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Promoting Quality Higher Education– An Investment in Oregon’s Future


Public Comment to the PSU Board of Trustees by PSU-AAUP President, Emily Ford February 2, 2023

February 02, 2023 / PSU-AAUP

Thank you for allowing me this time to provide you comment from PSU-AAUP. 

Over the past two weeks I have been privileged to attend and observed the Governance and Finance and Administration Committee meetings. Hearing the robust discussion at these meetings I am certain that this Board and PSU-AAUP members want the same thing for PSU.We are keenly excited to meet the candidates for PSU president next week. We see the hiring of a new president for PSU as a key juncture for students, faculty, staff, and the city of Portland. We hope that it is a turning point.

You may be aware that several of the labor unions on campus have been circulating a petition to the Board asking you to act now to ensure a bright future for PSU. As of this morning at 8AM, 585 PSU staff, faculty, students, and community members have signed that petition. I have brought copies of those signed petitions with me today. We ask you to support PSU’s bright future by hiring a new university president who will correct course. 

We need a president who will lead a cabinet of compassionate, innovative leaders. We need a president who will engage in shared visioning and productive collaboration with administration, students, faculty, and staff to build a bright future for PSU. We need a president who will critically examine the longstanding doom and gloom budget narrative of this university.

The predominant budget scenarios we’ve heard for years are smoke and mirrors. Each year there are excess reserves. Despite that, instead of designing a plan for success, the current administration is planning for failure. I have yet to hear any concrete plan from our Executive Leadership Team to improve our student enrollment – in fact, they’re doing the opposite. Generally speaking, when you assume failure, that is what you get. 

We need a new president and leadership team who will invest in the critical on the ground services, programs, and staff that will ensure its bright future. 

PSU students need more mentors, advisors, career counselors, financial aid counselors. Employee turnover rates are shockingly high in many of these key positions.They need faculty and academic professionals who are not overwhelmed by constant demands that they do 2 or 3 jobs at the same time. When we do not fully fund healthy staffing levels for student services, we fail our students. 

Student retention and persistence is supposedly a focus of the University. Yet, at Monday’s Finance & Administration Committee meeting we heard proposed budget strategies for “right sizing.” More cuts. No plan for success. Each cut is a failure to invest in PSU’s students.

Here are a few facts about Monday’s presentations and discussion: 

  • First, the budget scenarios presented were rigidly, and in some cases nonsensically, pessimistic. They presume that none of the strategic initiatives and enrollment strategies currently underway will be successful in generating new enrollment and revenue. 

  • Second, the percentage of inflation for the E&G budgets are inflated. PSU-AAUP represented employees, for the ’23-‘24 budget year, have a COLA cap of 3.5%.

    The Office of Economic Analysis are predicting the CPI-U West to be 2.8% in 2024 and 2.5% in 2025.

    Given these much lower percentages, why is Administration budgeting 4.7% for inflation in 2023-24 and around 4% annually through ‘26-‘27?

  • And third, the presentation claims that $14.8 million must be cut from our current service levels. Yet the University’s current expenditures are tracking at $9.2 million below budget. Why the disconnect?

Monday’s presentation was just more of the same things we’ve heard for at least eight years. No matter our enrollment levels, no matter the budget surpluses, we hear that our budget numbers are a disaster and cuts are justified. Pandemic funds remain unspent, reserves are in excess, the Administration failed to execute commonsense enrollment strategies, and all we hear are cuts. 

We are all exhausted by the pessimism, lack of vision, the lack of collaboration, lack of transparency, and frankly, the chaos this sows on our campus and harm it perpetuates for our community of students, faculty, and staff. These harms are the direct result of the dysfunction of the University’s leadership. 

In the end this is all harmful to students.

How does cutting on the ground staff support retention and persistence? This must stop. 

We are asking you, as you hire and instruct new leadership, that you listen to the Portland and PSU community and commit to a bright future for PSU. 

Thank you for your time.


Emily Ford

President, PSU-AAUP

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