Letters to the Editor

Re: “USF has broken promises to UFF” by Eric Odgaard, March 5

A recent letter by Professor Eric Odgaard contains some factual errors that merit correction, and I appreciate the opportunity to do so here.

First, Odgaard claimed, “the administration has put a freeze on retention raises for faculty and staff.” Because current collective bargaining negotiations have not been settled, USF is prohibited from issuing salary adjustments unless they are agreed to by UFF. For instance, when the administration sought to issue the cash prizes due to winners of this year’s Outstanding Research and Outstanding Teaching awards, UFF declined the request. Hence, the current freeze is one imposed on the administration, not by it.

Second, Odgaard maintains that a promise has not been kept to address salary differentials between USF and two other state institutions, namely Florida State University and the University of Florida. He is decidedly wrong in asserting that no progress has been made in that regard.

A comparison of American Association of University Professor (AAUP) salary data from 2001-02 through 2005-06 (the latest year available) shows a gradual but steady improvement in USF salaries across academic ranks. In fact, the 2005-06 data show USF’s average salaries for Full Professors and Associate Professors to be greater than those at Florida State University.

While a differential remains at the Assistant Professor rank, it has closed significantly. USF continues to lag behind average salaries at the University of Florida, but has substantially closed the gap between salaries across all three professorial ranks. The data for this information can be accessed here.

Third, it was claimed, “USF still hires faculty and staff for below-market wages.” Speaking only to units that report to Academic Affairs, the Provost has strongly urged departments to structure the salary offerings of new hires in conjunction with current markets, taking into account such factors as specific disciplines and specialties within disciplines. If hiring faculty at below market wages is, as Odgaard implies, a common practice at USF, the improvements noted above would not have been occurred.

As a final point, salary improvements to USF faculty for the past two years (the first two years of the current contract) have averaged 5 percent and 4.5 percent (9.5 percent combined), compared to a national two-year cumulative average of 5.9 percent. Assuming award of the proposed 4.5 percent this year, a cumulative 14 percent in salary improvement money across three years is substantially better than that experienced by a substantial majority of faculty members at public institutions in the United States.

While providing this factual information presents a different picture than the one portrayed by Odgaard, let me strongly emphasize that USF must continue to aggressively pursue an improvement of its salary structure, and there is much room for further improvement. This effort will require a major financial investment in the faculty that must be made in a careful, thoughtful and strategic manner by all parties involved.

Dwayne Smith is the vice provost of Faculty & Program Development.