Letter to the Editor

Dear Editor,

Let me open this letter by disclosing that I am one of several university representatives working in good faith with the OPEIU Local 29, which represents clerical employees at USF, to negotiate the terms and parameters governing its next contract.

Needless to say, I was disappointed to note half a dozen factual errors in the Foghorn’s November 12 article “OPEIU Local 29 Demonstrates on Campus.” 

  1. The USFFA-FT is the union that represents full-time faculty and librarians. The Foghorn claimed that USFFA-FT members “…are to receive a 4% salary increase next year,” i.e., in fiscal year 2021. This statement is not correct. All points along the wage scale for USFFA-FT members will increase by 4% (i.e., the “across the board” increase), but many USFFA-FT members will also see compensation increases due to changes in their rank and step. The average USFFA-FT member’s compensation will increase by 5.5% from fiscal year 2020 to fiscal year 2021.
  1. The Foghorn claimed that “…the latest Local 29 negotiations landed on a 2% salary increase for program assistants [for fiscal year 2020]…”. The university’s latest offer to the OPEIU Local 29, made on November 6, 2019, was not 2% for fiscal year 2020. It was 3% across the board for all members.
  1. While it is true that the University has, from time to time, included “me too” clauses in its collective bargaining agreements, those clauses are not necessarily indexed to the parameters of the USFFA-FT contract. For example, the “me too” clause might be with respect to the index associated with the merit compensation increase pool for non-represented staff. As far as I am aware, no “me too” clause has ever meant that “any benefits given to the USFFA-FT would go to the Local 29,” as the Foghorn reported.
  1. Patrick Dunagan is quoted as saying that “…they [the University’s administration] negotiated our contract to stop, and the faculty contract to go on an extra year.” First, the University’s administration did not negotiate the OPE contract to stop. The OPEIU Local 29 agreed to the date for the expiration of its current contract’s economic terms; it was a willing and equal counterparty. Second, as of the start of academic year 2019-2020, the USFFA-FT contract has economic terms that expire in three more years.
  1. The Foghorn stated that “…the University stipulated for the first time that members of union leadership are barred from interacting with the Foghorn while negotiations are ongoing.” This statement is false. Whenever the University enters into collective bargaining with one of its unions, both parties establish mutually agreeable rules that govern how those negotiations with be conducted. Both parties agreed not to negotiate, directly or indirectly, through the Foghorn. Among the many reasons why doing so would have been unwise is that it greatly increases the probability of miscommunication — which is what happened in the November 12 article.
  1. Finally, the Foghorn quoted an unnamed speaker at the gathering as saying that “…Provost Donald Heller received an 8.6% raise on his salary last year.” This statement is false. As I have repeatedly stated to different collective bargaining units, and to representatives of the Foghorn itself, it is often problematic to simply take salary figures from the University’s 990 filings and divide them against one another, year-over-year, in an attempt to determine the base annual compensation increase for some senior administrator in some given year. There are other important factors to take into consideration, like whether or not the administrator worked the entire year, whether or not the administrator took an unpaid leave of absence during the year, or whether or not the administrator did any teaching above and beyond what is required by their job description.

Both the Foghorn, as well as the unidentified speaker at the OPE gathering, seem to have taken the 2017 990 report compensation figure for Provost Heller and divided it by his 2016 compensation figure on that same form. However, Provost Heller did not begin working at USF until late January 2016. Therefore, one cannot infer the raise he received in 2017 over 2016 by simply comparing the salary figures on the 990 reports for those two years.

Having served as editor-in-chief of my own college newspaper, I’m aware of the challenges and pressures of getting campus news stories published in a timely fashion. However, these challenges and pressures should never allow short shrift to be given to fact-checking, or for community members to be uncritically quoted.


Jeff Hamrick, Ph.D., CFA, FRM

Professor of Data Science and Finance

Vice Provost for Institutional Budget, Planning, and Analytics


2 thoughts on “Letter to the Editor

  1. What is also disappointing is the air of indignation in this letter from someone you would hope would be able to see the bigger picture of income inequality and who would be more transparent and forthright in recognizing the struggles of the larger USF community and offering up strategic proactive solutions.

    Regarding Provost Heller’s compensation, the reportable compensation from the W-2/1099-MISC in fiscal year 2017 (June 1, 2016 to May 31, 2017) was $373,116. In fiscal year 2018 (June 1, 2017 to May 31, 2018), Provost Heller’s compensation was $405,707. This is a year-over-year increase of 8.75% or a dollar increase of $32,591. If the Vice Provost disagrees with this public tax data, he should immediately contact the IRS to help rectify the discrepancy.

    The fact that Provost Heller started in January, as Jeff points out, is completely irrelevant to the reported fiscal year compensation. If anything, it shows that Provost Heller’s average monthly compensation in fiscal year 2017, from working January through May (5 months), was around $75,000 per month versus the full 2018 fiscal year monthly average of around $34,000 per month (total reported base compensation divided by 12 months). This compensation does not account for other additional compensation that is also estimated on the tax forms. The fact that the Vice Provost wasn’t clear on these numbers makes me question his other facts and logic.

    If any students are reading this, don’t be intimidated by titles, monikers, and acronyms. Never stop asking questions and always pursue truth, social equity, and your own sense of mission; values that seem to have momentarily gone out of focus at USF.

  2. Mr. Hamrick appears confused by my use of the term “negotiated”. Perhaps its an issue of language, he seems to be more of a numbers guy…at any rate, I certainly did not intend to imply that the administration had dictated the terms of the last negotiation. Indeed, as it was the result of negotiations (which is a term generally used to describe talks between two or more parties), OPEIU was counterparty to setting the terms of the last contract. I wasn’t saying anything less. However, I did hope to impart the sense that at least for myself, as a member of OPE, it all felt it rather underhanded of the administration to accept our “me too” regarding any salary increase with the faculty union for the following 2 years and then turn around and extend the faculty contract for a third year when indeed they gave them 4%. It simply seemed unseemly. They could have returned to OPEIU and suggested an extension of our contract for a third year, for example. Or opened these current negotiations by offering us 4% from the start, why not. Again, I speak only for myself and how it appeared from the information I received at union-wide informational meetings. If the university wished to treat us fairly why not have given the 4% to the faculty in one of the two years covered by the “me too” instead of in the 3rd year? This would certainly have improved the current situation where it appears negotiations have entered into mediation as our negotiating team is doing their utmost (at the request of us union members) to garner a significant wage increase above the rather paltry 2%. As I mentioned to the Foghorn the “cost of living” in SF has significantly risen in recent years while our salary has failed to do so. It’s a simple numbers game. It sucks to always be breaking even every month. As mentioned, I speak only for myself. Unlike Hamrick, I am not on either team involved in the negotiations. All the info I have conveyed is derived purely from union informational meetings ran by Natalie Naylor. I would also just add that I was approached by the Foghorn for a chat after they asked two fellow union members (likewise not on the negotiations team) if they would care to comment and these two brothers and sisters suggested they speak with me. That’s all that happened. My remarks were utterly off-the-cuff, riffing, as it were. I was happy to share the plight of OPEIU folks with the students we serve. ONWARD! Patrick

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