Letter to the Editor

Professors’ salaries lower than indicated

Re: “Professors’ salaries comparatively lacking,” Elise Bouchard, June 5.

Elise Bouchard’s article, “Professors’ salaries comparatively lacking” provided useful information regarding the challenges faced by the University of South Florida in achieving a competitive faculty salary structure, and I appreciate the Oracle addressing this important issue. However, there are some important points in the story that need clarification. 

First, the salary figures cited in the article and in the accompanying table are for full professors. A substantial majority of full-time faculty members at USF and other major universities hold the ranks of associate professor, assistant professor or instructor, and their average salaries are considerably lower than the figures referred to in the article. Consequently, the salaries mentioned tend to greatly exaggerate the incomes of most faculty members across the nation, particularly those in Florida. A detailed comparison of salaries across different ranks is available in the March/April issue of Academe, the bulletin of the American Association of University Professors.

Second, as mentioned in the article, average salaries vary considerably across academic disciplines. The reasons for these differences are complex, but are due in part to market forces related to the availability of highly qualified job candidates to fill the available faculty positions in those disciplines. However, being in a discipline that attracts a large number  of majors is not particularly a factor. There are many departments with a relatively small number of majors that make important contributions to the University by providing instruction to a large segment of the student body and/or through their outstanding research efforts. Unfortunately, these contributions are often not apparent through a comparison of salaries within the university.

Last, the University of Central Florida is classified is classified as a “research” institution by the Carnegie Foundation, but in a tier lower than the “Very High Research Activity” ranking enjoyed by USF.

 Dwayne Smith is a professor and vice provost for faculty and program development.