Why two Century College faculty are mad at Rep. Kurt Zellers

[audio href="http://minnesota.publicradio.org/www_publicradio/tools/media_player/popup.php?name=minnesota/news/programs/2011/05/16/midday/midday_hour_1_20110516_64" title="House Speaker Rep. Kurt Zellers and Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch"]Monday's talk with MPR's Gary Eichten on Midday[/audio]

During Minnesota Public Radio's Midday program on Monday, Rep. Kurt Zellers (R-Maple Grove), speaker of the Minnesota House, got into this exchange on faculty pay with MPR host Gary Eichten and a caller:

Eichten: "Mr. Speaker, are you concerned about the cuts that the University of Minnesota and the MnSCU system are looking at?"

Zellers: "Gary, any time any institution in our state has to look at their budget and then make tough decisions, it's always troubling, absolutely, but its also troubling when families, again, have had a 30 or 40 percent pay cut, and you see a college professor get a 20 or 30 percent increase in pay."

(It's around the 17:45 mark.)

That statement has riled up two Century College instructors.

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(Update: Since this piece ran, a number of professors throughout the state have apparently been calling in to MPR complaining about that state. The comments below are just two of them.)

Part-time instructor Amy Fisher wrote in to us:

I am not sure where Mr. Zellers got the idea that MnSCU professors have received a 20-30% increase in pay. He is simply wrong. Your own news room reported on a two-year pay freeze proposal in 2009 (http://minnesota.publicradio.org/display/web/2009/02/13/mnscu_salaries/). The faculty voted to implement the freeze and have not received a pay raise in the past two years.

Diane Fleury-Evans, M.A., R.T. (R), program director of  radiologic technology, vented as well:

Speaker Kurt Zellers obviously has no idea of what he speaks of !  I am a MNSCU faculty member and never in my history of teaching have I ever seen a 20-30 percent pay increase.  It has been almost four years since I have seen any pay increase, but yet the cost of living keeps on increasing. I am considering leaving the state because of the financial situation. I had hoped to retire here, but I am having second thoughts.

I work hard for my living and believe my job of  teaching our younger generation to work in radiology - health care  is vital and essential. Someone has to provide quality care of us Baby Boomers. Does the Speaker realize how hard it would be to attract quality faculty to teach here in Minnesota based on the current salary scale?

Would you ask the Speaker to identify  the names of the  MNSCU faculty members that have gotten a pay increase and specifically those that were privileged to get a 20-30 percent increase? Did I get left out?  Maybe they could give me a loan so I can live on my paycheck after  my soon-to-be-increased health insurance premium has been deducted .

I am appalled that anyone can make such a statement that is SO blatantly false, and as a public servant he should have a better idea of what (is occurring) in higher education.

MPR's Bob Collins has written his take on the matter here, and reports that Zellers "has not yet responded to a request for clarification of his remarks."