WOU Faculty, Staff and Students Unified for Higher Education

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Faculty members of Local 2278 (WOUFT) joined with students and staff at Western Oregon University to hold a unity rally on May 22, 2013. Emily Plec, Local 2278 (WOUFT) President said the goal of the event was to "alter the 'divide and conquer' mentality that it’s either student tuition or employee wages. That one has to come at expense of the other.”

Click here to view photos from the rally and march!

“Today we are standing in solidarity to say it’s about investment in higher education. It’s about making universities affordable for students and accountable to employees who serve students every day,” said Plec.

WOU President Mark Weiss surprised attendees by speaking at the event. “Funding levels for higher education are 30 percent less than six years ago. “We must urge Governor Kitzhaber and the Legislature to re-invest in higher education by returning that 30 percent to our budgets, instead of proposed three percent.”

“It was wonderful to hear President Weiss speak about his efforts to stand up for students, faculty and staff at Western,” said Plec. “He has often taken the position that if we lower student tuition then we can’t pay additional wages for staff and faculty. So we invited him to our rally to encourage him to work with us to think beyond that false dichotomy and really push for better funding from the state,” she said.

“I think it’s important that we show a united front on an important issue for Oregon,” said Steve Gibbons, Local 2278 (WOUFT). “Disinvestment in Oregon’s education system has meant we make it up in tuition. It would be great for students to not have extreme debt when they graduate from college—that only hurts our economy. We also have tremendous faculty and staff who are underpaid,” he said.

Special Guest Speaker Rep. Michael Dembrow brought news from the Legislature which included release of budget for the next biennium.  
“I bring good news. The latest revenue forecast came out a lot better than expected,” said Rep. Dembrow. “This is my fifth year in the legislature. In my first session we had to cut $4-billion from the budget. In my second session we cut $3-billion. So to get a budget forecast that was up almost $300-million—that was good.”

According to Dembrow, the additional funding will mean no cuts for K-12, and could mean a freeze, or only limited tuition increases on college campuses in addition to some additional funding.