It is in the policy of The Miami Student to publish factual errors in the newspaper. In the Dec. 7 issue, the article “ASG denies Student for Staff bill” incorrectly states that a bill was passed unanimously by GSA. The bill was not passed unanimously.
Senior Stephanie Lee of Students for Staff (SFS) was “extremely disappointed” in Associated Student Government (ASG) after Tuesday night’s meeting.
“As students we have a say in university policy … and this is symbolic of university policy … democracy at this university is not practiced,” she said.
That’s because after two presentations and nearly three hours of debate, student senate decided not to endorse SFS’s bill, which would urge the administration of Miami University to create a committee that would investigate the livability of Miami’s current wages for classified staff.
According to Carol Hauser, Miami’s senior director for human resources, classified staff is defined as employees who are paid hourly and are overtime eligible, such as employees in Housing, Dining and Guest Services.
Currently, entry-level classified staff at Miami are paid $9 an hour according to Hauser. When SFS originally came before ASG Nov. 27, they urged the importance of establishing a “living wage” for staff- a number the Oxford Family Resource Center estimates to be $12.45 an hour for a single wage home with two dependents in Oxford.
However, Hauser claimed differently when she had the floor at student senate, in response to SFS’s bill.
“We don’t just pick salaries out of the air,” she said. “I think our classified staff is paid a fair wage.”
Hauser pointed out that Miami has never had staff layoffs, offers perks like college tuition for staff and their family members after a certain period of time with the university and offers job enrichment packages like wage raises and bonuses every two years. Additionally, Hauser called Miami the “employer of choice” in Oxford, pointing out that every time a staff position opens up, 25 people apply.
Furthermore, once local medical costs are applied, the adjusted hourly wage for entry-level Miami staff ($8.87) is better than every public university in Ohio except Ohio University, whose adjusted wage is $9.18.
Among Hauser’s final points were that 80 percent of the university budget already goes toward Miami staff (in salaries or benefits). Due to the current budget crunch, Hauser said increasing the entry-level staff wage to $12.45 an hour would require $15 million from outside sources-which would most likely be from increased tuition for out-of-state students.
SFS said they appreciated the information Hauser presented at the ASG meeting on Tuesday, but said her statistics didn’t put a face on the 32 Miami staff who presently live under the national poverty line and that a university budget crunch is not an excuse to not help them.
“I’m getting the impression that everything’s fine … but that’s not what I see when I talk to staff,” Lee said. “(The) staff doesn’t dry up the budget and neither do students … We need to hold administration accountable.”
Lee pointed out the poor record Miami has had with staff in the past, including a 1989 litigation that ruled in favor of staff over Miami, an Ohio Supreme Court ruling that found Miami guilty of unfair labor practices in 1994 and two staff strikes since then-the latest being in 2003.
“People don’t go without pay unless there’s a problem,” Lee said.
After the two presentations, student senate debated several different points brought up by Hauser and Lee, discussing whether or not ASG was the right organization for SFS to come to for help.
“We have to realize we are student senators and we support students,” Senator Chris Berry said. “And a $1,000 increase a year (approximate rise in tuition if Miami were to pay staff a living wage) doesn’t benefit any students.”
President Pro Tempore Doug Haynes agreed.
“Before we delve into this we should make sure this is something our constituents want,” he said.
Senator Thad Boggs added that ASG is not meant to be a mouthpiece or appendage of SFS.
However, those who came to Tuesday’s meeting on behalf of SFS thought differently.
“A staff strike would affect students,” said Aaron Turner, president of College Democrats. “Six hundred and fifty students (the number of students on College Democrats listserv) do care about staff.”
A particularly interesting moment in the debate came when Becky Wilkins of housing staff shared her own testimonial in the middle of debate.
“I’ve been working here over 20 years and job enrichments are great … but you can’t get a raise or bonus unless you have a high school diploma,” Wilkins said. “I live in the city of Hamilton with a 20-mile drive both ways and gas is eating me up. We just can’t afford to live.”
Ultimately, after all the debate points and different views were exhausted, ASG opted not to endorse SFS’s bill.
Although SFS was disheartened by ASG’s vote, they did get support from the graduate student association Wednesday night and their next step is to take the bill to university senate sometime in the next semester.