Gov. Chris Gregoire and other political leaders say recently negotiated pay raises for Western Washington University professors send the wrong message in tough economic times.
In a harshly worded letter to Western President Bruce Shepard, the governor criticized the university's decision to raise salaries 5.25 percent this school year and 4.25 percent each of the following two years in addition to boosting department-chair stipends 15 percent.
The move comes as tuition is set to jump 16 percent this fall in response to state budget cuts.
"Your agreement seems to ignore the shared sacrifice that other state employees in general government and institutions of higher education have made during the Great Recession," Gregoire wrote in the two-page letter, noting a pay freeze for other government employees and predicting Western's move "will hurt current and future efforts to protect and increase funding for public higher education." In a blog-post response, Shepard explained the raises came after administrators cut programs, including little-used classes and concentrations. Officials agreed to increase salaries because they believed it would help them retain and recruit quality professors.