Members of the administration and the UM system Board of Curators believe the lack of faculty salary increases for the third consecutive year could cause significant problems for MU’s academic programs.
The curators met in June and passed the UM system budget for fiscal year 2011 in a move that has raised concerns at both MU and the university system level.
Thomas Payne, College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources vice chancellor and dean, said continuing without salary adjustments for faculty and staff will move MU further into an uncompetitive position with its peers around the country.
"MU must provide salary adjustments for 2011-2012," Payne said. "Such increases will likely come from continued sound fiscal management practices that have been put in place, state budget adjustments or increases in costs of services."
At the system level, Board of Curators Chairwoman Judith Haggard said she’s worried about faculty salaries because low salaries make it difficult to hold onto good professors.
"High quality faculty are the cornerstone of the university," Haggard said. "Given our low salaries, it makes it hard to retain those faculty members, and the University of Missouri system is in danger of losing those faculty members to other universities with higher salaries or benefits."
To combat stagnant salary levels, the UM system is establishing a 1 percent salary pool on each campus which administrators will be able to use for special circumstances concerning faculty, Haggard said. They also have asked for appropriations for $10.8 million for 2012 that will go toward competitive faculty rank compensation.
Betsy Rodriguez, UM system vice president of Human Resources, said the lack of salary increase is very difficult on employees.
"While we know that most other higher education institutions are in the same boat, this is still extremely hard on employees, especially our large number of employees at the lower end of the pay scale," Rodriguez said. "This situation is further exacerbated by the fact that some of our faculty and staff salaries are low compared to our peers."
Rodriguez said job turnover is fairly low now, but the concern is that, as the economy picks up, university employees will seek opportunities elsewhere.
"When hourly employees cannot get increases in their current positions, they tend to look around for other ways to get increases," Rodriguez said. "One of those ways is to seek out other university positions. So we have huge numbers of employees applying for transfers and promotions. That causes a great deal of work for the HR office and frustration for the employees, given the low amount of hiring that is occurring on the campuses."
She said the HR offices are working with campus leadership to find ways to create positive work environments for the employees and reward faculty and staff in ways other than pay increases.
"They value their contribution to the university's mission, and they take pride in their accomplishments," Rodriguez said. "We need to find ways to recognize and reward this loyalty."
The poor status of the economy makes an increase in budget allotment virtually impossible.
"We can only campaign in a realistic way, and that means understanding our severe budget constraints," Rodriguez said. "Everyone, including the leadership, understands that we need to do something about salaries."
Faculty Council Chairwoman Leona Rubin said MU is in the same boat as everyone else and that if prices go up, salaries need to go up, but if they stay the same, salaries can remain the same. Payne said the effects of the world's fiscal situation can be seen on campus and in Missouri.
"The best investment that can be made is education," Payne said. "Comparatively, the return for the investment is substantial. Even in the worst of times, investments should be made in education."
Faculty Council is limited in its ability to push for salary increases, Rubin said.
"Faculty Council can make recommendations or requests from the administration, but I think everyone recognizes you can't get blood from a stone," Rubin said. "The budget is so slim right now that in order for the administration to allow for salary raises, other departments will need to make cuts because the money needs to come from somewhere, and the state isn't giving more money.”