Thursday, June 9, 2016

Seeking Fair Faculty Pay

Inside Higher Ed
By Colleen Flaherty
June 9, 2016

Salary compression -- when assistant professors make close to what associate and full professors make due to changes in the market between their points of hire -- is a problem across academe. But fixing it is a complicated undertaking that some institutions avoid.

A new, faculty-driven plan at the University of Washington seeks to address salary compression in several innovative ways, and it’s gathered significant support across the university’s three campuses. It has also garnered criticism from some faculty members who say that it’s too complicated, and that unit opt-out functions make it too unpredictable and perhaps meaningless.

“We did an analysis of our salaries and it was very clear that salaries were compressed and we have to actively prevent it,” said Susan Astley, a professor of epidemiology at Washington’s Seattle campus and a former chair of the university’s three-campus Faculty Senate. “In some cases an assistant professor hired at today’s going salary rates could be hired in at salary rate that is greater than a full professor in that person’s department.”

Astley, who supports the plan, said that while the university is mostly just offering these new assistant professors the going rate, the effects of such compression are clear. “You have a difficult time retaining your full professors if your salary just doesn’t progress -- and that does happen here. The university has a national reputation that you’ll be hired in at a good salary, but then you’ll never again see a good raise. That information makes it difficult to attract professors, too.”

Currently, professors at the University of Washington -- including at campuses in Seattle, Tacoma and Bothell -- have just two guaranteed opportunities for a raise: upon promotion to associate and full professor, respectively, at 7.5 percent, which is scheduled to increase to 9 percent in the fall. Merit raises of 2 percent are awarded every year, but some professors say that barely tracks increases in the cost of living.

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