published Friday, February 19th, 2010

UT employees to rally in Knoxville

Audio clip

Sheila Van Ness

The UT system needs to cut bloated administrative salaries and put an end to demoralizing academic program cuts and shrinking salaries for faculty and staff, according to officials with the UT employee union.

United Campus Workers will make this message front and center at a rally of system-wide faculty and staff in Knoxville today.

"The Legislature is taking a hands-on approach to higher education, and they don't completely know what they are doing," said Sheila Van Ness, a University of Tennessee at Chattanooga professor who plans to travel to the rally with other UTC employees. "The big thing is that we have more students and fewer resources, and the state is basically cutting continuously."

In 2012, when federal stimulus funding runs out, the system will be left facing a $110 million budgetary shortfall. UT system leaders have told faculty and staff that upcoming budget cuts significantly will affect jobs and overall university operations.

More than 500 jobs could be at risk of being eliminated system wide, officials said. That number may increase since the state has mandated another 6 percent cut this year.

United Campus Workers wants the UT system to save those jobs by curbing spending on administrative positions and salaries.

"The cost of UT system administration salary has increased by nearly 200 percent, and its ranks have swollen nearly 150 percent (since 2000)," a statement from the union reads. "Members will call for shared sacrifice and givebacks from the top."


* UT campuses will cut another 6 percent of their budget this year.

* A 6 percent cut at UTC would amount to $2.8 million.

* Since 2008, UTC has lost 13.9 percent of its state appropriations, a total of $8 million.

Source: UT system

UT officials said the system would not comment on the rally because the administration doesn't recognize the United Campus Workers as a true union and says it doesn't represent university employees.

Dr. Van Ness said trimming academic spending is forcing UT campuses to cut classes and services. Students are attending larger classes and facing graduation delays, she said.

Teaching faculty are required to do more for students while watching their salaries remain stagnant, union leaders say. It has been 12 years since faculty have received a raise of more than 3 percent.

"Staff and faculty are working for less each year," Dr. Van Ness said. "Even if you do a good job, you don't earn more. You can't take the pat on the back to the bank."

about Joan Garrett McClane...

Joan Garrett McClane has been a staff writer for the Times Free Press since August 2007. Before becoming a general assignment writer for the paper, she wrote about business, higher education and the court systems. She grew up the oldest of five sisters near Birmingham, Ala., and graduated with a master's and bachelor's degrees in journalism from the University of Alabama. Before landing her first full-time job as a reporter at the Times Free Press, ...

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