More than 500 University of Idaho faculty members enjoy the benefits of spread pay, but some members of Faculty Senate aren”t sure it is best for the university as a whole.
At last week”s Faculty Senate meeting, members of the Spread Pay Task Force and administrators reviewed a proposal to slowly bring UI away from the spread pay method.
Spread pay takes an employee”s annual salary and divides it equally among the 12 months of the year, so faculty and staff are paid the same amount during the summer months. Chair of the Spread Pay Task Force Becky Tallent said many faculty members perceive spread pay as a valuable benefit to them, but staff don”t see it the same way.
Tallent said many staff members think spread pay undermines Banner, a financial transaction software for higher education institutions. Vice President for Finance Brian Foisy said this was a reason a change was needed.
“Lots of people say, “Well if it ain”t broke, why fix it?”” Foisy said. “Well, what we need you to understand is that for a certain extent from the staff perspective, something was broke.”
The task force came up with multiple solutions, but also wanted to make sure no employee was forced into a system they didn”t agree with, Tallent said. She said the primary objective was to do no harm.
“People who don”t want to leave the system don”t have to,” Tallent said.
The Spread Pay Task Force came up with three options for current university employees. Foisy said if an employee enjoys their payment system through spread pay, they can opt to stay in.
Faculty or staff could also opt out of spread pay and switch to standard pay, which gives them the same salary, but over a period of nine months. Foisy said employees would be offered an incentive to leave spread pay.
Finally, employees have the option to stay with spread pay, but have their money controlled through a financial institution instead of UI. The university would give the employee”s annual salary to their bank, credit union or similar organization, and they would be in charge of dividing the individual”s pay throughout the year. Tallent said this gives employees the chance to be in full control of how they receive their money.
Another big change the task force proposed was that no new employees would be put on the spread pay system. This was controversial among multiple members of Faculty Senate. Vice Chair of Faculty Senate Liz Brandt said it seemed self-serving and that the proposal didn”t take into account how this would affect new faculty and staff.
“I think your people have looked for self-interest,” Brandt said to Foisy during the senate meeting. “They”re not thinking about those incoming employees.”
Faculty Sen. James Foster of the College of Science said if staff members weren”t satisfied with spread pay because of Banner, then UI should consider switching to another system. Vice President of Infrastructure Dan Ewart said the university has used Banner since the 1980s, and doesn”t have the money to switch to a different module.
Several members of Faculty Senate were concerned that this proposal would eliminate another benefit for employees and add to a list of benefits that have been cut throughout the years.
Faculty Sen. Michael Murphy of the College of Letters, Arts and Social Sciences said a big reason why he chose to work at UI was because he could get a loan that gave him money to move across the U.S. and the university offered spread pay. Now, he said the university doesn”t offer the loans anymore, and it”s leaning away from spread pay. He said these changes could impact UI”s efforts to recruit new employees.
“To think that people should just figure it out is, I think, a little hard and cold,” Murphy said.
Foisy said UI is the only place he has worked that didn”t offer a loan fund, and he was in favor of that benefit.
Overall, Brandt said she was disappointed with the presentation. She didn”t like that only one member of faculty on the task force voted in favor of the proposal, and said that it seemed like the university is trying to bribe current employees to leave spread pay with the incentive.
Brandt also said it was likely that the proposal wouldn”t solve the problems it intended to address either way. One of the main issues with spread pay is advanced pay – paying employees before they start working, but she said that wouldn”t be until the last employee who opted to stay on spread pay left the university.
Vice Provost and Executive Vice President John Wiencek said the proposal was not meant to be an easy fix.
“We”re not solving it today,” Wiencek said. “We”re solving it in the long run.”