The war of words between the administration and the faculty over a pay increase continued Thursday at a meeting of University leaders.
Roy Weatherford, United Faculty of Florida (UFF) chapter president, hasn’t been shy with the union’s feelings toward the negotiation process since the dispute became public last week. His remarks Thursday toward the Board of Trustees were no different.
“(The pay increase) is certainly small compared to the president’s raise and the (Sami) Al-Arian offer,” said Weatherford, referring to USF President Judy Genshaft’s large raise and the University’s failed $1 million attempt to buy out embattled former professor Al-Arian, who has been in U.S. government custody since 2003 on various terrorist-related accusations. “I wish you’d make a little more effort to think like academics.”
In response, the Board reread a memo it sent to the union earlier this week, which stated in part: “(We) stand ready to continue negations with UFF representatives so that an agreement can be reached.”
Weatherford said that 15 tenured faculty members – 10 of which have 25 years or more of experience and five with 30 or more – are underpaid compared to peers around the country, according to an Oklahoma State University study. If the union had its way, each professor in question would earn at least 80 percent of the average salary for same-level professors.
Weatherford went on to complain that while some new professors receive market value salaries, veteran professors are left behind.
“History teaches us that the longer you stay at USF, the more underpaid you become,” he said.
The total amount of money spent for the faculty raise would be $110,000. But both Weatherford and Vice Provost Dwayne Smith, who work for the administration, said it’s not about money – it’s about principle.
“It’s not that we’re not willing to do it,” Smith said during an interview after the meeting. “The union believes that they deserve this raise out of their length of service alone.”
Instead, Smith says the administration should hold peer review evaluations todetermine if a professor deserves a raise, an idea that has proven to be one of thebiggest road bumps in the negotiations.
“Sometimes it comes down to performance issues,” Smith said.
The administration is committing injustice, according to Weatherford.
“History shows people in general are not unhappy with poverty, but with the injustice,” Weatherford said.
The BOT’s unanimous approval of a raise for Genshaft during Thursday’s meeting was just another bomb in this battle. The Board approved a 6.5 percent increase in salary for Genshaft, raising her total annual salary – bonuses included – from $486,251 to $581,475. The five-year contract also included the possibility of an additional $300,000 in awards over five years. The Board called the increase “modest.”
The Board said it raised Genshaft’s salary based on her performance. USF ranks second in the state in size and budget, but fourth in presidential compensation. The Board called it a form of retention.
“The pool of proven talent for major university talent is down,” Trustee John Ramil said during the meeting. “There are several searches going on right now.”
Genshaft said she was happy with the new contract.
“I take my role very, very seriously,” she said. “And I’m very pleased.”
But Weatherford wasn’t applauding.
“You can do big raises in 10 minutes, but not small ones in 10 months,” Weatherford said. “It’s obviously a striking contrast. … You don’t get a national reputation as a first-rate university by paying your president, you get it by paying faculty.”
After last Friday’s negotiations ended in a bitter halt, neither side could say when negotiations would resume. But both hope it’s soon.
“I really do hope this ends in compromise,” Smith said. “We’re eager to wrap this up.”