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Editorial: MU boosts some faculty pay, but issue remains

Sep. 01, 2013 @ 06:54 PM

The action taken last week by the Marshall University Board of Governors regarding faculty pay no doubt failed to satisfy the wishes of many -- perhaps most -- faculty members. But, in light of the university's budget troubles and the recent debate about how it spends its money, the move at least shows the university is headed in the right direction.

The plan presented by the university administration and approved unanimously by the board will take effect in November and affect salaries in two ways.

One part of the plan will affect certain eligible faculty members who were awarded promotions effective this fall semester. Those going from assistant to associate professor will receive pay increases equal to either 10 percent of their current salary or $6,300, whichever is greater. Those who were promoted from associate to full professor will receive 10 percent more or $7,400.

The second part establishes minimum salaries for professors ($59,700), associate professors ($52,300) and assistant professors ($46,000). Faculty members already at those ranks but making less than the stated amounts will receive increases to reach the minimums.

About 125 tenured or tenure-track faculty members will see pay raises.

Many Marshall faculty have had long-simmering complaints that they are paid less than faculty members at like institutions and that salaries of MU administrators were not similarly being limited. Their concerns became more public after the administration "swept" departmental accounts last spring in assessing how much money the university has available as it prepared to deal with a 7.5 percent cut in state funding.

President Stephen Kopp acknowledged that the move was a mistake. He then set about establishing short-term and long-term budget work groups involving various campus stakeholders to wrestle with the budget challenges.

The pay raises approved by the board were recommended by one of those budget working groups, which included two faculty members. The initial discussion was to devote $1 million to faculty salary increases, but there wasn't enough money available to do that, members said. As it turns out, the changes approved this week will add $354,000 to Marshall's base annual budget.

Kopp expected criticism of last week's move because it didn't involve across-the-board pay raises for all 400 of Marshall's faculty. Even those faculty representatives who supported last week's action stressed that it should be viewed as only a step or foundation for boosting faculty pay.

What's important to note is that the university administration, including Kopp, is now openly acknowledging that pay levels at Marshall pose an impediment to landing the top applicants for vacant positions. Some faculty members and department heads have said the university is often hiring the third or fourth person on their list because the best-qualified candidates are not willing to accept the salaries offered at Marshall.

Finding more money for salary raises will be difficult to do, given the budget forecast for this year and next. But after the budget brouhaha in the spring, Kopp vowed to make improvements in pay a priority. The action of last week was only a step, and the university will need to keep working to make salaries at Marshall more competitive.

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