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Monday, April 20, 2015

UNM’s faculty salaries lag behind those of its peer institutions

news@dailylobo.com

UNM lags behind all its peer institutions when it comes to average faculty pay for full professors, associate professors and assistant professors.

Provost Chaouki Abdallah released a communiqué on Jan. 30 announcing the completion of a proposal to increase employee compensation and bring faculty salaries in line with those of peer institutions.

UNM President Robert Frank and the Board of Regents requested the plan in the fall.

“We were, and still are, losing faculty members to other institutions partly because of salary differences,” Abdallah said.

The proposal was constructed using data from surveys of average faculty salaries at 16 peer institutions. The results of the surveys show that UNM’s average faculty salaries range from $7,000-$21,000 less than those of other comparable universities for professors, associate professors, and assistant professors on average.

The survey also ranked the peer public research universities by their total number of full-time instructional faculty. UNM ranked low in this category as well.

For the second part of the proposal, Abdallah prepared a plan for UNM to catch up in five years, assuming other institutions only increase salaries in accordance with cost-of-living adjustments.

Those adjustments are yearly increases, regardless of performance, which allow employees to maintain a standard of living. Most of this plan consists of 5 percent raises each year for five years, but part of it is also devoted to performance-based compensation.

“It means that not everyone will get the same raise but instead will be evaluated individually,” Abdallah said. “Academic units have metrics they use to compare faculty … such metrics must weigh teaching, research and service. In particular, good teaching must be rewarded.”

One consideration missing from the proposal was where the money for increased salaries would come from.

“The plan only proposed what the salaries should be, not a source of funding at the direct request of the Board of Regents. In other words, I was not tasked, nor did I investigate, where the funds should come from,” Abdallah said. “If it so happens that the state provides the amounts specified in the plan, then there will be no need to increase fees or tuition.”

Abdallah stressed that this is just a proposal for a plan, that no financial actions have been confirmed yet, and that the compensation plan would probably not be enacted if the state does not provide funding.

“It does not imply a promise or a guarantee. It is up first to the state to fund the University, then up to the Board of Regents to decide on what compensation increases, if any, are approved,” Abdallah said. “At this stage, the plan is an answer to the question: What would it take to catch up UNM faculty salaries with those of our peers?”

Margo Milleret, an associate professor of Portuguese and Spanish, has her doubts about the proposal.

“As I understand it, the Provost hopes to raise salaries by 5 percent (per year) over the next 5 years, but will need new monies to do so, and a committee in the Legislature is proposing a 1 percent raise for all state employees, which the governor does not support. So, in general, one could say that there is not much chance of a raise either way after more than four years of no raises at UNM,” Milleret said in an email.

However, Milleret said using salary averages may not be an entirely accurate measure of what faculty salaries are actually like at UNM and its peer institutions.

“Salaries are always reported in averages, depending on academic status. What professors are paid can change considerably from one department or college to the next. The faculty of professional schools and the medical school at UNM have much higher salaries, in general, than those in education, (arts and sciences), or fine arts.”

Deborah Fort, an associate professor in the cinematic arts department, had similar concerns and said the low faculty salaries affect faculty retention at UNM.

“One of the things that happens with (the lower salaries) is that UNM can’t attract the same kind of faculty that other places can. I know people who have left for both salaries and the other benefits that other universities offer in terms of research funding and that kind of thing,” Fort said, “So in order to remain competitive and provide the best education we can for students, I think that it’s great the University is looking into that.”