State university leaders receive pay increases; grad students demand one too

By: - June 2, 2022 3:31 pm

The Old Capitol is a landmark at the University of Iowa and part of the official university logo. (Photo courtesy of the University of Iowa)

Members of the University of Iowa’s graduate student union called on the Iowa Board of Regents to raise salaries for graduate workers to match rates of inflation. 

Meanwhile, the board approved raises or bonuses for state university presidents and the head of the Iowa School for the Deaf.

For the 2021-2023 academic year, returning employees receive a minimum salary increase of 1.3%. Graduate workers told the board, during its regular meeting this week in Iowa City, the increase isn’t enough to keep up with the rising cost of living.

The request comes after several years of tight budgets for Regents universities. The Legislature approved a $5.5 million increase for the three universities for fiscal year 2023. The Regents had requested $18 million, which would have restored an $8 million funding cut from 2020. Overall, state aid for higher education in Iowa is less than in 2009, not accounting for inflation.

Members of the Campaign to Organize Graduate Students (COGS) will meet with the Regents for negotiations in the fall and union representatives said they will demand at least a 7% increase. COGS members will also request paid parental leave and for the Regents to clarify policies within the Graduate Workers Handbooks. Union representatives said to be pregnant while working as a graduate worker is a “terrifying time” due to unsafe working conditions and uncertainty on the parental leave guidelines. 

Glenn Houlihan serves as the chief campus steward for COGS Union and is an international graduate worker at the University of Iowa. Houlihan said employees who work paycheck to paycheck will feel the pain of inflation, unlike the highest-paid employees such as the university president or the University of Iowa football coach.

“As an international graduate worker, I am unable to seek additional employment outside of the university, compounding the misery of insufficient pay rises,” Houlihan said. “…Anything under inflation is effectively a pay cut which none us in this room will stand for.”

Regents approve increases, bonuses for institution leaders

The Board of Regents approved a $50,000 salary increase for University of Iowa President Barbara Wilson and Iowa State University President Wendy Wintersteen. Steve Gettel, superintendent of the Iowa School for Deaf, received a $20,000 performance incentive. 

Board of Regents Executive Director Mark Braun was granted a $50,000 retention bonus while receiving a deferred compensation plan with annual contributions of $130,000 starting July 1.

All three universities were authorized a new deferred compensation plan for the next two years.  University of Northern Iowa President Mark Nook and Wilson’s plan will amount to $50,000 while Wintersteen’s annual contributions will total $40,000.

“We are very pleased with our university leadership and we are pleased with Superintendent Gettel’s service,” Board of Regents President Mike Richards said. “We want to continue with the same leadership team and this is an indication of our willingness and interest in keeping a steady course as we go forward. Other people say it differently but I believe we like the team.”

The Regents re-elected President Mike Richards and President Pro-Tem Sherry Bates to serve an additional two years in their roles.

Mental health center approved

During this week’s meeting the Regents also approved the University of Iowa’s request to develop a school mental health center in the College of Education. The Iowa Center for School Mental Health will provide training for teachers on mental health education as well as conduct research on how to implement mental health services for students struggling with mental health.

The center will receive a one-time grant of $20 million from the Iowa Department of Education and will receive future revenue from additional research, grants and philanthropic support. 

Free speech training rates

The Regents launched a free speech training program in February to educate faculty and students about the basic principles of the First Amendment in an educational environment. The training was required of all students and faculty but there was no penalty for not completing the training.

Far more faculty and staff completed the training than students at the state universities.

University of Northern Iowa had a faculty completion rate of 76% and a student completion rate of 39%. Iowa State University had a competition rate for faculty of 60%; 86% for staff and 37% of students. At the University of Iowa, 38% of undergraduate students completed the training and 57% of faculty and staff completed the training.

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Kate Kealey
Kate Kealey

Katherine Kealey is a senior majoring in journalism and political science at Iowa State University. Before interning at the Iowa Capital Dispatch, she interned at the Carroll Times Herald. She will serve as the editor-in-chief of the Iowa State Daily in the fall.