Yudof seeks salary raises for faculty

by Nichol Nelson

University President Mark Yudof’s plan to boost faculty salaries took another step forward last Thursday when he allotted about 7 percent of the $1.28 billion legislative budget request to salary hikes.
The Board of Regents approved Yudof’s budget, which earmarked $95.9 million to raise University faculty salaries.
But the initiative to raise faculty salaries began last year, when faculty at the University saw a 7.3 percent raise in salary and benefits.
In terms of faculty pay, the University ranked 26th in the top 30 research schools last year, according to the American Association of University Professors.
The average salary for a tenured professor at the University in the 1997-98 academic year was $87,100, a figure that incorporates salaries from all University colleges. Harvard University ranks first, with an average tenured professor salary of $116,800.
Steven Rosenstone, dean of the College of Liberal Arts, said although the University has improved its salaries in the last two years, increases need to continue in order to attract top faculty members.
“Without having resources, we’re not going to be able to compete,” Rosenstone said.
Although the University ranks near the bottom of the top 30 research universities, some professors said the numbers aren’t always what they seem.
Donald Kahn, a mathematics professor in the Institute of Technology, said salary figures need to be examined with some perspective.
Geography factors into salaries, Kahn said. It is necessary to figure the cost of living into salaries to get a true representation, he said.
“It’s a major component, the cost of a decent house and a safe neighborhood,” Kahn said. “Here, I think people can make it comfortably, not like in Palo Alto or New York.”
Rosenstone also pointed out that prospective faculty look at factors other than salary when considering the University for a position. He said facilities, research grants and classroom opportunities are important facets of recruitment.
Once faculty are at the University, they have to earn their keep. Salaries at the University are merit-based. There are no across-the-board raises for faculty members.
Raises are decided on performance in research, teaching and service, said Sara Evans, Faculty Consultative Committee chairwoman. Faculty are aware of departmental expectations, she said, but it is sometimes difficult to judge the merit of faculty output.
But faculty can’t be paid until the University receives money from the state Legislature. That amount of funding became uncertain after the elections two weeks ago that put Republicans in control of the state House of Representatives; the House initiates spending bills such as the University’s biennial budget. Administrators are also uneasy about the priorities of Gov.-elect Jesse Ventura.
“I think Yudof had an excellent legislative session last year,” said Rep. Lyndon Carlson, DFL-Crystal, former chairman of the education committee of the House. “(The changes) make it harder to predict what the outcomes will be. I certainly hope he’s as successful.”
Rosenstone echoed Carlson’s sentiments, calling Ventura a “lesser known quantity.”
He was confident that Ventura would approve University spending when he saw the payoff for the state.