New committee tasked to investigate faculty-raise concerns

Tyrer said the three recent faculty raises being investigated have elicited a negative reaction from faculty members.
Ben Kothe / Graphic Designer

Faculty Council is investigating concerns about the existing system for faculty raises and three recent raises that have received negative reactions from faculty.

At the council’s executive session Dec. 4, the Executive Committee created the Ad Hoc Committee on Raise Distribution to address concerns about faculty raises and charged the committee which has several tasks as it looks in the current system.

Chaired by animal sciences professor Bill Lamberson, the committee is tasked with developing a set of graphs describing the distribution of raises; surveying faculty satisfaction with the process for distributing raises and the criteria for determining raise values; and surveying deans about the raise distributing process and how they internally reallocate funds for raises. The committee was given a tentative deadline of March 1, 2015.

Members of the committee are Lamberson, the chairman; Robin Kruse, associate research professor of family and community medicine; Stephen Montgomery-Smith, professor of mathematics; Karen Piper, professor of English; and Bill Wiebold, professor of plant sciences.

Faculty Council member Harry Tyrer, with whom the committee is consulting, said the three recent faculty raises that the committee is investigating have garnered a negative reaction from other faculty members.

Problems regarding raises

Raises have been a topic of discussion among faculty for some time.

In February 2014, the top 15 percent of high performing faculty members were rewarded with a raise of $15,000 or 10 percent of their salary. On Sept. 1, the top 20 percent of high performing faculty members also received a salary raise.

Tyrer said he found three problems with these raises. One of those problems, he said, was that the ways in which rules for distributing raises have changed without any faculty input.

Tyrer said the Association of American Universities’ metrics for membership played a big role when considering which faculty received raises.

“I don’t think anybody begrudges a big raise for somebody who is doing great work,” he said. “But on the other hand, if you’re doing great work but it just happens not to be the right metrics, then that is unfortunate.”

According to the AAU’s website, its metrics are divided into two phases. Phase I indicators, which are the primary indicators of an institution’s quality in education and research, faculty awards, focus on federal research grants, faculty membership in national academies and number of faculty cited in research.

Phase II indicators include agricultural, state and industrial research funding, number of doctoral degrees awarded by the university each year, number of postdoctoral appointees and an assessment of the undergraduate education.

The AAU metrics place a high on emphasis research, but there is no specific metric to reward quality teaching.

“The AAU assumes that you are going to teach well and you’re going to have good students, so they don’t have a metric that directly affects students,” Tyrer said. “There’s value in a university like MU where, in the same campus, we have a medical school, law school, engineering school, vet school, agricultural school, a robust arts and sciences school, and a wonderful nursing school. That makes this a rich atmosphere to challenge students and to provide them with the education and training.”

Tyrer said if a faculty member didn’t specialize in the type of field that is supported by AAU metrics, they did not benefit as much as their peers who are in AAU-favored areas.

“That doesn’t mean they didn’t do a great job,” he said. “It doesn’t mean that they weren’t dedicated. It doesn’t mean they didn’t educate a lot of students. It just means that they didn’t get a raise, and, of course, that hurts.”

Tyrer said he believes another problem is that only a small percentage of high-performing faculty were rewarded with raises.

“The other problem is what is called the ‘edge problem,’” Tyrer said. “There was a 15-percent group of faculty who got raises … what about the top 20 percent? Aren’t they deserving of raises?”

Tyrer said this group of faculty who performed well but were not rewarded accordingly represented the edge problem.

“If you need to teach a large number of students, and most of the people who are doing the teaching are not getting appropriate compensation, you are not doing the job that has got to be done,” he said.

The third problem, Tyrer said, comes from skewed data on average value of raises.

Tyrer said the administration would examine a certain school and see that, for example, faculty received 4 percent raises on average in a 2 percent raise pool atmosphere.

“The trouble is two or three high-paid faculty got large raises and the majority of the faculty got very small raises,” he said. “So now you’ve got this business about an average, with the problem of small numbers of faculty with large raises and large numbers of faculty with small raises. The averages seem to be pretty good, whereas most of the people got whacked.”

Merit-based raises

The MU Strategic Operating Plan reallocated 2 percent of nearly every departments’ budgets to fund initiatives like hiring new faculty and funding the high-performance raises.

Tyrer criticized the MUSOP for putting constraints on departments that used their funds more efficiently.

“The units and departments that more efficiently used the money … were not able to come up with that 2 percent,” Tyrer said.

In addition to reallocating funds to make up for the cuts, academic colleges have their own merit-based raises that are funded from internal budget reallocations.

Dean of Veterinary Medicine Neil Olson said colleges began to consider giving traditional merit-based raises at the time of the high performance raises on Sept. 1.

“We have a lot of other things that we consider that are highly meritorious, but don’t necessarily come under research at all,” he said. “For example, teaching our professional students and providing clinical services to clients.”

Michael O’Brien, dean of the College of Arts and Science, said these raises were given at the divisional department level.

O’Brien said in the College of Arts and Science, the raise process begins with ranking of faculty in terms of merit.

“The chairs make the final decisions and submit the lists to me,” he said. “I then go over them, and if I have questions I talk to the chair to reconcile any differences. I then submit the list to the provost, who goes over the A&S list, just as he does those of the other colleges, and makes his recommendation to the chancellor.”

Amending the procedure

Tyrer said the committee hopes to present data to administrators and advocate for a change in the way raises are distributed and considered.

“Obviously, the faculty wants the administration to be a lot more sensitive to those concerns,” he said. “One way is that the administration can look at the data and set itself up to do a reassessment of the way they do things.”

Another way to implement change, Tyrer said, is for Faculty Council to advise administrators and voice concerns of faculty.

“Faculty Council has an important relationship with both the provost and the chancellor,” he said. “In particular, this chancellor has taken a very strong stand to being accessible to the faculty. There is a lot of opportunity for one-on-one discussion and a lot of opportunity for evaluation of data. We have formal mechanisms to do this, as well as informal mechanisms to do it. Once we get the data, we can just go ahead and go on.”

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