by Peter Kaczmarczyk and Su Cowling
Workers are nervous everywhere right now. At IU everyone we talk to has the same questions. Will I be laid
off? Will I get any raise at all? Given the drumbeat of bad news every night about the economy, it makes sense to ask these questions. The crisis is real; the anxiety is real. But they arenâ€™t the same. Our anxiety is being fed by constant negative newsâ€”politicians, policy makers and journalists warning us to expect the worst. The siege mentality weâ€™re being encouraged to assume has led many of us to believe the sky is falling; the worst is on the way, so we should roll over and accept the inevitable. Some even imply that we shouldnâ€™t bother asking for a raise in this environment, and weâ€™re greedy for thinking we need one. This is wrong! IU workers deserve a significant and meaningful raise this coming year. So is the worst inevitable? No! As top IU people have already stated publicly, IU has made sound financial decisions which have left it fit to weather this storm. IU has an adequate budget and numerous options about how to use it. The choice is not whether to spend or not to spend; the choice that IU must make is how to spend, on buildings and projects or on wages for the citizens who work to maintain the university functioning at its high level.
Even in good years IU staff have had to live with raises that rarely kept up with inflation. That neglect has put IU staff in an even more precarious position now that the economy is in a downturn. This year the IU Board of Trustees must show concern and compassion and invest in the well-being of those in the IU family that need it the most, even if adequate wage increases require a slowdown in building projects or delays in attaining some of President McRobbie's generally worthy goals. But what about the state and the governor? Nowhere has there been more fear-mongering and predictions of doom. This too is unwarranted alarmism. The governor has stated he wonâ€™t dip into the stateâ€™s â€œrainy-dayâ€ fund. Wake up governor, itâ€™s raining! Put some of the money to work where it can help the people of Indiana now when they need it. Continued spending and investment are vital to the long term health of Indianaâ€™s economy. The needs of public education, the responsibility to continue to provide an educational pathway to as many people as possible must not be put aside. The â€œhumanâ€ infrastructure of public educationâ€”all the thousands of citizens who work directly or indirectly for the universityâ€”must not be ignored.
However, even if the state reduces IUâ€™s funding, it only represents 22% of IUâ€™s annual budget and shouldn't affect the bottom line enough to warrant denying wage increases to staff. Rather the trustees must consider the role they play in the local economy, and how much all IU communities depend on the Boardâ€™s decisions. IU may not be able to keep a factory from closing, but the trustees can ensure the people they employ do not suffer as harshly as many are suffering. IU can be a beacon of hope and a rock of security in troubling and unstable waters. We hope the trustees understand this and lead the way, realizing that for the good of IU, the good of the state and the good of all the people in it, IU must give significant and sustaining raises to its staff in the coming fiscal year.