[Vision2020] Many factors contribute to low faculty morale at UI
moscowcares at moscow.com
Thu Apr 21 09:27:17 PDT 2016
Courtesy of the University of Idaho Argonaut at:
Many factors contribute to low faculty morale at UI
This is the country of opportunities, right?” Hrdlicka said. “At least that’s how it is marketed.”
Hrdlicka is one of many faculty members who believe the morale among UI employees is dangerously low. At the center of their many grievances is money.
James Foster, a distinguished professor in the College of Science, said his salary is 30 percent less than the average pay for a professor of his rank at peer institutions — and he’s not the only one.
At Washington State University, professors receive annual salaries well over $100,000, with some reaching past $200,000 per year. Faculty members at UI’s peer institution University of Nebraska-Lincoln receive salaries around $100,000.
In the 2015-2016 fiscal year, the salaries given to regular faculty at UI ranged from lower than $20,000 to more than $100,000 annually. Despite where their salaries stand, the majority of faculty have not seen significant raises, with much of faculty only seeing an increase of about $2,000 over the past three fiscal years.
Hrdlicka said low pay has the potential to act as a statement to employees. He said because UI uses a kind of scoring system to determine pay, low employee compensation shows faculty, staff and administrators where they rank and how much the UI administration values them.
Liz Brandt, a distinguished professor in the College of Law, said it doesn’t impact morale right away when faculty don’t see a significant raise to their salary in a year — it’s when the pattern repeats that it can cause damage.
“If you have a year with no pay increase, I don’t think most people take it like that,” Brandt said. “If you have two years without a pay increase I don’t think most people take it like that. If you have six years without a pay increase, you start to think, ‘What am I, chopped liver?’”
But most faculty members don’t come to UI because of the pay, Brandt said. There are other issues along with low salaries that are detrimental to morale.
Foster said the increasing number of created administrative positions combined with the steady rise in salaries for administrators can lead other employees to wonder why that money can’t be spent to raise salaries for non-administrators.
UI Provost and Executive Vice President John Wiencek said he’s not sure if this issue is based in truth, but he would look into it.
“My experience with these things is it’s myth often that gets generated without data to back it up,” Wiencek said.
Wiencek and other new administrators that arrived at UI in recent years have received the biggest raises compared to what their predecessors received.
Wiencek’s current annual salary is $46,176 more than what the previous Provost and Executive Vice President Douglas Baker received.
According to the Faculty and Exempt Salaries report over the past three fiscal years, in 2013-2014 Bruce Pitman held the title of both vice provost of Student Affairs and dean of students, and received a yearly salary of $132,828.80. The next year, after Pitman announced his retirement, he was listed as vice provost for Student Affairs, while Craig Chatriand assumed dean of students in January 2015, a promotion from associate dean. That year Pitman received a raise of just under $3,000. When Jean Kim stepped in as vice provost for Student Affairs, her annual salary jumped to $178,526.40.
Wiencek said there is a current search going on for a new Vice Provost for Enrollment Management, which will be a new position within the UI adminstration.
Low pay is a primary source of the high faculty and staff turnover rates, which is yet another blow to morale. UI President Chuck Staben said faculty turnover at UI is twice the national average at 14.5 percent. Wiencek said turnover numbers for staff are even higher at 18 percent. Staff members are the ones leaving UI more often, and Brandt said this impacts faculty morale as well.
When staff members leave, other employees need to work to hire and train replacements. The lack of familiarity also doesn’t encourage employees to make connections with each other.
“I’ve had three different faculty assistants in the last 18 months,” Brandt said.
Staben has said one of his primary goals for the university is to increase enrollment by 50 percent, but this objective can also demoralize faculty, Hrdlicka said. He said many employees don’t necessarily believe the university can reach this goal, and increasing enrollment has been tied to raising salaries.
Even if the university does reach the goal and enrolls about 15,000 students, Hrdlicka said he and many other faculty members aren’t certain that their pay will rise anyway. Such a spike in the number of students will bring about more issues for UI, like limited housing options and fewer faculty members to teach them.
Wiencek said the State Board of Education came up with the goal to increase enrollment to address the needs of the state.
“Our president has made it clear that he is 100 percent behind the direction that the State Board wants to take the state in general in this regard,” Wiencek said.
In terms of low faculty morale, Wiencek said he isn’t sure there is much of a problem to begin with. He said it may just be because he is an administrator, but he’s gathered from the conversations he’s had with faculty and staff that many UI employees are more hopeful for the future.
“They really feel that there’s a new day and that things are really moving in a positive direction,” Wiencek said.
Though there is still plenty of room to improve, Hrdlicka, Foster and Brandt all said they feel there has been an improvement to faculty morale in the past year. All of them tied it to the increase in transparency among administrators, specifically Wiencek and Vice President for Finance Brian Foisy.
“Vice President Foisy I think is — among the staff in particular but also faculty probably feel this way — is somewhat of a rock star,” Wiencek said.
Where Brandt said the end of the last academic year was an all-time low for faculty morale, there has been an increase this year due to the attitudes of the people in charge. Last year she said employees saw no clear direction for the university because Staben’s administrative team was still in development, but now it’s clear that the administration is making an effort to improve UI and the people who are a part of it. Their openness to discussing major concerns is a big part of that, she said.
“I think right now people really appreciate the sense of transparency and openness that is there,” Brandt said.
Erin Bamer can be reached at arg-news at uidaho.edu or on Twitter @ErinBamer
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