It was with looks of concern that Students for Staff (SFS) left a private meeting with Miami University President David Hodge Wednesday afternoon.
The group presented two proposals to Hodge – one regarding Miami University employee representation on the Classified Personal Advisory Committee (CPAC) and the other regarding hourly employee wages – and Hodge declined both.
Seven representatives from SFS, a student organization first formed with the goal of implementing a blanked living wage for Miami University staff, called the meeting the discusses changes in university bylaws surrounding these two issues. This is the second time this semester Hodge has personally met with the group to hear its concerns.
Former Miami President James Garland, under whose administration SFS was formed, never met with the organization.
SFS first proposed that members of CPAC, a board responsible for advising the administration on work-related concerns from its hourly (classified) employees, be democratically elected, instead of traditionally appointed by Miami’s administration. SFS believes that members of this committee should be elected by their peers, as SFS sees this is a democratic right.
“Electing members to CPAC would generate a more diverse and representative committee, more capable of voicing the true concerns of Miami University staff to President Hodge,” said SFS member Ben Spanner. “I’m really disappointed (the administration doesn’t) recognize that.”
Hodge declined this proposal and Richard Little, director of university communications, explained that the idea for CPAC members to be democratically elected stems from students – not necessarily from CPAC itself.
“Neither employees of the university nor any members of CPAC have approached the administration projecting a need for such a change to CPAC,” Little said.
In addition, SFS requested the formation of a living wage committee, which would examine the lives and economic needs of Miami staff, and relay that information to the administration. Spanner said that this committee would not necessarily work toward implementing a living wage at Miami, but rather serve as a fact-finding body to advise the university on the issue of a living wage. Conveying that Miami already strongly supports its hourly staff, Hodge did not see this committee as necessary.
“Miami University is already the employer of choice for the area,” Hodge said. “We offer competitive wages, exceptional benefits and the opportunity to better yourself and your standing in the workplace. The idea just does not seem to be in the best interest of the university.”
The administration points to the benefit package it gives to all full-time workers, which includes low-cost medical insurance to families of employees as well as free tuition for the university to eligible employees and their families, as evidence that they are providing for their workers as best they can.
“We have every indication that we meet all living wage standards comparable to cities like Cincinnati,” Little said. “As a testament to that, we currently have 25 people on waiting lists for hourly jobs we advertise, and an annual voluntary workplace turnover rate of only 5.9 percent.”
Despite the fact that the group’s initial proposals were not approved, SFS does not plan on halting its mission anytime soon, explained Spanner.
He said that even though members of the group were angry about the denial of the proposals, they still want to find a way to succinctly collect data on the prospect of a living wage at Miami – with or without a committee.
SFS member Dylan Daney agreed, and said the organization will have to find different avenues, outside of the direct administration, to bring light to their cause.
“Were going to try to rally faculty and students in support of our cause,” Daney said. “We need to put pressure on Hodge to make him recognize that it is not just the responsibility of our group to help these people out, it is his as well.”