic university would look like.

After having looked them over, Naraghi summarized the contents of the cards for the audience. 

According to Naraghi and the crowd, a democratic university would be accessible, understandable, and researchable. Additionally, administrators would be appointed by the community, and not the government or governor.

“Hopefully this has impressed upon you the urgency of this issue,” Barron said. “Organize, organize, organize.”

The AWDU meets at 4:30 p.m. Tuesdays in Parrington Hall Room 206. The Board of Regents holds public meetings once a month with more information announced online as it becomes available. 

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