Grants, salaries don’t match up for University faculty

Will Conley

The American Association of University Professors, which advocates better salaries and conditions for American university professors, updated its blacklist of college administrations June 14, adding two and dropping seven.
Although the AAUP has never considered blacklisting the University, in 1997 it led the University faculty in a union drive. The drive failed by only 26 votes. Soon after, a new, much-debated tenure code was settled upon by both the Board of Regents and the faculty. Most agreed that, essentially, the code allowed for flexibility in faculty staffing while protecting professors from being fired for exploring new ideas.
Although they were satisfied with the compromise, many faculty members believe the University is falling behind other major universities in its ability to attract and retain qualified faculty.
Robert Miller, president of the Twin Cities chapter of the AAUP, which was the leading force in the union drive, even suggested that new talks might emerge this fall to reconsider the discussion of a union.
Most of (the faculty) are extremely disappointed with the current salary ranking of the University, MIller said.
According to Miller, among the top 29 ranked major research universities in the nation, Minnesota is ranked eighth by the federal government in its ability to bring in federal grant money, but it is ranked 23 in faculty salaries. This discrepancy between performance and compensation is the basis for faculty malcontent, and even for decreased overall performance, Miller said.
Steve Gudeman, who is the current AAUP treasurer and who served as secretary-treasurer of the AAUP during the drive, said the administration under University President Mark Yudof has been more attentive than previous administrations. However, he advocates bumping faculty salaries higher up on the priority list.
“We cannot attract and keep good people here without better salaries,” Gudeman said. “People are our main resource — not libraries, not buildings — but people. Unless we can keep our people, we’ve lost our U.”
“Even the smallest company understands that you put your resources where your creativity is,” said Miller. “We need to have a pay scale that matches what we do competitively.”
Former Board of Regents’ Chairman William Hogan II contends that the board has already given faculty salaries a high priority.
“It has a very, very high priority now. It’s very important to the board,” he said.
Despite the salary issue, the relationship between the regents and the faculty has improved since the union drive.
“The regents have become a lot more sensitive to these types of issues,” Miller said.
Hogan agrees.
“We’ve come a long way. We have great relationships. I feel very good about it,” Hogan said.
“We have a good president, I believe,” said Miller, “but he needs to help elevate this issue, to see it receives the commitment (the board) made two years ago.”