AAUP Meeting Minutes, February 18, 2014
Attendance: Marc Becker, Anton Daughters, Mark Hatala, Wolfgang Hoeschele, Jennifer Jesse, Betty McLane-Iles, Marc Rice, Troy Paino
There was only one agenda item: Discussing the AAUP’s survey of the university faculty with President Paino.
Troy Paino summarized his initial responses to the survey, released the previous day: There were no surprises. He knew there was a salary issue ever since he came here and signed the first contract with a newly hired professor. The harder question is what to do. The administration have done analyses, comparing Truman with institutions across the country, making various adjustments for cost of living. It is clear that Truman is below where we should be, but some faculty are more underpaid than others, depending on the discipline and when they were hired. Also we need to address disparities in faculty workloads. These kinds of things are hard to address when there are budget cuts, as in the last five years when there were only small salary increases. With across the board increases we will not be able to catch up to where we need to be. Instead we will try to address systemic problems, and try to do as much as possible next year. For example, we hope to strategically increase the salaries for the most underpaid faculty.
In recent years, we have increased starting salaries so that we can recruit new professors – in five years, we went from around $39,000 to $50,000 average starting salaries. However, this creates a salary compression and in some cases even an inversion. So we will address inversions first, and then try to reduce compression. One way to do this is by increasing the size of the promotion bumps. Currently, the increase going from assistant to associate professor is $2400, and from associate to full it’s $4800. It should be closer to around $3600 and $7200. If funding is available, we could also look into giving some bumps to those who have already gone through a promotion. Another approach to address the ongoing systemic problem of compression is create a third bump, where full professors can apply for another salary increase and provide supporting documents similar to a tenure or full professor review (this would not lead to a change in title though! Or at least not necessarily). Paino made no promises here, but this kind of thing could offer an incentive for senior faculty, who might lose steam and lack morale thinking that now nobody cares what they do. This is done in some universities, such as Southeast Missouri State University.
Wolfgang Hoeschele asked to what extent the Board of Governors and the legislature is aware of the salary issue. Paino answered that the BOG recognizes the problem of low salaries. He indicated that they were, but if they lacked any appreciation for this issue it was his fault for not effectively communicating to them. We have a good board, with several smart Truman graduates who care about the institution. The question is what to do. Regarding the legislature, it does not care much about the low funding for higher education.
Asked about faculty workload issues, Paino said that the administration is still reviewing responses from the faculty collected last semester. We need to show external audiences more about what we do, since there is a widespread conception that professors only work those hours when they are in class.
Betty McLane Iles asked about the extra salary that department chairs receive, and whether that should be increased in order to compensate them for the extra workload. Paino said that in comparison to other institutions, the combination of course release and added salary is competitive. We may have to address the amount of extra duties that they take on; different department chairs approach this very differently. This would also pertain to language program directors within the department of Classical and Modern Languages.
Asked about increase in administrative salaries in comparison to faculty, Paino acknowledged that the total of administrative costs have increased, and the university has added certain support staff positions over the last couple of decades. One major reason is the increase in IT personnel, which at Truman increased from 10 to 30 persons. Also, counseling services have increased. Some regulatory requirements require the university to hire more staff. Compared to its peer group, Truman still has fewer administrators (26 rather than an average of 58 administrators, in a peer group with an average enrollment that is slightly less than at Truman). However, size of the faculty has been reduced over the last several years due to the recession. After the meeting, Paino provided the following fact-checked numbers on employee trends (this is using most recent IPEDS data):
2006: 339 FTE faculty
2011: 318 FTE faculty
2006: 27 FTE “executive” or “management” postions
2011: 24 “executive” or “management” position
Paino also addressed the need to convert more temporary faculty lines into tenure track lines. Now we are at 80% of appointments on the tenure track, and 20% “temporary” (of whom many have been here for a long time). His goal is to reach 85% Tenure track, and 15% “temporary” – of whom about half (7.5%) would be true temporary appointments (e.g., sabbatical replacements), and the other half people on non-tenure track appointments, but who would be offered something more permanent, such as 3 to 4-year contracts. The percentage of faculty on tenure track has declined in recent years because we lost about 40 faculty, most of whom were tenured, for example through retirements or phased retirements. The number of faculty on phased retirement has temporarily increased the percentage of our faculty neither tenured nor on the tenure track. Comparatively, we have very few adjuncts, which is partly because of the location (not much of a hiring pool), but also partly by design due to our mission. We’ve avoided that evil in higher education.
Mark Hatala mentioned that while low costs of living are touted here, one could also see it in reverse – that we may need to offer hardship pay in order to attract people to move to Kirksville. With this location plus low salaries, how can we attract good faculty? Paino acknowledged this, and pointed out the lack of job opportunities for spouses. He would like to have some large employers here, it would be good if Truman were not the largest employer in town. Many of the businesses here cater to the needs of Truman, which is seen as a fixed pie, so there are often tensions about getting pieces of that fixed pie. This would be different if opportunities were seen to bring in more revenue from outside the area through new business. He also noted that, while many costs of living are low here, the cost and inconvenience of travel to other places is large.
Betty McLane Iles asked whether Truman has an intern working with Carolyn Chrisman, Director of Kirksville Economic Development. Paino responded no but said that he would ask her about the possibility next time he saw her. Promoting local economic development is a challenge. He recently read a report about Youngstown Ohio, described as being on the “wrong side of economic development” for 50 years, and it’s similar here. Some discussion ensued about making Kirksville more attractive, about transport services, planning, and providing incentives to businesses on the square to help them meet the financial burden of restoring and/or changing storefronts. According to Paino, New York governor Cuomo launched tax-free zones around public universities in upstate New York to attract new businesses in those places with some success; he has pitched the idea with legislators but has garnered only mild interest.
Anton Daughters suggested that meal plans for students could include being able to eat at local businesses, especially on the square. This would probably violate the current contract with Sodexo, Paino said, so something like this would have to be included in the next RFP when the food contract expires.
There was some discussion about restoring storefronts around the square. Paino said that businesses have been surveyed and are wary about making large investments that may not pay off. New external funding opportunities are needed; this may require a one-at-a-time transformation. There is a scarcity mentality there, assuming that a proposed new idea won’t work. One such idea to which we should be open according to Paino is to consider making the ACT test optional for incoming students. Some universities have done that, and found that those students who have not taken the test are doing just fine in their studies. We could for example automatically accept students who finished among the top 10% of their high school class. This would help recruit underrepresented students, who often do not do so well in the ACT, and who are an increasing demographic in Missouri.
Asked about his response to faculty responses to the survey question about faculty morale (question number 13, where over 24% disagreed strongly, and 74% disagreed to some extent with the statement that “morale among faculty at Truman is currently very high”), Paino said that he doesn’t think that faculty morale is ever “very high.” The phrasing may have influenced the results, provoking more negative responses. Faculty morale is probably low across the academy in the country, and Paino does not know how Truman compares to other universities. There is a widespread sense of being undervalued/underappreciated. Faculty are working harder, but not being paid more. That of course affects morale. Some people may also be unhappy about living in Kirksville. Paino said he tries to focus on those things about which he can do something.
Marc Rice noted that Paino in his talk the day before had mentioned the high performance indicators of Truman in national rankings – this should serve as a good rationale for increasing faculty salaries. He also noted that low incentives for senior faculty might also be represented as high frustration among senior faculty, for doing so much but not being rewarded. Further, he noted that our survey this year got more responses than in 2004 and 2006 (even while there were more professors at the university at the time). [There were 159 responses this year, 124 in 2006, 127 in 2004, and 172 in 2002; the percentage response was probably the highest in 2014].
Paino responded that he tries to keep a good working relationship with faculty, especially by trying to maintain a high degree of transparency in decision-making. This includes the regular “coffee with the President,” visiting with the AAUP, working with the Faculty Senate budget committee, etc.
Wolfgang Hoeschele raised the question of how the legislature might be pushed to make funding for higher education a more important and long-term, sustained commitment. Paino responded that when he worked as professor in Minnesota, all the faculty were highly politicized, had a legislative agenda, a faculty union that was organized statewide, and that actively lobbied for state appropriations. They would campaign for education-friendly candidates, including in distant districts (such as St. Cloud). Politicians who saw professors campaign for them like this remembered that, and would support higher education. Paino has not seen this kind of engagement in Missouri; we all need to be more politically savvy.
Marc Becker asked whether Paino has been in touch with people of the Missouri Budget Project. He answered that he had read what the AAUP chapter sent him about this, but has not been in touch with the organization; what he read there is in line with other information sources about the state budget.
In the past year, Paino believes that the coalition in higher education to fight budget cuts has helped energize the governor to increase funding for higher education. Among the Republicans who have supported increases for higher education, and who decided not to vote for an override of the governor’s veto, are our two local representatives. They recognized that this was an issue for their local constituents. However, as a group the faculty in Missouri are not well organized, and need to be if they want to exert pressure at the state level.
Paino ended the conversation by appealing to those present to ask their Faculty Senate representatives to communicate to their departments about what Paino says to the Faculty Senate. Communications from faculty senators to their departments is mixed; sometimes Paino assumes that what he has said to the FS reaches all the faculty, but it doesn’t reach many of them. To assure that it does, it is important that faculty senators communicate with their departments.