ASNAU discusses raising the university minimum wage

ASNAU senate member, Dane Nardi asks a question to the Vice President of Enrollment, Jane Kuhn, about the course fees, March 14, 2019. 

During the Jan. 20  ASNAU Senate meeting, students, faculty and staff were allowed to ask questions about the student minimum wage on campus with Vice President of Student Affairs, Margot Saltonstall, and Vice President of University Finance and Business Services, Bjorn Flugstad. 

ASNAU Senate Chair, Jacob Carter, opened the meeting by explaining the on-campus minimum wage is an equity issue for students, and the  30 minute discussion would serve as an update to the campus community. 

“Last year, myself and a few other senators passed a resolution calling on the university administration to meet Flagstaff’s minimum wage, which is currently $15.50,” Carter said. “Myself and the senators felt the minimum wage, currently, with NAU abiding by the state minimum wage [$12.80], is an equity issue. Since then we have had multiple productive conversations with university administration, with Saltonstall and the Career Development Office, to push a proposal through, and it looks like we may have an update from both vice presidents.”

Before taking questions herself, Saltonstall opened with a brief summary of the conversations ASNAU and her office have had the past year. These conversations covered the importance of raising NAU wages to match Flagstaff minimum wage in order to support student workers.

Saltonstall said following her conversation with Carter, she went right to work with the Career Development Office, revising a past proposal that reflected the current amount of student employees on campus. Furthermore, Saltonstall noted after numerous meetings with the university human resources department, President José Luis Cruz Rivera later signed off on the proposal.

“I forwarded [the proposal] up to the president and he was very supportive,” Saltonstall said. “He asked that Flugstad and the budget office take a look at how it could be possible. The president also requested that we talk with HR and have an understanding of what raising the minimum wage would also mean for staff and faculty who are below that level or near that level in terms of compression.” 

Saltonstall emphasized it is a matter of timing before the university figures out how to proceed with the Flagstaff minimum wage, and then phase in the different levels of student employment categories. 

Additionally, Saltonstall said the university has considered multiple ways to increase the student minimum wage to the same level as Flagstaff’s $15.50. 

“There were several different ways to look at the proposal, as we thought about getting all the way to $15.50, depending on the position itself,” Saltonstall said. “There were some looking at doing a phased approach where we got to $14.50 and then $15 and then $15.50, so there are several different ways of looking at it all, including a substantial change from the $12.50.”

Senator Sarina Fox expressed concern over NAU having the highest housing and food insecurity across all Arizona public universities, as a majority of students work on campus. 

Saltonstall noted that Cruz Rivera has set up a team to work on financial aid and provide more support to the student body. This support varies from monetary Louie’s Cupboard, a service which provides students with free food items.

“We are going to continue to gather data and better understand why it is that many of our students look differently than some of our sister institutions, but in the meantime we are trying to scale up support,” Saltonstall said. “Louie’s Cupboard has done a fabulous job in the Dean of Students with trying to increase donors and donations, and they’ve been trying to increase the number of distributions to an increased number of students.”

Saltonstall ended the discussion by explaining the university continues to have conversations about the cost of housing with Housing and Residence Life and the NAU Foundation to provide better support to students. 

After the 30 minutes concluded, Saltonstall confirmed with Carter that there is no set date for a decision on the possibility of NAU increasing the campus minimum wage. The Budget Advisory Council is working through the terms of the budgeting process by having more discussions with ASNAU in the latter half of the spring semester.

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