After three years without raises, faculty and staff will receive recognition for their hard work, said OCCC President Paul Sechrist in an email.
The recognition comes in the form of a stipend for full-time employees with the amount to be calculated using a merit-based formula, Sechrist said.
“This stipend is in recognition that our mission is accomplished through the great work of our faculty and staff, and that we have not been financially able to recognize this work through our merit-based system of raises for the last three years,” he said.
In addition to the stipends for full-time employees, there will be a one-time adjustment to the pay scale of adjunct professors, who are not eligible for the stipend, in the upcoming spring semester.
The adjustment will raise adjunct pay from $640 per credit hour to $655.
“I recognize that our mission capacity is reached only because we are able to employ adjunct faculty and that our full time faculty take on additional students and courses throughout the year,” Sechrist said in an email.
“Again, I want to express my appreciation. I regret that I cannot yet commit to make this permanent.”
It’s a welcome recognition, said Rachel Olsen, Communications and World Languages Lab supervisor.
“While I think everyone might prefer an ongoing raise, in the current economic climate I think the stipends are very helpful,” Olsen said.
“And I’m really pleased that employees are receiving stipends, especially since other schools can’t offer anything in the way of monetary rewards.”
The sentiment was echoed by Lyndsie Stremlow, Arts and Humanities division secretary.
“With the way the economy is, I’m just happy to have a job. And if I don’t get a raise, I’m not going to take that as a sign that I’m not doing a good job. It’s just the way it is,” Stremlow said.
“But when I see the actual amount on paper, I feel very rewarded for all the hard work I put in to get merit.”
The story is much the same for adjuncts, said Lynnda Newby, life skills adjunct professor.
“Fifteen dollars more per hour isn’t much, but every little bit helps.”
Newby also agreed with Olsen, saying it’s the recognition that makes it worthwhile.
“It’s nice to know that they thought of the adjuncts, and that the hard work we do is being rewarded,” Newby said.
It’s a reward that’s a little overdue, said Lesa Kean, adjunct math professor.
“I hope they do everything in their power to make it a permanent thing, rather than one time,” she said.
“I realize the college is doing the best it can,” Kean said. “Oklahoma City is funneling a lot of money into downtown and whatnot.
“And I think it’s only right and fair that the rest of the individuals Oklahoma City is counting on to make the city better, such as teachers, should get a piece of the pie.”
Cathy Bowman, Macintosh computer technician, said the stipend is an unexpected pleasure, not only because of the recognition, but also because of the uncertain economy.
“Whether raises become possible again is all dependent on (the college’s) budget,” Bowman said. “If we keep seeing 5 percent budget cuts, I don’t see how raises are going to be possible again any time soon.”
Ray McCullar, history professor, said that while he’s pleased with the stipend, he also doesn’t see raises on the horizon.
“With what I read in the news about the state legislature and public opinion, I don’t believe teacher raises are popular right now.”
McCullar said, even if money did become available for raises, he’d rather it went to teachers of early education.
“Now, don’t get me wrong, I like money. I’ve never turned down a raise, not even in my sleep,” McCullar said.
“But as a college professor, even if I’m really bad at my job, there’s only so much damage I can do.
“I feel we need to focus on getting the cream of the crop into the place in a child’s life where their attitudes toward education are formed, where they learn the basics they’ll use for the rest of their lives.”
Sechrist agreed that uncertainty in the state budget and the economy make projecting for the future impossible.
“In anticipation of reduced allocations from state resources, we worked to create some funds in reserve to cover the shortfall in state resources,” he said in an email.
“We saved enough to cover the shortfall and provide a stipend. But since the funds are not a permanent part of funding each year, we can only expend the funds once for a stipend.
“If we provided a permanent raise, we would need to have permanent funding source for the increase — which at this point we do not have.”
McCullar said that while yes, he wouldn’t mind a raise, he thinks of the stipend as a gift.
“When someone gives you a present at Christmas and it’s not quite as much as you were hoping, you have to remember: They didn’t have to give you anything at all.”
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