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University proposes merit-based raises

A year after the university faced financial belt-tightening following budget cuts, existing faculty may now be eligible for merit-based raises and the university will try to restore its financial reserves, according to an email sent to faculty and staff from USF President Judy Genshaft.

“We now have reached a juncture where we must put an emphasis on two essential components of our System operations: our people and the underlying financial stability of the USF System,” Genshaft wrote in the email.

The university, she said, would be creating a centralized “pool of funds,” to be distributed among faculty and staff based on merit-based criteria that Media Relations and Public Affairs Coordinator Adam Freeman said would be determined “over the next several weeks.”

The merit-based increases will come on top of the across-the-board, one-time increases of $1,000 or $1,400, an amount based on income level, that were approved for all state employees by the state Legislature this spring.

“We care deeply about our people and want to further invest in them through meaningful performance-based salary increases that demonstrate how greatly we value their efforts,” Genshaft wrote.

The USF chapter of United Faculty of Florida (UFF)’s Secretary and Publicity Chair Greg McColm said in a written statement sent to The Oracle that the changes to the payment system are required by Florida law to go through a collective bargaining process.

“University of South Florida System faculty and staff compensation has failed to keep pace with inflation for many years, and this has eroded morale while making the system vulnerable to headhunting,” he wrote. “The economic weather is improving, and the time has come to repair the damage and prepare for the future. That is why we were pleased by President
Genshaft’s July 2 letter to the USF System community, announcing the Administration’s intention to raise compensation for USF employees, above and beyond the small increases and bonuses mandated by recent legislation. We believe that this is a critical step in moving USF forward.”

The University of Florida was awarded $15 million in funding for the purpose of retaining existing faculty and attracting new faculty, something Provost Ralph Wilcox had told the Board of Governors that USF also wished to do, though they did not have the same resources.

Genshaft also wrote that the university planned to increase its cash reserves by 5 percent and “manage the use of carry-forward funds” while “allowing our deans and division leaders to manage their priorities.”

Faculty and staff positions that are currently vacant, she wrote, will be held vacant with “rare consideration … given to hires directly associated with the system’s health and safety obligations, research productivity, student success, accreditation needs and revenue generation.”

Budget goals will be evaluated monthly, she wrote, and “college and division leadership across the USF System will be charged with setting priorities at the unit level that will put into operation this new fiscal strategy.”

Freeman said in an email to The Oracle that Wilcox and Chief Operating Officer John Long were unavailable to comment on this topic at this time without questions emailed in advance.