Joint Statement Regarding New Contract From WWU and UFWW
A distinctive student learning experience is at the heart of the Western brand – an experience that is regarded as one of the very best in the Pacific Northwest. At the core of that experience are gifted, talented and dedicated frontline professorial faculty who distinguish themselves in their teaching, scholarship, research and service to society.
Western has clearly refocused its mission to meet the needs of the state of Washington. It strives to live its commitment through the work of its outstanding faculty by educating the next generation of our state’s leaders, innovators, entrepreneurs, scientists, teachers and actively engaged citizens.
The faculty’s working environment is our students’ learning environment. Western’s faculty enrich the educational experience for undergraduate and graduate students through its collaborative teaching and learning style, both in the classroom and in research.
Western is a university that is a school of choice for undergraduate students in the state. In January, Western announced that it had established a new school record for applications from incoming freshman students. The fact that it is a school of choice is a testimony to the reputation of the faculty and the Western brand which highlights the collaborative learning experience between faculty and students.
More than 80 percent of Western’s graduates stay in Washington and actively contribute personally and professionally to the quality of life we are privileged to experience.
Western’s Investment In The Faculty
This distinction of premier education excellence for which Western is well known is threatened by challenges in recruiting and retaining top-quality faculty because of shortfalls in compensation. A national study has compensation for Western faculty ranked in the bottom 17th percentile of peer national institutions. The rapid rise in the cost of living in Bellingham in recent years is reflected in a study by Jalbert et al. 2010 which places Western 503 out of 574 similar universities nationally in cost of living adjusted (COLA) rankings:
The challenge regarding faculty compensation is a historical challenge for Western and has long been an unmet priority of the institution. This challenge ultimately impacts its ability to best serve the people of the state of Washington.
Higher education is a talent based industry and the ability to provide the highest quality instruction, research and services to students and other stakeholders requires competitive compensation to retain and attract quality faculty and staff.
This new contract helps ensure that students get the best value for their investment.
The ability to successfully attract and recruit faculty of equal caliber of excellence of its current faculty is imperative for Western to remain a university of choice for students and to retain its position in the market place.
Timing of the New Contract with the UFWW
The timing of this new contract between Western and the UFWW is the result of the expiration of the original three year contract that was agreed to in 2008, and of a memorandum of understanding that extended the original contract through 2011-12. The extension was mutually agreed upon in 2011 because of the severe economic challenge the state of Washington was dealing with at the time.
Non-competitive salary offers to candidates for open faculty positions resulted in a majority of failed searches in years prior to 2011-12. This year Western recruited candidates at national market rates which were, in most cases, substantially higher than what WWU offered previously. This has resulted in many new faculty hires joining the faculty ranks at a higher salary than their peers who have been at Western for numerous years. This new contract is the first step in moving faculty salaries closer to market rates and ensuring the retention of Western’s talented faculty.