U falls in U.S. faculty ranks

Jerret Raffety

The University is beginning to show some signs of weakness in its rankings, according to the University of Florida’s annual report on the top U.S. research universities.

Specifically, the University has slipped from 23rd in the nation to 25th in the number of faculty members who are National Academies members.

Though the change is slight, a university’s number of National Academies members is considered proof it has top faculty members. That’s because National Academies membership is considered one of the highest honors a researcher can receive, according to the University’s Institute of Technology Web site.

Some at the University said they think the rest of the institution’s rankings will worsen along with faculty members’ rankings.

A major reason the University is losing some of its top faculty members is that competing universities frequently lure top professors away by offering them higher salaries, said Edward Cussler Jr., a chemical

engineering and materials science professor and National Academy of Engineering member.

“Ten years ago, salaries between private and public universities were in parity, but the gap has since widened significantly,” he said.

Cussler said he has been receiving job offers every few months from various universities nationwide since he was invited into the National Academy of Engineering.

“If I wanted another job tomorrow, I could leave the University,” Cussler said.

He said he is not interested because there is no place better for him intellectually than IT.

There is little the University can do to stop professors from leaving if they are inclined to, said Frank Bates, a chemical engineering and materials science professor and National Academy of Engineering member.

“Imagine major league sports, where everyone is a free agent,” Bates said. “There will always be recruiting from other universities.”

State support for the University is what keeps professors, Bates said. If the University enters a bidding war concerning professors, it will only put strain on the rest of the faculty, he said.

“Imbalanced salaries will create animosity amongst professors, which will jeopardize the whole staff,” Bates said.

The University will get more funding and will be able to offer a more competitive wage if it gets more students to State Legislature meetings, said Abu Jalal, Graduate and Professional Student Assembly president.

“Money isn’t everything, though,” Jalal said.

The University must also establish a more coherent plan to improve its programs and faculty members’ satisfaction, Jalal said.

“The goal, after all, is a better university and not just a better ranking,” he said.