Letter to the editor:
The second meeting of the Tennessee Tech Governing Board meeting can be watched here: (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XGtMprxWisA&t=4156sa) and it was eye opening. . Early on, the Board undertook a long discussion of whether TTU faculty and staff were deserving of a 3% raise mandated by the State. Several Board members appeared to agree that only those faculty and staff members who were “innovative” deserved even a 1% cost of living raise. One Board member insinuated that [many?] TTU faculty were simply slackers who were just “living another year” and collecting wages. Not only are these attitudes toward TTU employees disconcerting, it betrays an ignorance of what TTU Faculty do and do well. TTU faculty use cutting edge technology and teaching methods; they conduct research; and they are active in professional and community service. ALL faculty and staff deserve raises that at least account for the cost of living. There have been many years when faculty and staff have gotten NO raise. In addition, faculty and staff salaries at TTU are below the levels of comparative schools, or the ‘CUPA norm’. In fact, the only individuals whose salaries are generally above peer equivalents are TTU’s top administrators’, many of whom have received significant raises in the last four years.
When the discussion turned to whether President Oldham should receive a 3 % raise, there was almost universal agreement that he deserved yet another raise on an income of $340,000 given his “motivation” and “dedication”. Many were left wondering how these ineffable, (pandering?) tributes would be measured or clearly demonstrated. This discussion was all the more surprising considering that TTU is the only TBR university facing an acute financial crisis; one replete with large layoffs and all as a result of administrative mismanagement. Faculty evaluations of Oldham and high level administrators already exist but the administration refuses to allow access to them. A TTU-AAUP faculty survey resulted in a vote of “no confidence” in President Oldham in 2016. Before the Board begins evaluating faculty as slackers and denying them raises, they need to demand the release of administrative evaluations that already exist and the Board needs to consult with the AAUP on its existing survey. Morale among TTU faculty and staff is at rock bottom and will likely fall further if the Board and the administration continue to permit the kind of disparaging conversation and discrepant evaluative treatment evidenced in the second Board meeting.
Jon Jonakin, TTU Emeritus Professor of Economics