Good morning. Chairman Tocco, Chancellor Gill, members of the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education, state college presidents, staff, members of the community, and my colleagues from the Massachusetts State College Association, welcome to Salem State College. My name is Pat Markunas and I have served proudly as a member of the Salem State College faculty since 1979. I come before you today as the President-Elect of the Massachusetts State College Association, and I thank Chairman Tocco for graciously allowing me to address this meeting.
This is a critical time in the ongoing negotiations between us to reach our next three-year agreement. After what seemed like a stalemate, both parties have made progress towards an improved financial package, procedures for accountability, and protections for academic freedom. I recognize and appreciate the willingness of the members of both bargaining teams to meet for long hours, on quick notice, around the Thanksgiving holiday to achieve this progress. But make no mistake about it, Chairman Tocco -- we still have a long way to go to reach our mutual goal of a settlement.
Two years ago at the bargaining table, we presented data that demonstrated that our faculty and librarians would need an immediate 18% salary increase in order to achieve parity with faculty who teach at comparable institutions. Recently, our state college presidents have prepared their own salary analysis, and lo and behold, they have come to exactly the same conclusion!! These statistics, whether the unions or management s, do not lie. Our members are woefully underpaid, especially given the cost of living in this beautiful part of the country. Your most recent salary offer is a step in the right direction, but a 3% increase over the existing offer is just that - only a step. A greater financial commitment must be made, now, in order to restore our salaries to the level of national competitiveness that existed in 1989. Chairman Tocco, that level in 1989 was 80th percentile. Our salaries are now at the 20th percentile nationwide.
On the issue of accountability, there, too, have been steps towards mutually agreeable procedures. But faculty care deeply about academic freedom and their ability to innovate and exp eriment in their classrooms, laboratories and studios. We believe that the proposals currently before us will stifle that innovation and experimentation and cause faculty to play it safe for the sake of their evaluations. The parties must continue the dialogue on this critical issue, to resolve the remaining evaluation issues in a way that protects and enhances the intellectual vitality of our colleges.
As the incoming President of the MSCA, I look
forward to working together to improve public higher education in Massachusetts.
Our citizens expect that -- our students deserve that -- and the MSCA membership
wants that. But I am here today to affirm our position that there
cannot be a relationship of mutual respect and working together, as long
as our contract remains unsettled and our salaries are stagnated at the
bottom of the national salary distribution. Chairman Tocco, I urge
you to direct your representatives to continue to improve the economic
conditions under which we educate our students while preserving the academic
freedom so vital to the entire educational enterprise. I know we
can do it. Thank you for your attention here this morning.