Faculty Raise Concerns Over Staff Pay-Scale Reconfiguration

Monday’s faculty meeting opened on a full house, and on top of other things, included discussions of additions of academic buildings and new classes, inclusive classroom dynamics, equitable distributions of work, and a lengthy discussion about the recent overhaul in the pay scale for the staff here at Reed.

With the bang of a gavel and wishes for a happy first day of spring, the pres report began. 

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For all coverage of the staff pay controversy, see reedquest.org/staffpay.


President Audrey Bilger began by discussing updates to the academic success committee’s new advising protocols, asserting that, based on faculty response, the committee will propose a different program for faculty to vote on at a later date. After talking about her recent trip to Washington, DC, with Reed on the Road, discussions of the possibility of a new science building were brought up. “We are taking some steps now to sketch out some preliminary ideas for this project,” Bilger said, “In discussion with CAT, CAPP, and the Dean of the Faculty, I will be appointing a committee to advise on questions of who might occupy the space and what kinds of priority should drive ultimate decision-making.” Because the advising committee is expected to complete its work by the end of the summer, no fully concrete plans should be expected until next fall. After various questions, Dana Katz, professor of Art History and Humanities chimed in, addressing the need for a new fine arts building on top of the biology building. “Studio art worked with architects for over a year to make plans about expanding or creating a new building for studio art,” they said, “and I was wondering if you could comment on that.” Bilger responded that it is “not off the table” and that she “would look into what architects have on that.” 


Next on the agenda was the Dean’s Report, where Dean of Faculty Kathryn Oleson took to the stand. Her discussion centered around promoting inclusive classroom dynamics and thinking about how faculty and students can reflect on their biases, asserting the need to begin “classes with collectively created guidelines on how we have those conversations.” After speaking to parents and alumni as well as looking into past research, she found a quote from Reed magazine that properly expressed her classroom ideals. “Let the classroom be a space to test ideas,” Oleson said, “make space for people to talk, step up and step aside, disagree compassionately, accept when you are wrong and move on, don’t make assumptions about people, recognize the difference between being uncomfortable and unsafe, assume the best intentions in others.” Following this, she announced that with others, Rachel Willis, Reed’s sustainability coordinator, is working to submit the school’s first STARS report – which measures the campus’s sustainability efforts. They need help in capturing classrooms and sustainability research, urging faculty to complete the survey about their classrooms. Then, Oleson shared an update about the Cooley Gallery’s new exhibit, Dark Moves, featuring Heather Watkins and former faculty member Fabiola Manchelli. Faculty were encouraged to check it out and even bring their classes! 

Recent Changes in Job Wages and Pay Scale for College Staff

In the final notion of the Dean’s Report, recent changes in job wages and pay scale for college staff were addressed, as many faculty expressed questions and concerns relating to these changes.

To explain this situation, these job changes and concerns stem from the fact that Reed’s HR department recently reconfigured the staff pay scale (which determines how much money an employee can earn in their given role) without notifying them in advance. Essentially, this sets a minimum and maximum range that employees can be paid within their role, and HR recently re-assigned staff members to new ranges when creating a new, “simplified” system. This has major impacts on employees, as the maximum salary an employee can earn in any given position has now allegedly been capped at lower rates than previously, and some employees were assigned to a lower pay level with a maximum salary below what they currently earn. This means that staff members cannot receive a raise for their work at Reed as long as they remain in the same position. 

In addressing this, Oleson said, “for many, I think these recent changes were very surprising, upsetting, people were wondering why this was being done … we will hear more about that today. Personally, I want to say … I am really sorry for the stress this has caused … I know that everyone here cares about the Reed community … obviously, staff do very valuable work, and we want to make sure that that is reflected in the work that we do.”

Faculty is also working with HR to develop job descriptions for the employees they supervise, since, prior to this, they did not have updated job descriptions on file for any employees. 

There was also a follow-up meeting this Wednesday to answer faculty questions with more time. 

One faculty member then expressed frustration about the handling of the situation, alleging that the Dean’s office did not know that this was happening in advance, as Oleson has previously mentioned that this was “surprising.” However, this faculty member stated that something similar happened to a staff member in the arts division this time last year, and she came to Oleson expressing concern then, as well as now. Oleson responded that “it was surprising in the sense that I did not know it was not going to be on the website at that time – I knew that HR had been working on a new compensation process… it’s just that there were specific grades and salary wages that were surprising.” The faculty member then continued, “when this happened last year, the staff member and staff member supervisor used language such as ‘trauma’ and ‘demoralization’ to talk about their experiences, despite the fact that they had been at Reed for over a decade…are you concerned about the language staff members are using to describe their experience at Reed?” In response, Oleson asserted that, of course, she is concerned. “If people are seeing this as a signal where they are not being valued or that it’s demoralizing … of course, we need for them to understand that we see their value.”


After assuring the faculty that discussions of job wages and pay scale would continue further into the meeting, the CAPP report began. First to be discussed was the addition of new courses: with 17 new courses submitted for approval. Plus, an exciting new type of college course was added for SY 2024 – a quarter-credit GLAM class that allows students to experience Rome and Italy firsthand, traveling there in early January. Approval for these new courses was unanimous.

Next to be discussed was an update on work being done on faculty workload, more specifically, efforts toward an equitable distribution of work. Some departments seem oversubscribed with thesis load, and faculty struggle to manage the workload with many thesis students. Kara Becker then presented a survey highlighting faculty workload and opinions on overload, highlighting a clear preference for a more holistic approach to workload incorporation.

Kara Cerveny continued this discussion, focusing on how CAPP can account for the extra services advising that so much of the faculty does. “We found this report from the American Council on Education (ACE),” Cerveny said, “that studied 51 departments that spanned colleges and universities … this report, along with many conversations with you, helped us think about workload much more broadly.” In studying the report, CAPP was more able to work through its own approach to faculty workload, transparency, accountability, expectations, standards, norms, and ways to get proper credit.

The next steps to tackle this issue begin with defining the problem and gathering data, sharing a summary of data, drafting policy with faculty, sharing draft policy, incorporating feedback, sharing the final policy with faculty (maybe for a vote), and creating the final CAPP report. All of which is to be done in the coming months.

Kate Bredeson from the theater department asked about how CAPP is talking about contact hours. “We have not talked about how thesis advising in a lab, studio art, etc, means something very different in different departments…I am troubled by the repetition of the talk of thesis load when that is not the only way to frame the workload question.” In response, Kara Becker then stated that because of the lack of acknowledgment of thesis loads, they began thinking in that direction, and now are expanding to think about contact hours as well.


The Office of Finance and Treasurer began their presentation by assuring faculty that the issue of job wages would be spoken about more in-depth later in the meeting. First were a few announcements from the Office of Finance and Treasury regarding Reed’s financial position. Last year, Reed finished in a strong financial position, with a surplus of more than 4 million dollars, with major contributors to the fund including enrollment, recruitment, and retention. It was reported that Reed returned to pre-pandemic rates of finance. 

The use of college funds was also discussed, with explanations as to what funds were used this year. This included 3% salary increases for faculty, start-up packages for new faculty, and reserve for capital reserve for future facilities reserve, primarily the sports center. The sports center project was permitted on March 13, with plans to open up in August.

Next to be discussed was Reed’s tuition increase, which will see a 3.5% increase in the next fiscal year. “Reed’s tuition is currently one of the highest of our peers,” an unidentified faculty member said, “I just want to let you all know, we can’t play ‘what are you doing?’ with our friends, it’s against the law … my hope is that at 3.5%, we are actually lower than our peer set, but I don’t know that for sure.” 

Following a reminder to faculty about indoor bike parking, staff salary ranges were brought up again. Specifically, project goals were discussed. One faculty member, who was not identified, said, “We wanted to provide a salary framework that is transparent, understandable, equitable, and legally compliant, but it allowed for differentiated pay based on experience. What Reed had previously was legal and allowable, but it did not take into account experience, and we thought that that was really not the best choice.” Continuing with this, the Office of Finance and Treasurer asserted that they wanted to be able to respond to complaints about existing scales and be able to evaluate and explain salary determinations. “So, why now?” They asked faculty, “We are responding to a need for the infrastructure to align compensation with essential functions and market rates…and turnover in a competitive market and the desire to include experience.”

It was asserted that there were no salary reductions and no changes to the salary increase merit process, and that, according to one unidentified faculty member, “this is not being implemented as savings…the idea is not to pay people less individually or collectively.”

Then, Human Resources Director Heather Quinn-Barron took to the stage, focusing on the structure of staff and faculty pay, factors that went into decisions of job pay, rates, job descriptions vs. job posting, and new compensation infrastructure.

“We really needed to look at the whole compensation infrastructure,” Quinn-Barron remarked, “I said ‘let’s establish a new compensation infrastructure that was really aligned with the bona fide factors for new hires and also we can look at the relative work experience, and those people who have been here long, they can keep their salary whole.’” System utilizations, Banner, and pay factor updates were mentioned within the context of other changes being developed. Quinn-Barron continued, “In addition to this, we needed to have a clear evaluation process for job evaluations…and unfortunately because we didn’t have a lot of clear job descriptions, that evaluation process was difficult.” Pay decisions, hiring managers’ feedback that considers candidates’ relevant experience, and maintaining internal equity, are issues that need to be further established.

According to Quinn-Barron, many aspects of salary ranges needed to be fixed, and since they were previously priced to a set range, there was no clear process of how to go from one range to another and how to reach the top of a range without a focus on clear job descriptions. “We didn’t want anybody to lose any future earning percent potential,” Quinn-Baron said, “I needed to establish a starting infrastructure for continued evaluation of jobs, job pay, and where jobs are mapped to.”

There is also a new pay decision form that starts in the HR department and goes through various individuals working there, so there is a full cycle to see what new faculty will come in on and what their comparators are. On top of this, there is a new internal promotion process only targeting internal candidates, and lastly, there is a scale. Quinn-Barron states that “reaching the max scale is now possible and will potentially happen because scales will automatically move with ATB, but we will evaluate them every 2-3 years because they will grow and expand.” Finally, she stated that the new system satisfies OEPA (Oregon Equal Pay Act) standards – since compensation is decided based on how much time one has spent at the institution.

Following these announcements, Bilger reported that a vote would then take place to add time to the faculty meeting, as time was running out and there was still much to talk about. Faculty voted, and 15 minutes were added (though 30 more minutes would later be added to this time).

Quinn-Barron then continued, “As a new director here, I really want to emphasize that as I worked with many of you in your searches, I did a lot of listening and I listen to understand … because you guys are the experts here.” 

Finally, it was time for a Q&A, and many faculty members had questions and comments to share pertaining to these recent changes.

Aki Miyoshi, a faculty member from the studio art department stated that staff design their lives around looking for raises and range of salary. “Reed is a place where we focus on critical thinking, and I just don’t think we did the critical thinking looking at the data and whether our staff’s job matches the market,” Miyoshi said, “I think the process is great, why can’t we have the ranges set back to [what] it was before so at least staff has some kind of security… it puts our staff in a very vulnerable position.” Following claps from the audience, Heather then responded, talking about a timeline for this implementation but ultimately asserting that: “I don’t foresee this being a forever scale.”

Ellen Millender from GLAM then pointed out the lack of communication about these changes. “People felt completely blind-sided about major changes that they did not understand,” Millender said, “and I’ll be honest, I saw the email* that was sent out … and I would argue that it is not transparent, it was opaque … and we have a lot of staff who are deeply demoralized, and that to me is desperately concerning, and the lack of communication only exacerbated the morale.”

Darrell Schroeter of the Physics Department chimed in, saying that the process as it has unfolded so far is “completely illegitimate” and has lacked consultation with supervisors and staff. “I think it’s unacceptable,” Schroeter said, “What I would like to see is a real process where there is input … I don’t feel this is inherent in how processes should happen.”

Another staff member then spoke, speaking to the values of Reed, “I really want to push back on this idea of a lateral promotion, many of our staff have huge expertise in their area of specialty … at Reed, we value the longevity of our staff members, their investment in the college, and also their institutional knowledge … there is a staff member who knows so much more about it than I know, and I do not want a new person in that position every three years.”

Kate Bredeson from theater was next to speak, echoing her constituents’ statements, while also stating that every single staff member in the arts department saw a possible earning rate reduced, while those in HR were increased. She then spoke to the many important staff members in the Reed community, saying, “we’re a community that is in theory governed by the Honor Principle, which says that we should not be causing unnecessary pain or discomfort to any member in our community … and there are staff that are literally using the word trauma to describe what it is like to work here … why? Why are we doing this? … I don’t know what we’re doing in terms of teaching our students about the value of our most precarious community members and it’s shameful.”

Sentiments similar to this continued for most of the meeting, and as a result, the frustration among faculty was apparent. Recurring themes of the lack of communication, feelings of decreased institutional value of staff, confusion, and lack of upholding Reed’s core values were felt and shared amongst faculty members, and the solidarity between faculty and staff was deeply felt. 

Even though the meeting’s end time was appended three separate times, it was still not enough, and time ran out. The meeting ended with a promise for a future meeting to be held soon with both faculty and staff present, in order to converse about and solve the issues discussed.

Bilger closed the meeting, saying, “we’re taking this in and I will consult with people about what the next steps will be, but I have heard you.”

*an email was sent out to faculty and staff about the changes

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly spelled the last name of Kate Bredeson, who spoke at the faculty meeting. The story has been updated to reflect the correct spelling.

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