Research becoming priority for higher salary

Editor’s Note: This is the third in a series analyzing the salaries of different departments and individuals at the University.

Associate professor of piano Paul Shaw recently learned, much to his surprise, that his salary is much lower than the average of others at his rank.

“I always thought that my salary was on the low end,” Shaw said. “But I didn’t know it was that low.”

The Minnesota Daily’s analysis of salary data for University faculty and staff has shown great variations among the teaching faculty and staff on campus.

Shaw said although he is in a tenured position, his salary is about $30,000 less than the $82,543 average for associate professors, and it is also lower than the average for assistant professors, as reported by the Daily on Tuesday.

Shaw graduated from a top music school – Juilliard – and said he feels he is valued more for his performance skills than for his teaching.

“People don’t really care whether or not you can teach,” he said, “so long as you have this high profile reputation in your field as a doer.”

There is a disconnect between the administration’s “lip service” of how important teaching is, Shaw said, and where the money actually goes.

“There are people who are excellent teachers and they bend over backward for their students,” he said. “The money doesn’t go toward that.”

Shaw said he once sat on a search committee for an opening for assistant professor, an entry-level rank; it was an experience he found somewhat embarrassing.

“They’re offering a base salary of more than what I’m making,” he said. “I pointed it out to my unit director, and I noticed that I haven’t been asked to serve on any search committees since.”

Within some departments, the greatest disparities may not exist between faculty ranks, but among the instructional staff.

When the writing studies department was created two years ago, it combined teaching specialists from the old General College program with lecturers from the now-defunct rhetoric department and the English department.

According to an instructor in the department, who asked not to be named for fear of losing his job because of his annual renewable one-year contract, the teaching staff that came from the General College are being paid between $5,000 and $10,000 more per year than those who came from rhetoric and English.

The instructor, who makes about $34,000 per year, said teaching specialists are only required to have a master’s degree, while lecturers like him need the same requirements of an entry-level faculty member.

In some cases in the writing studies department, teaching specialists with master’s degrees are making more than lecturers with master of fine arts degrees and Ph.D.s, the instructor said.

Although the first-year writing program was touted by the administration as an integral aspect of the strategic positioning plan, the instructor said he feels like it was a hollow priority because pay equity doesn’t seem to be part of the plan.

“At this University, this is a dead end job,” he said.

‘Part-timing of the faculty’

The University is part of a larger hiring trend that Senate Committee for Faculty Affairs chairman Geoffrey Sirc called “part-timing of the faculty.”

He said about 30 years ago, part-time staff and non-tenure-track faculty made up about 40 percent of the overall faculty. Today, some estimate this number to be near 70 percent, he said.

Faculty members are expected to balance their duties – about 40 percent for research, 40 percent teaching and 20 percent service to the campus and community, he said.

Teaching staff who fall into the professional and administrative category end up teaching three or four classes a semester, Sirc said, because they aren’t expected to conduct research.

“Four courses a semester can lead to burn out,” he said. “It’s an unfortunate implication for students.”

Sirc said his committee will receive a report from the Vice Provost’s office next week to address the University’s current system of labeling job descriptions.

Pam Stenhjem, chairwoman of the Council of Academic Professionals and Administrators, echoed Sirc’s concerns about the University’s job classifications.

Stenhjem said the members of CAPA, which encompasses lecturers and teaching specialists, know they “will never have the kind of salary the faculty have.”

It can be difficult to compare the salaries of teaching staff with one another, she said, partially because of their varied levels of degrees and credentials, and partially because of the poor job classifications.

But for whatever reason, inequities do exist within colleges and departments, Stenhjem said.

Human resources and industrial relations professor John Fossum said the University may be leaning toward higher levels of classes taught by adjunct, part-time and non-tenure-track faculty in order to free up tenured and tenure-track professors for revenue-generating research.

As state funding for public institutions dries up, Fossum said universities have to be able to increase funding from other sources, such as research productivity and tuition.

“The hiring of part time faculty is a way of increasing productivity in terms of generating student credit hours,” he said.

Fossum said it’s often difficult to judge good teaching, but that it’s much easier to measure research productivity.

Teaching certainly is a priority for the University, Fossum said, but “at the end of the day, a lot of it is tied to research.”

Sirc said he would hope that, despite the pressure for emphasis on research, faculty members are still striving to be great teachers.

“I would hope that the value (of good teaching) is priceless,” he said.

Emma Carew is a senior staff reporter.