Letters to the Editor

There are no magical solutions to faculty salary issues

Re: Letters to the Editor. “Salary structure needs to be fairer,” by Eric Odgaard, March 21.

Despite our recent exchange of letters, I believe that Professor Eric Odgaard and I quite agree on the need to improve faculty salaries at USF. However, his last letter in the Oracle indicates a need to better understand recent efforts in that direction. As a caveat, the St. Petersburg campus, where Odgaard is a faculty member, is autonomous from the Office of Academic Affairs. I assume, however, that the situation regarding salaries is similar on that campus.

Upon checking, Odgaard found that average faculty salaries at USF have indeed shown improvement in recent years, more so perhaps than he previously realized. The increases shown from 2003-04 to 2005-06, as well as those likely to be evident in a 2005-06 to 2006-07 comparison (those statistics will be released soon), are due to a number of factors beyond discussion here, and, as he notes, actually exceed the standard raises made available to faculty. The result has been markedly improved faculty salary averages at USF in recent years; more so, in fact, than most faculty members can ever recall happening over a similar period.

Odgaard, however, believes more money should have been directed to market adjustments for continuing faculty. This would have dictated a reduction in the overall level of salary improvements to faculty, a tactic that unquestionably would have drawn the ire of some other faculty members, especially those in disciplines not experiencing a rapidly escalating salary structure. One is reminded that faculty salaries are a decades-long source of major discontent in academia, and it has become utterly impossible to satisfy the demands of some faculty without leaving others disgruntled. As a case in point, I’ve heard a number of recommendations on how we might achieve substantial raises in salaries at USF. The common theme has been using someone else’s raises or operating budgets to pay for it while leaving the recommender’s own financial situation untouched.

Regarding another issue, Odgaard also suggests that a “bait-and-switch” tactic might have been employed in comparing the two-year 9.5 percent average raise in USF salaries with the national average across U.S. universities of 5.9 percent. The latter figure was used in my earlier letter because it was the statistic presented in the AAUP report from which salary information was derived. However, he questions if the result would be different if restricting the comparison to major research universities. Considerable searching finally yielded that data, which revealed a 6.3 percent improvement over the past two years at public Doctoral I universities (an AAUP classification shared by USF). While that figure is a bit higher than the average of all universities, the fact remains that USF faculty did quite well on a comparative basis.

Long-term faculty members here would be hard pressed to remember a time when USF exceeded by nearly a third the average of its Doctoral I peers for raises in faculty salaries. This certainly marks a change from previous decades when annual salary improvements were consistently and comparatively low, hiring at below-market rates was the norm, promotion raises were all but non-existent, and counter/pre-emptive offers were few and far between. In fairness, it should be noted that Odgaard was hired at USF-St. Petersburg in 2004, so he has never truly experienced these kinds of conditions unless his individual situation is a marked departure from the institution as a whole.

This progress notwithstanding, there is broad consensus that considerable improvement in USF faculty salaries is needed to close the gap with the salaries of peer institutions. Odgaard and I couldn’t agree more on that sentiment. However, as much as we might wish differently, there is no magic wave-of-the-wand, make-everyone-happy solution to achieving this. Acquiring the necessary salary funds and distributing them on a true merit basis is a daunting, long-term challenge that will be influenced in part by factors over which the University has little control (e.g., health of the national and state economy). Nevertheless, if USF is to achieve the overarching goal of becoming a more nationally prominent research university, it is a challenge that must be met.

Dwayne Smith is the Vice Provost for Faculty & Program Development.

USF?students should be Bulls

Re: “A Bull wearing a Gators shirt is still a Bull,” by Allison Tiberia, March 30.

Over the last week, two friends of mine have weighed in on the issue of whether a USF student wearing the colors of another university is disrespectful to USF. Tom King, a fellow member of Student Government, says that it is outright disrespectful. King made a decision to leave the University of Connecticut, the school of his childhood, and has chosen not to bring it with him to USF. The Oracle’s Allison Tiberia, an old friend from my former church, agrees with supporting USF first, but thinks students should feel free to support other teams after USF within reason.

Allison wrote that USF is the school that she supports first, but should not feel like a second-class student for wearing another school’s material mostly due to family ties. In my opinion, students should support USF with everything they have. If they have a reason to support another team second, then they have the freedom to do that knowing that other students might give them a hard time, mostly jokingly. Would a Gator’s shirt be welcome in Tallahassee or a Seminole’s cap in Gainesville? No and No – at least not without some serious ribbing. On a personal note, both of my parents are graduates from Clemson University and I graduated from Wesley Chapel High School. I have worn sweatshirts from both, but I have been reminded to support my Bulls as well, which I do. I’m no less a student or member of our Student Government for doing so.

Do I think that it hurts the University when a student wears another school’s shirt for a reason such as family or former residence? Not really. Do I think that it is disrespectful if a student shows up at a sporting event or other major USF event wearing another team’s colors? I think so. If you are from this school, support the Bulls first and then every other college team after. I’m not a Gator, but I hope they win in the Final Four because Florida is my home state. Sometimes I’ll root for UCF when I don’t care for the other team, but when it’s USF-UCF, I always hope the Bulls win.

So Allison, support those Gators, and by the way Tom, feel free to support your old UConn Huskies. Where you came from is important, but make sure to remember you’re a USF Bull first.

Alex Wilhelmsen is a seniormajoring in mass communications and a judicial clerk for Student Government