Faculty raises not likely for third year

Kristine Young

Kristine YoungNews Editor

With budget cuts in the future, faculty express their concerns.

Students aren’t the only ones who could be affected by Gov. Dennis Daugaard’s proposed 10 percent budget cut in state expenditures, and $4.7 million in cuts to SDSU. The proposed budget could mean faculty won’t see raises for the third year in a row.

Jack Warner, executive director of the South Dakota Board of Regents, said no pay raises does not reflect the state’s view of faculty.

“I’m seeing a continued enthusiasm for the work they [faculty] are doing, and if you look at how the institutions are performing, they are all growing in enrollment, research and student success,” Warner said. “You don’t see that type of success with people who aren’t fully committed to their jobs … so it’s disappointing they are not receiving a salary increase.”

Warner said the absence of pay raises is common throughout the nation. Since South Dakota isn’t the only state facing budget cuts, he said he hasn’t seen the fiscal situation affect retention or faculty recruitment to a large degree.

“North Dakota and Wyoming are in good shape, but after that, pretty much every state in the country is struggling fiscally,” Warner said. “We haven’t seen an inability to recruit talent because when we set initial salaries they are competitive, but the longer we go without raises, the more difficult it will be to remain competitive.”

On the other hand, Paul Johnson, faculty senate chairman and entomology professor, said he has seen an increase in the amount of faculty looking to leave SDSU.

“I know a number of instances where people have had to make significant adjustments to family activities … which makes a difference,” Johnson said.

“The number of people I hear about seeking employment elsewhere has gone up in the last few months.”

According to the BOR 2011 Factbook, South Dakota is having trouble keeping faculty salaries competitive with other states. In 2010, faculty salaries fell behind counterparts in the regional market by almost 8 percent, and by about 32 percent nationally. The Factbook said that South Dakota has been losing ground in salary policy since 2006.

Despite being the state’s largest university, SDSU’s faculty salaries are trailing within South Dakota. According to the BOR 2011 Factbook, SDSU currently has the fourth-lowest pay for professors and associate professors within the six South Dakota regent schools, while they have the third highest pay for instructors, and second highest pay for assistant professors.

Warner said that while there is no official hiring freeze in place, each faculty position is being looked at carefully.

“I don’t believe in a rigid hiring freeze,” Warner said. “Instead, we scrutinize every open position. I look at the justification that is required with each request, and it’s really the rationale that the institution provides that determines whether the position is filled.”

Warner said cutting faculty positions is a possibility.

“Ultimately, we will likely have to have fewer staff in order to reconcile the budget cuts because a lot of money goes to personnel,” he said. “The first choice of where those cuts come from is always existing vacancies. That may not be the case in all situations, but we do know that if we’re going to make cuts in our budget … some positions will have to be left open … or reconfigured.”

A furlough is a possibility that the BOR is looking at, Warner said. A furlough is a time period that faculty are required to not work and are not paid.

“It’s one of the many ideas on the table,” Warner said. “Furloughs have been done in other places to help reconcile, and they do get you through a given year, but they don’t adjust your base. It’s certainly an idea worth considering … .”

Johnson said faculty views a furlough as a preferred option to positions being cut.

“Nobody wants to be terminated or see their colleagues terminated, but budgets have to be balanced, too,” Johnson said. “If any furloughs do come along, all we can do is just hope they’re short in duration.”

While Warner praises faculties’ “productivity” and their ability to carry a “strong instructional load,” Gary Aguiar, president of the Council of Higher Education (COHE), thinks a lot is being asked of faculty.

“We haven’t had a pay raise in two years, so our purchasing power has declined,” Aguiar said. “Student enrollment increases so we get stretched thinner and now there are much higher expectations for research. Faculty are feeling pretty stretched, demoralized and disrespected by the system.”

Aguiar said faculty members have options and ways to have their voices heard regarding salary policy.

He said joining Faculty Senate, Graduate Faculty Council, COHE (the bargaining agent for higher education), speaking up at department meetings, joining committees on campus and speaking to individual administrators on campus are a few ways for faculty to have their voices heard.

Johnson said it is important for faculty to be involved and communicate with administrators.

“Communication is key, especially when people are not happy,” he said.

While there are ways for faculty to have their voices heard on campus, Johnson said ultimately, decisions are made in Pierre.

“It’s a political issue,” he said. “Even though administration officers on campus may be sympathetic toward faculty… a lot of the real decision making is out of our hands and in Pierre with the BOR and Legislature. Until the Legislature and governor are inclined to recognize the value of state employees, there is really not much the rest of us can do.”

Warner said addressing faculty salary policy is a top concern of the BOR. He said once raises are given, they are based on merit and given in order to maintain cost of living.

“[The BOR is] concerned, and [salary policy] will be a priority for us after we get through the budget challenges we are currently facing,” he said. “[Faculty] can certainly expect raises in the future and hopefully the fiscal year 2013 budget will have some relief on the salary side.”