Full-time RISD faculty forgo salary increases

By
Monday, March 9, 2009

Full-time faculty at the Rhode Island School of Design have agreed to forgo a salary increase next year in the face of the worsening economic climate.

Henry Ferreira, associate professor of printmaking and president of the full-time faculty’s union, said the faculty “arrived at a decision that it would probably be best” to give up raises for a year to see where the economy was headed.

The union’s current contract expires July 1, at the end of this fiscal year. The faculty members have decided to wait for a year rather than negotiate a new contract amid economic turmoil, Ferreira said.

The union would have been “essentially trying to negotiate a contract with sand under our feet,” Ferreira said, adding that the faculty would have faced a “very long, protracted kind of negotiation.”

Though RISD spokeswoman Jaime Marland declined to comment specifically on the school’s finances, she confirmed that the union accepted a wage freeze.

“We are targeting a 0 percent (salary) increase for all RISD employees,” she said.

RISD’s part-time faculty union is still considering whether to accept a wage freeze, its leader said.

Though the part-time union negotiated a new contact last year that included scheduled raises, RISD has now asked the union to consider accepting no increases for next year, said Randy Willier, illustration critic and the union’s president.

Though the school is “contractually obliged” to give part-time faculty a raise, “we don’t want to look like the bad people here,” he said.

“The school is saying, ‘If everybody pitches in, we can all do this together’ – which we’re all for,” Willier said, adding that part-time faculty – who are hired on contracts as short as one year – are also concerned that some of their jobs may be cut if they do not accept a wage freeze.

“As of today, it’s fairly split,” Willier said of the faculty’s willingness to forego raises. “There are some that are resisting.” Some part-time faculty had been waiting for the full-time faculty’s decision, he said.

The part-time union has until June 30 to make a decision, Willier said. “We’re not in a big hurry,” he said.

Ferreira said he hoped the full-time faculty’s decision would be beneficial to RISD students in the long run.

“Hopefully, tuition will be raised less because we won’t be getting a raise this year,” he said, adding that the school will also save “quite a sum” by not having to hire lawyers to negotiate with the union.

At Brown, President Ruth Simmons has announced a moratorium on salary increases for nearly all faculty and staff. Proposed hires must be vetted by a special administrative Vacancy Review

Committee.