Letters to the Editor

Salary structure needs to be fairer

Re: “USF is taking UFF seriously” by Vice Provost Dwayne Smith, March 8

On March 8, Vice Provost Smith wrote a letter claiming “factual errors” in my earlier note about ongoing salary negotiations. He then invited USF to review the “factual information” he had provided.

First, Smith claims it was not the administration that put a freeze on out-of-cycle increases for faculty and staff as I previously said. Rather, this freeze was “imposed on” the administration. Which of us was right? Neither: given the contractual language, we did it to each other. Whether this hurts administration, and why negotiations are this late, are technically different kettles of fish. Next, VP Smith denied my claim that the administration has failed to keep its 2004 promise of having salaries comparable to UF and that faculty and staff are still hired at below-market wages. Relying on data collected by American Association of University Professors and reported in The Chronicle of Higher Education, Smith pointed out that USF has indeed closed the gap on average salaries. In fact, from 2004-05 to 05-06, the mean salaries of assistant, associate, and full professors at USF rose by 9.3 percent, 7.6 percent, and 8.8 percent respectively.

Truly amazing – especially when you consider that the actual raise for the year was 4.5 percent. Out-of-cycle compression raises were capped, so the remaining explanations are that newer faculty got far more competitive salaries and that faculty with low salaries are leaving for other jobs because they are not being offere market corrections.

So although the averages are up, the evidence also points to an entire new generation of compression inversion.

Next, Smith offered a summary of recent raise structures. One of several problems was to compare the most recent two-year sum of 9.5 percent to a two-year national average of 5.9 percent. This argument is a classic statistical bait-and-switch. By all accounts, USF is a rising, major research university, not a nationally “average” one. The comparison should be to peer groups. Therefore, USF may be closing on the promised peer of UF, albeit with evidence that it’s doing so at the expense of some existing faculty.

The proposed strategic plan lists current peers, and USF?is well behind that average (although close to peers in similar cost-of-living locales). There is also a list of “aspirational” peers, who are creaming the University: USF salaries are 11 to 20 percent lower across ranks.

I will close with one more comparison, by way of applauding Smith’s call for a rigorous effort to improve faculty – and, one hopes, staff – salary structures at USF. The longer-range goal of the strategic plan, which Trustee Lee Arnold told the USF St. Petersburg Town Hall meeting on Feb. 16 was “going to happen,” is membership in the prestigious American Association of Universities. There are 62 AAU schools, of which 59 appear in the aforementioned salary report. Where would USF have ranked among AAU members in 2005-06? For assistants, associates, and full professors, respectively: third, fourth, and second; from dead last.

Perhaps next year, peer equity can be the clarion call of negotiations.

Eric Odgaard is an assistant professor of psychology at USF St. Petersburg.