Hundreds of members of the Fort Hays State University faculty and staff squeezed into the Black & Gold Room in the Memorial Union on Friday afternoon to hear the final State of the University Address from the retiring president, Dr. Edward H. Hammond.
Dr. Hammond, who will step down as president at the end of June but continue at FHSU first as a consultant and then as a professor, announced that all employees would receive 4.5-percent raises in the new fiscal year, which begins July 1.
The crowd, which filled all the available chairs and lined the back and both sides of the room, looked like a sea of gold in keeping with the new Tiger Gold on Friday tradition.
"Tip your hat to the wind generators as you are driving home tonight," he said, noting that the new twin turbines are now producing nearly 80 percent of the university's electricity needs, which freed up resources for the raises. He said that in just the last few years, state funding for FHSU had fallen from $36 million to only $32 million.
Faculty and unclassified staff will receive 2.5-percent across-the-board increases plus raises from a 2-percent merit pool. The 2.5 percent will become permanent in base salaries and extend one-time bonuses in that amount that were given a year ago. If there had been no raises this year, faculty and unclassified staff would have seen their salaries fall by 2.5 percent as the one-time bonuses expired.
The news was even better for rank and file workers, formerly designated as "classified staff," who will see their pay increased from a full 4.5 percent merit pool. With approval from the Kansas Board of Regents, those workers recently voted to become "university support staff." They are now direct employees of FHSU rather than the state.
"This is the first pay increase they've had in five years," he said. "One of my regrets is that I have not been able to do that previously."
He also announced that the pay for student-workers would increase from $7.25 an hour to $8.25 an hour.
"The budget story is one of tremendous growth at FHSU," President Hammond said, noting that growth from about 5,800 students at the turn of the century to more than 13,500 at the end of last semester resulted from the high quality of FHSU's academic programs and the low cost of tuition. He said tuition would increase from $112 a credit hour this year to $115 a credit hour next year, which would be "light years" below the increases at the other Regents universities and would widen the affordability gap even further.
"When I arrived our faculty were 13 percent behind our in-state peers and even further behind our out-of-state peers," he said. "In the last 10 years, we have changed direction and decided to grow. Our faculty are now paid better than their in-state peers and near the top of our official out-of-state peer institutions. As a result I feel rather good about saying goodbye."
"You're only as good as the people who make up the institution," he said as the gathered faculty and staff rose to give him a standing ovation. "You're only as strong as the Tiger family."
The president also announced the recipients of the Faculty Awards for the spring semester. Dr. Joyce Ellis, assistant professor of health and human performance, won the Outstanding Teaching Award; Dr. Justin Evans, instructor of management and marketing, was recognized for the Outstanding Research Award; and Dr. Curt Brungardt, Omer G. Voss Distinguished Professor of Leadership Studies and director of the Cneter for Civic Leadership, was presented with the Outstanding Faculty Service Award. All three recipients received a $500 award for their accomplishments.
Dr. Chris Crawford, interim provost, in his introductory remarks, thanked the assembled faculty and staff for a year of hard, excellent work. "Thank you very much for what you do," he said. He also praised faculty and staff for work on several ongoing projects such as open educational resources, internationalization and civic engagement."
Crawford also addressed the future under a president who is not Dr. Edward H. Hammond.
"I think we have a tremendous opportunity with our new president, Mirta (pronounced MEER-tah) Martin," he said. "It's an exciting time to be at Fort Hays. While we lament the retirement of our 27-year president, we have an opportunity in front of us to work with a brand new president and a brand new way of doing things."
Dr. Stephen Donnelly, ending his year as president of the Faculty Senate, also noted progress on several fronts of the academic year now ending, including work on tenure review, a review of general education programs, TigerMedia Network development, partnerships in technology and an online voting system, such as used earlier year to modify Faculty Senate bylaws.
He introduced the new president of the senate, Dr. Eric Deyo, assistant professor of physics, before mentioning some issues for the coming year, spending the most time on a controversy of the past year.
"The modified Board of Regents social media policy has been published. It is a mashup of the original social media policy plus what was recommended to them by the work group," he said. "Unfortunately it still contains a few somewhat controversial items."
Specifically he cited two items that other faculty senate presidents and he still have reservations about, both under the section on "improper use of social media": One is communication that is both part of an employee's official duties and "is contrary to the best interests of the university," and communication that fails a long "balancing" test and, among other things, can be deemed to impair "discipline by superiors" or "harmony among co-workers."
Dr. Tim Crowley, conducting the annual meeting of the Graduate Faculty in his capacity as dean of the Graduate School, drew a healthy round of applause when he announced that the school had reached a total of 2,000 students, on campus and virtual, for the first time ever.
After the convocation, Lewis Automotive Group sponsored a reception for faculty, staff and administrators in one of the group's showrooms at 4440-4450 Vine.