Faculty may see pay raises

Kelly Wittman

Some outstanding faculty members might receive raises next year, should the Board of Regents pass the University’s proposed 1997-98 budget this June.
University President Nils Hasselmo released the details Thursday for the first year of a planned three-year cycle to increase faculty members’ salaries. The plan is being released now as a part of the budget planning process, said Richard Pfutzenreuter, vice president for the Office of Budget and Finance.
The University currently falls behind other research institutions in the compensation it provides faculty members. Administrators say this could cost the institution some of its brightest minds and make it even more difficult to recruit top-notch faculty members.
The recruitment and retention of excellent faculty members is an initiative of University 2000, Hasselmo’s broad restructuring plan for the University. In keeping with U2000 priorities, next year’s raises will be merit-based.
The University ranks 28th among the top 30 institutions in pay for full professors and has asked the legislature in its biennial budget request for $115.4 million to improve faculty members’ salaries. The Legislature has not yet decided whether the University will receive the full amount.
Hasselmo’s plan calls for a total increase to the salary pool of 2.5 percent. Pfutzenreuter said this means there will be an increase in the total cost of salaries by 2.5 percent. “You could call it a cost-of-living increase,” he said.
Although not every staff member will get a 2.5 percent raise, the raise is based on merit of the faculty member and the level of competition across campuses within the member’s unit. “They could get zero (percent) or 5 (percent) depending on the employee group they’re in,” he said. Because the University’s Duluth campus is unionized, the amount the bargaining unit demands as a raise will affect the amount employees on other campuses can receive as a raise.
Hasselmo used 2.5 percent as a planning estimate to determine what the University can afford for an increase in the total salary pool based on the governor’s latest budget recommendation for the University, Pfutzenreuter said.
An additional 4 percent could be distributed to faculty members based on merit and on the comparison of their position’s salary with the salary of their contemporaries at comparable universities, Pfutzenreuter said. Another 2 percent could go to faculty members based on merit of units determined to be priorities by the provosts, deans and department heads. This money is part of a compensation strategy pool highlighted in the University’s biennial budget, he said.
A faculty member could potentially receive an increase of 8.5 percent or more, but others will not receive any raise at all as a result, Pfutzenreuter said.
V. Rama Murthy, president of the University chapter of the American Association of University Professors, said the plan is excellent. “With these three steps, we won’t catch up in one year, but it’s a good beginning,” he said. “This is one of the things that may lead to improved faculty morale.”
Students might want to watch the legislature in order to find out the impact higher faculty salaries might have on tuition, said Helen Phin, president of the Minnesota Student Association.
“I hope that if the University does not get a favorable response to their funding request from the legislature, they’ll take faculty salaries into consideration with tuition and a number of other initiatives they want to get going,” Phin said. “So far, the response has been very favorable; the president may be gambling on that.”