October 29, 2008
By Student Trustees Paul D. Schmitt (Urbana- Champaign), James A. Winters (Voting Member, Chicago), D. Craig McFarland (Springfield)
We address you today as the elected student representatives of the University of Illinois. Our responsibility as student leaders is not only to ensure that university policy will benefit the student body, but we must also weigh the cost and benefits for the University system as a whole. It is with this balance in mind that we submit the following letter for your consideration. We would like the administration of the University to consider a salary freeze for a period of two years.
Without question, the University of Illinois has fallen on hard economic times. Perhaps now more than ever we face diverse, complex challenges that threaten the success and future of the institution. With faculty retention and recruitment issues, compounded by wealthier private institutions and their ability to offer higher pay to established scholars, the quality of a University of Illinois education is in danger. Coupled with skyrocketing energy and utility costs, the exhausted infrastructure at the UI campuses weighs down funding that could otherwise alleviate other issues.
The University community had been extremely cooperative in fighting these negative indicators over the last several years. Certainly it pains the Board of Trustees and others who care about this institution to offer Faculty and Staff pay raises that cannot keep pace with inflation. We as student trustees, but even more so as student leaders, are acutely aware of the difficulties that these issues bring to the University. A consistent and reliable source for funding the difference in diminishing dollars has been through student tuition and fees. Over the years this has been a logical and practical way to operate the University. However, with the increasing costs for an education at the University of Illinois, so comes a weakening ability for students of the University to afford their education.
Certainly it is not an easy task to make the numbers work at the University of Illinois. We blame no individual or group of individuals for the circumstances under which the institution must now operate. However, we do acknowledge as student leaders that, simply put, students literally cannot afford for this trend to continue. As we struggle to preserve the quality of the institution, we must under no circumstances deprive qualified individuals of a University of Illinois education due to costs. As families struggle, this concern is only heightened.
Therein, with a university that faces challenges in retention and competitive salaries for faculty and a student body that can no longer feasibly foot the bill, we ask the leaders of our great institution, our administrators to voluntarily accept a complete salary freeze on salaries greater than $150,000 a year for two fiscal years. This request is out of no animosity towards any administrator or their staff—it is just the unfortunate realization that large expenditures mean large bills for students. Certainly, the administration at the University of Illinois works hard and deserves, like the faculty, whatever the institution can afford to give them. Though the total effect of such a meager sacrifice pales in the shadow of a University budget greater than $4 billion, any sacrifice from administrators can translate into better affordability for struggling students and burdened families. Certainly we look at this proposal as one that symbolically shows the students and faculty of this great institution that our leaders are willing to help in this time of need. This university budget crisis will require countless examples of this cooperation to fix our great problems.
While all constituencies of the University of Illinois tighten their belts, we urge administrators to consider this proposal and signal to the students and faculty that look up to them that they too are in solidarity during these times of immense challenge. We hope that all members of the Illinois family, faculty, students, staff, and administration alike can work together to alleviate the great budget issues that we collectively face. Thank you.