Thursday, March 02, 2006

Below decks at the flagship institution

The current federal minimum wage of $5.15 per hour is of course, a national disgrace. Despite our gov’s protests that America (well, his America anyway) will collapse if the minimum wage is raised, the Maryland legislature is currently debating House Bill 55 that would raise our state’s minimum wage to $6.15.

What's to debate? You’d think that the political risk of adding a dollar to the minimum wage is on a par with assuming a courageous moral stand against drunk driving and spouse abuse. Particularly since the Maryland Department of Budget & Management (DBM) estimates that the total yearly cost for the one-dollar increase is $847,500—approximately what Halliburton charges the taxpayer to deliver today’s lunch to one soldier in Iraq.

As if there isn’t enough shame to go around, the University of Maryland admits that 2400 of their employees would be covered under the new minimum wage law (see Extract from Fiscal Note below). If you or anyone you know currently works for the University at less than $6.00 an hour, call AFSCME Council 92 in Baltimore today! Email or phone: 1-800-492-1996

Extract from Fiscal Note

The bill would require that the State pay its employees $6.15 per hour effective July 1, 2006. As a result, State expenditures could increase by approximately $847,500 in fiscal 2007 due to additional wages and mandatory payroll taxes paid on behalf of State employees. The estimate provided by DBM did not include employees at the University System of Maryland (USM). USM advises that approximately 2,400 contractual employees who are covered by federal or State minimum wage requirements are paid a wage of less than $6.15 per hour. Based on information provided by DBM and USM, Legislative Services estimates that wage and payroll tax expenditures would increase by approximately $600,000 in fiscal 2007. In addition, St. Mary’s College advises that increasing the minimum wage would increase its expenditures by approximately $128,000 in fiscal 2007, which represents increased wages for approximately 600 student-employees. Morgan State University advises that the bill would have no impact, as the university currently pays its employees a minimum of $6.25 per hour.


At 10:24 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

A $50,000 Happy Birthday
Terps celebrate 150 years since the university was officially chartered

By Tyeesha Dixon
March 07, 2006

As the university turned 150 years old yesterday, students and administrators celebrated by throwing a $50,000 birthday bash — complete with a seemingly endless supply of 3,000 frosted cupcakes, an actor portraying founder Charles Benedict Calvert educating visitors on university history and hundreds of students dancing salsa together to Celia Cruz’s “La Negra Tiene Tumbao.”

A 60-foot-long mural marked with hundreds of “Happy Birthday” messages stretched across a wall of the Grand Ballroom of the Stamp Student Union. Popcorn, pitchers of punch and red, white and yellow balloons filled the bustling room as lines of students were handed T-shirts, postcards, stickers, notecards and posters.

“The spirit has been very high,” university President Dan Mote said. “All that makes me feel very good.”

The event was a celebration of the university’s 1856 charter date, when the state officially recognized the university as an institution of higher learning. Three years later, after Calvert donated 428 acres of his own land to the college, students were finally able to enroll. Since its humble beginnings the university has blossomed into a high-tech research campus sprawled across roughly 1,500 acres.

“Our goal now is greatness with affordable access,” Mote said in a speech about the university’s present and past.

The birthday was topped off with traditional birthday cake. Mote beamed as he, university Senate Chairwoman Adele Berlin and the actor playing Charles Calvert cut into an intricately designed, multi-layered cake covered with the university logo. The event’s attendants joined the Pep Band in singing “Alma Mater” and “Happy Birthday.”

Julian Jones and Courtney McKeldin, distant grandchildren of Charles Calvert, attended the party. One important figure was missing, however. When an announcer invited certain people, including Student Government Association President Andrew Rose, to join officials on the stage for the cake-cutting, Rose was missing. The announcer paused briefly but quickly went on with the list.

“I didn’t know about it,” Rose said, and claimed no one had contacted him beforehand to alert him. He did not attend Charter Day. “I’m upset that I wasn’t contacted.”

Officials had sent out a university-wide e-mail prior to the event.

Though the university did not officially open until 1889, the university celebrates its special day on March 6 to commemorate the 1856 founding. Jessica Davies, the university’s director of special events said the Special Events Office brainstormed with the Anniversary Planning Committee to come up with birthday party ideas since the beginning of the school year, taking into consideration student, faculty and staff input.

Students suggested a “Cheer the Turtle” theme for four Testudo statues on display in the Grand Ballroom in the Stamp Student Union. The featured statues were “Turning Into Super Terp,” “Big Terp on Campus,” “Old Line Terp” and “Reach for the Stars.” Students happily snapped pictures with the statues and with the Testudo mascot, who was dancing and chatting with guests.

Also on display was the university’s original seven-page handwritten charter for the Maryland Agricultural College — later renamed the University of Maryland — cased in glass. The charter, usually kept at the state archives in Annapolis, was lent to the university yesterday for the celebration.

“I can’t believe how neat the handwriting is,” said junior economics major David Fenwick.

Sponsors — including Lockheed Martin, Apple, Terp Tees, Chipotle and Nelnet, the National Education Loan Network — and the university’s anniversary budget funded the event, Davies said. Mote said support of the day’s program shows many people recognize “things at the university are going in the right direction.”

The Finance and University Relations Committees designated a $50,000 budget for the party, said Terry Flannery, the university’s assistant vice president of marketing and communications and a member of the Anniversary Planning Committee. Nelnet contributed an additional $50,000 for a documentary about the university’s history and progress over the past 150 years, Flannery said.

The 80-minute movie, Keeping the Promise: the Rise of the University of Maryland, premiered in the Hoff Theatre yesterday and will air Wednesday night on Maryland Public Television at 8 p.m. and Saturday night at 9:30 p.m. It features interviews with various campus leaders and faculty.

The party also included a free anniversary photo booth and a timeline display highlighting important events in the past 150 years of the university’s history, such as the time period from 1864 to 1866, when the university went bankrupt and the integration of the campus.

Davies said the party’s turnout was great and that the committees didn’t know how many people to expect.

“We should throw a birthday party for those of us who are on campus and part of the Maryland family,” Davies said.

“It was a great turnout today,” Mote said, which “indicates the interest of our campus citizens” in connecting to the history, traditions and roots of the university.

Junior geography major Erica Hafer agreed the historical value of the birthday was impressive.

“It’s cool that I’m going to the school when it’s turning 150,” Hafer said.

At 10:26 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

How will they get by ???????

Faculty hope for better retirement
Employee retirement benefits not enough to attract and keep faculty

By Scott Dance and Laurie Au
March 07, 2006

As the university and University System of Maryland have continued to make up lost financial ground since the budget cuts of 2002, potential and current faculty are hoping this year’s larger budget will allow the state to heed years of concerns employee retirement benefits are not up to par.

System officials said they have lobbied legislators for the past five years to increase retirement pensions and state contribution to optional retirement plans. Compared to benefits given in other states, Maryland’s are not competitive and system officials are worried the issue is having a lingering effect on their ability to hire faculty to fill numerous vacant positions.

“The faculty don’t want to appear greedy,” said Martha Siegel, chairwoman of the system’s faculty council. “On the other hand, we’re hiring and we want to be able to hire good people and retain good people.”

Faculty members want to see the state provide a higher percentage into faculty retirement plans, officials said. According to Provost Bill Destler, the state pays 7.25 percent of an employee’s paycheck to their retirement fund, while at comparable institutions across the country, the figure is closer to 11 or 12 percent.

Since the funds are optional plans, such as TIAA-CREF, and are essentially only used by the younger generation of state employees, Destler said it is seemingly not a high priority because it is not deemed to affect many state employees.

“One of the reasons it doesn’t seem to go very far each year — and it’s mentioned almost every year — is the number of people who would benefit is not small, but its not huge,” Destler said. “They probably figure there are bigger fish to fry.”

At this university, about 100 research positions are vacant, said university President Dan Mote in a testimony to the General Assembly in February.

In 2001, the system lobbied for a bill that would have increased state contribution to one percent in one year and two the following. The bill passed in different versions to the House and Senate, yet died because there was no agreement made to rectify the bills’ differences.

In 2002, the state’s economy plummeted, forcing faculty to shelve their request once again.

With a state surplus, faculty members are hopeful this could be their year.

However, Siegel said she is doubtful the budget will do anything this year because they haven’t heard any new information from state legislators.

“The Board of Regents stated a goal on our salary and that we would be at 85 percentile,” she said. “We were nearly there until we slipped way down again. ... We’re certainly not going to climb very high in the ‘07 budget.”

There are two retirement plans faculty members can use as state employees. One is the state retirement plan, which older workers typically have, that ensures employees specific benefits when they retire.

Relatively new optional plans, taken more frequently by newer hires, give employees a greater control of their benefits depending on their investments and the stock market.

Some argue faculty salaries and benefits should be one of the system’s dashboard indicators — performance levels are annually monitored by the Board of Regents and used as reminders so the system doesn’t drop these issues.

Regent Pat Florestano said at February’s full Board of Regents meeting faculty salary should be placed on the dashboard indicators and believes the system has already lost some of its competitiveness.

“We’re having great difficulty attracting faculty,” she said at the meeting. “Sadly, faculty are looking at that retirement piece and leaving. We are going to have problems if we continue in these present conditions.”

At the same meeting, Frostburg University President Catherine Gira echoed the same concerns and said she already lost one potential hire because of the retirement salary.

“Some campuses are significantly below their peers, and those need to be addressed rather quickly,” Siegel said. “If you want to recruit good faculty members, you have to pay them. It can make the difference between coming to our schools or not.”

At 1:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Faculty salaries and retirements benefits are quite low. Among the "benefits" are $500/yr parking, increase in CRC fee to > $300/yr and, as of year's end, no more dial-up service. Are we paid overtime for offering after hours review and help sessions? How about all the time spent creating and maintaining web sites which students have come to expect?

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