Members of ASOSU advocate for voluntary pay decrease for OSU President Ed Ray

The Associated Students of Oregon State University sign hangs in the ASOSU office.

Jade Minzlaff, ASOSU Beat Reporter

Several members of the Associated Students of Oregon State University, OSU’s student government, have proposed that OSU President Edward Ray take a voluntary pay decrease during spring term to help the community respond to COVID-19. 

The hypothetical pay decrease was first brought up within ASOSU during the March 31 Senate meeting to vote on the spring student fee reduction, when Senator Nikolay Galtsev asked Rachel Josephson, president of ASOSU, if Ray was considering taking a pay cut for spring term. 

Galtsev said he feels that most students think the administration is out of touch with their needs, and that a voluntary pay cut from top earners at OSU would show that the administration is listening to the needs of the community. 

“I don’t think this is a radical opinion,” Galtsev said.

Another OSU organization, the Coalition of Graduate Employees, has released a formal demand that all university administrators take a voluntary pay decrease for the entirety of the COVID-19 pandemic, and is encouraging students to email administrators. 

This demand comes after a previous CGE petition campaign for a salary cap of $186,000 for all OSU administration, which has currently collected over 1,500 signatures.

Galtsev said he believes that Ray genuinely cares about students, but that he needs to show leadership in creative solutions to help the community. 

Additionally, Galtsev pointed out the wage disparity within OSU. 

According to the Oregon State University Salary Report for Unclassified Employees, as of February 2020, Ray’s total annual salary rate was $666,198, with $648,648  from his position as president and $17,550 from his position as a professor in the School of Public Policy. 

“I don’t anticipate him not having a rainy day fund,” Galtsev said and pointed out that 40% of Americans can’t afford a $400 expected expense. “This is the rainy day that people aren’t prepared for.” 

Senator Brendan Lefranc also expressed support for a voluntary pay cut for top earners at OSU during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“It feels like the right thing to do, for [Ray] to take a pay cut,” Lefranc said. “It just seems like the general trend of what should be going on in this country is that those with a lot of money should share the wealth, so that those who are suffering, either now because of the pandemic or in general due being a low-income person. It just seems like a great way so that everyone could mutually benefit.”

In a statement over email, Dylan Perfect, government relations assistant for ASOSU, said as students acknowledge the work already done by leadership, they should continue advocating for effective changes by leadership on the university, state and federal levels.

“There are few cases where individual, personal decisions are as impactful as they are now, but the long-term prospects of our response as a community still depend on action by those driving policy,” Perfect said. “I think it’s been seen that commitments from the top are essential to addressing the shortfalls arising from this crisis.”

In a statement over email, Josephson said she’d been told that the administration was working to decrease costs and that Ray had donated all of his salary increases to OSU programs and scholarships. 

In an email sent out to all students, Ray said the university was working to decrease administrative costs, and that compensation had been frozen for senior administrative leaders at OSU. 

Acknowledging that student fees were reduced by about $40, Galtsev said that as students are still paying tuition and most student fees, that it would only make sense that Ray responds to the community with charity.

As to where he felt the money should go, Galtsev granted that there were many worthy options, and said he felt that maintaining employment for graduate employees and decreasing tuition would be great places to start. 

Opinions varied on how much of a pay decrease would be appropriate. Galtsev said that if Ray has savings, his entire normal pay for spring would make sense, and Lefranc suggested that Ray should donate as much as possible towards meeting the basic needs of students struggling during COVID-19. 

 “People, now more than ever, should not have to choose between education and getting their basic needs met, especially now that those needs are a little more dire than they usually are. As much as he could give so that as many of the basic needs could be met,” Lefranc said. 

Additionally, Galtsev said that a decrease in salary wasn’t the only way that Ray could contribute to community aid, and suggested starting a relief fund, directly donating food,  answering questions at an ASOSU virtual town hall, or hosting a public meeting of his own.

Galtsev also stressed that any decrease in pay should be the decision of Ray himself. 

“He should do it himself. If he doesn’t, maybe we need to be holding the powerful accountable. Right now, we’re acting on the premise that we’re in the same fight,” Galtsev said.

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