KU faculty leaders say they weren’t consulted on COVID-19 related pay cuts, in conflict with established university guidelines

photo by: Nick Krug/Journal-World File Photo

The Integrated Science Building in the Central District of the University of Kansas is pictured on Tuesday, May 8, 2018.

Administrators at the University of Kansas did not abide by KU’s longstanding system of collaborative decision-making when they announced last week that every employee making over $50,000 annually would face a scaled, six-month pay cut beginning in August, faculty leaders told the Journal-World.

That decision-making system is known as shared governance, in which the faculty, staff and student governing bodies at KU have a direct line of communication with Chancellor Douglas Girod and Provost Barbara Bichelmeyer and work together to shape plans for KU’s future.

But when Girod and Bichelmeyer announced the pay cuts — pitched as a “temporary salary savings plan” — the presidents of KU’s Faculty and University Senates were as caught off guard as the rest of their colleagues.

“It is disheartening that faculty, generally, and Faculty Senate, specifically, played no role in this decision,” Lua Yuille, the Faculty Senate president and a KU law professor, told the Journal-World in a text message Friday. “It is hard to feel like we are in this together when … we are not in the room when it counts.”

Late Friday evening, Yuille and University Senate President Sanjay Mishra wrote to colleagues in the respective bodies acknowledging the disappointment and frustration many were feeling.

“You have already spoken clearly to us: You feel this is outrageous and unfair. You think the rationale of the salary cuts is neither apparent nor equitable,” the two wrote in a letter obtained by the Journal-World. “You are being asked to risk your health for the financial well-being of the university.”

Part of the frustration faculty members are facing, Yuille’s and Mishra’s letter said, stems from KU’s current plan for a fall semester that includes all forms of instruction scenarios: entirely in-person, entirely online or a hybrid model of the two.

“You are being asked to put forth extraordinary and uncompensated effort to redesign and rethink and redevelop your courses,” the letter says. “At a minimum, you should have been fully consulted before you were asked to add a severe pay cut to your already great sacrifices for the university.”

A KU spokesperson did not return the Journal-World’s request for comment Monday. This story will be updated if the university responds.

Yuille and Mishra told colleagues they were working quickly to respond to university administration. On Monday, it still wasn’t immediately clear what that meant, but the two leaders confirmed again to the Journal-World they had received “overwhelming” support from faculty that the process of enacting the pay cuts wasn’t implemented properly.

“I think it is important to note that — while pay cuts are always stressful and disconcerting — faculty frustration is centered on feeling like things are happening to them, not with them,” Yuille said in a text message.

“Another important theme is the community character of people’s frustrations,” she said. “90% of the communications I receive outline as many concerns for staff and students as they do for faculty.”

The announced salary reductions, which are expected to save KU nearly $8 million and run from Aug. 23 through Feb. 20, are as follows:

• Employees making less than $50,000: 0%

• $50,000 to $59,999: 1%

• $60,000 to $69,999: 2%

• $70,000 to $79,999: 3%

• $80,000 to $89,999: 4%

• $90,000 to $99,999: 5%

• $100,000 to $119,999: 6%

• $120,000 to $139,999: 7%

• $140,000 to $159,999: 8%

• $160,000 to $179,999: 9%

• $180,000 to $199,999: 10%

• Employees making over $200,000: 11%

Mishra gave examples of how those reductions could have been more equitable, such as not stopping the percentage scale with at only $200,000 salaries (some KU administrators make well over that figure) and being clearer on whether those paid on a nine-month pay scale versus a 12-month pay scale would be affected in the same way.

The KU senates were apart from the decision-making process on such a scale that Yuille said she wasn’t comfortable guessing what their contributions could have been.

“Part of being excluded from the process means we have not been privy to the data that supposedly drives the decisions,” she said. “We can — however — point to different approaches being taken by peer and regional institutions. Whether, and to what extent those were practicable for KU, I’m not prepared to say.”

Contact Conner Mitchell

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