“No Cuts Without Transparency,” Petitions Staff Union

Zully Sosa, executive editor

Photo of Staff Union table in Christensen Center lobby informing people of their cause on Mar. 10 taken by Zully Sosa

The following is a statement by members of the Augsburg Staff Union: 

“What is the nature of Augsburg’s financial crisis? What cuts will be made? How will it affect students? These are not the questions any member of the staff, faculty, or student body wants to be asking, but thanks to vague and limited communication from the administration, these are the questions we’re asking.”

“Last week, members of the Augsburg Staff Union launched a petition to request that the administration offer some more transparency, accountability, and collaboration surrounding the university’s budget. We’re asking all members of the Augsburg community to sign it, because the administration’s actions affect all of us.” 

“You may have seen or heard about budget shortfalls ranging from $3 to $5 million dollars for the upcoming fiscal year. You may have seen or heard that those are just projections and not to worry. You may have also seen or heard that there’s a plan that may or may not result in cuts to programming, curricula, or staffing to address this projected, alleged budget shortfall. Unfortunately, what we have heard directly from the administration is very little. We do not know any specifics regarding the budget, or how exactly we are once again in this position. The Augsburg community deserves transparency; a budget shortfall impacts all of us – staff, faculty, students, and administration – and we want to be partners in the solution to ensure equity and accountability.” 

“While we don’t know the nature of what’s going on with the budget, we do know that Augsburg has to negotiate three union contracts this year. Our contract, which has been in bargaining for a year this month, has yet to even touch discussions on our wages and healthcare. The timing of these budget announcements given without specifics concerns us.

We also know that staff turnover has been hovering around 20-30% every year since 2018. This is unacceptable for an institution that seeks to provide a top-notch educational experience for its students. The chronic understaffing of student-facing departments like Athletics, Residential Life and Multicultural Life only serve to overwork the staff that remain and deny students the resources necessary for them to thrive. Our wage and healthcare proposals are the first step in addressing this understaffing crisis. In response, the administration has given us silence at the bargaining table and vague language outside of it. We want real transparency and collaboration here, done in line with the values we all share. 

In addition to our ask for transparency, our petition makes another ask of the administration. If after providing information detailing a significant issue with the budget, then we would anticipate that top administrators share in the necessary cuts that our institution will have to endure. We believe that given the considerable disparities between our average compensation and theirs, this would be an equitable solution to any possible budget issue.” 

“Bottom line is we want to know what’s going on with the budget and we want some clear answers from the administration on our wage and healthcare proposals, which they’ve had in their possession for nearly a year. If there is genuinely a budget crisis, let’s talk about it. Where can cuts be made that don’t negatively impact student life and education? Could President Pribbenow share in some of the cuts if they’re going to affect staff and students? 

Administration, let’s work together to find solutions. Let’s build a better Augsburg, one that reflects our shared values of equity, diversity, and honesty. 

We invite all members of the Augsburg community to sign our petition addressed to President Pribbenow and the Board of Regents.”  

You may have seen members of the Staff Union discussing their concerns on the projected budget in the Christensen Center lobby or A-mail. Outreach efforts have been vast to ensure everyone hears and supports their plea – “No Cuts without Transparency” with the petition even being shared by the Augsburg Day Student Government. As of March 10, they have yet to receive a response from the administration. 

A Budget Working Group has been created to discuss options and develop recommendations for reductions in instructional spending. However, this committee consists of faculty and administration, with no staff members involved. 

The Echo reached out to Chief Financial Officer John Coskran to receive some insight on what areas in the budget are being focused on when approaching FY2023. Coskran wants what the $5 million figure mentioned above is representing to be clear. This was an assessment of the pandemic’s impacts on potential revenue compared to a hypothetical scenario in which there was no pandemic,” he said. “It is not a measure of the difference between estimated revenue and a revenue target.” 

Coskran revealed that the two major planning areas for expense reductions are instructional costs, costs of compensation related to “teaching and associated faculty professional development” and non-instructional costs, expenses unrelated to compensation, including in the budgets of academic departments. 

He also responded to concerns on impacts to classes from these potential cuts, stating that, “Class sizes could be larger in some cases, but not in all or necessarily even most classes.” and on the topic of adjunct professors, “It is likely that a greater proportion of classes will be taught by full-time faculty.”

“Augsburg is engaged in an ongoing fiscal 2022-23 budget planning process that will continue until a recommended budget is presented to the Board of Regents at its May meeting.” says Coskran

As of March 10, the “No Cuts Without Transparency” petition has 234 signatures. You can find a link to the petition on the Staff Union’s Instagram page @augsburgstaffunion.