Professors and administrators engaged in a heated discussion on Thursday concerning current faculty dissatisfaction with salaries, university culture and changes that could result from the implementation of the Compete Missouri plan.
Chancellor Brady Deaton and Provost Brian Foster began the forum by explaining what prompted the Compete Missouri initiative and presenting the administration’s process of forming the plan’s parameters.
“The budget is a big issue of concern and stress as we cope with the changing structure of our higher education system,” Deaton said. “Ensuring competitive salaries for our faculty ensures the quality of this institution.”
Deaton said achieving and maintaining competitive faculty salaries has been a priority since he became chancellor, and the organization of Compete Missouri marks the first time MU has made significant steps toward that objective. Compete Missouri’s central goal is to keep dedicated professors at MU and continue to attract quality faculty members to the institution by ensuring they receive competitive salaries.
Foster explained administrators’ formulation of the plan.
“I certainly understand that faculty and everyone else at the university sees our current fiscal situation and I understand people are frustrated and angry, and I’m angry too,” Foster said. “Over the last two years, there’s been a lot of discussion about uncompetitive faculty salaries, and we brought that discussion to the system and the legislature.”
Foster said the administration formed three committees composed of administrators, faculty members and external parties to find possible savings that could be extracted from the current budget. Deans prepared scenarios describing Compete Missouri’s possible effects, and the provost evaluated the scenarios with four criteria defined by university planners. Administrators invited all faculty and staff members to a breakfast and forum discussions concerning the budget situation and Compete Missouri.
As part of the plan, administrators reallocate $7 million in costs from the university’s operating budget to improving faculty salaries. The university will also implement a “strategic hiring process,” evaluating which open faculty and staff positions need to be filled and hiring for only those positions. In a previous Maneater report, Faculty Council Chairman Frank Schmidt said Compete Missouri could reduce the amount of faculty by as much as 10 to 15 percent.
After Deaton and Foster discussed the plan, they opened the floor to discussion from more than 300 attending faculty and staff members. Some faculty members voiced strong support for Compete Missouri, while others felt the plan was not the correct way to keep professors at MU.
Sociology professor Victoria Johnson and Eddie Adelstein, professor of pathology and anatomical sciences, presented what they felt were flaws and inadequacies of the plan.
Johnson’s main concern was the process the administration used when forming the plan.
“It is true that faculty and staff members were invited to meetings to discuss ideas for the plans,” Johnson said. “But each of those meetings were about one and a half to two hours long and there wasn’t much time for faculty members to take all of the data in and form ideas and conclusions at those meetings.”
Adelstein said in some ways, MU might be developing a corporate image where people are not as important as the fiscal situation. He said the issue of increasing numbers of non-tenured professors was also important.
“Without tenure, faculty members have decreased abilities for dissent, freedom of speech and freedom of thought,” Adelstein said. “I don’t think the administration understands how afraid professors are. They can’t even be on certain committees in case they’d have to say something and end up jobless, which is one of our worst fears.”