UFF-FSU response to the Administration’s claim that funding for faculty salary increases is limited and that FSU salaries are competitive

The UFF-FSU bargaining team has considered the PowerPoint presentation from June 14’s bargaining session and has concluded that it does not justify the Administration’s claim that faculty salaries need little upward adjusting. The presentation centered on two sets of data, one seeking to show that FSU’s 2017-2018 increase funds are restricted to categories that largely exclude faculty increases and the other seeking to show that FSU faculty are well compensated. We address each in turn.

Regarding the source of funding, on the one hand the UFF does not want to itemize the various pots of money it believes are available for raises, since the UFF role in bargaining entails negotiating the amount—not the source—of raises. But on the other hand, because the PowerPoint presentation sought to bolster the claim that funding for increases was quite limited, we briefly respond with some suggestions about funding sources.

First, the PowerPoint presentation noted that, compared to last year’s budget, in which 40% of new funds were unrestricted, this year’s budget has only 6% of new funds as unrestricted. “Performance funding” is not the only available source of new funds, however. The 2017-18 budget has several categories that go unmentioned but could be drawn on: the wording for the new “World-Class Scholars” program, for example, includes faculty retention as a goal and is funded at over $11 million. Similarly, the “Professional and Graduate Degree Excellence Program in Medicine, Business, and Law” includes language about investments in faculty and was funded for $9 million. Another $1 million has been designated for salaries for Engineering faculty. Moreover, the $17.3 million in Preeminence funds are also available for this purpose. In short, the issue does not appear to be a lack of funds available for faculty salaries but rather a lack of will to spend funds for this purpose. Indeed, the Administration noted during bargaining that this year’s priority is not faculty salaries but rather faculty hiring, student retention and graduation, student support, and graduate student funding. The UFF also supports these goals, but maintains that they should not come at the expense of faculty retention.

Second, the legislature’s annual budget allocation is not the only available source, and drawing on the operating budget and on reserve funds is also an option. As shown in the Special Magistrate’s 2015 decision supporting the UFF positon in the University of Florida impasse, it is appropriate to consider such sources in determining salaries. Our University has available an operating budget of well over $1.5 billion along with unspent and unrestricted carryforward reserves of $210 million.

Third, according to the 2017-2018 budget, the University has allocated an additional 10% for faculty salaries for the coming year. Since hiring for the year is largely complete, if funds remain in that category, they would be available for faculty increases.

In sum, despite the Administration’s claim that Performance funds are the only funds available for raises, several additional sources are available. The problem is less that the money does not exist and more that the Administration is unwilling to prioritize faculty salaries, a stance that it acknowledges. If the Administration maintains that the lack of funds is a problem, then the UFF believes that, in the spirit of community, percentage raises for Administrators should be no higher than those allotted for faculty.

The other major claim in the PowerPoint presentation is that, based on data from US News, FSU faculty are well-compensated compared to faculty at similar institutions, placing sixteenth in the nation among public universities in this regard, after accounting for fringe benefits and cost-of-living adjustments. According to this calculation, FSU Full Professors earn $165,980 on average, Associate Professors earn $122,309, and Assistant Professors earn $110,780, remarkably putting FSU in a tie with University of California at Berkeley and University of Texas at Austin. The UFF-FSU disagrees with this conclusion for several reasons.

First, turning to US News for data on faculty salaries is an odd choice in light of the many reasons to instead rely on the Oklahoma State University Salary Study, which the University has been employing for the past 10 years to calculate FSU’s relative salary position. The two teams have also used the OSU data for calculating Market Equity Adjustments for the past two years and likely will be using it again this coming year. The joint management-faculty report of 2007 explains its advantages:

In fact, there is no one survey that provides timely, detailed, and comprehensive information on all faculty salaries. Oklahoma State University (OSU) publishes perhaps the best and most comprehensive currently available source of information on faculty salaries. . . . Overall, the OSU survey collects information from a little more than 100 institutions each year, including 53 in what was formerly the Carnegie classification called Research I Universities. Florida State University and the University of Florida are both in the Research I class, along with such other universities as the University of California at Berkeley, University of Wisconsin at Madison, University of Michigan, and Pennsylvania State University. The OSU data offer a broad range of detail on discipline salary averages for a good sample of universities, including research universities similar to FSU.

Moreover, the numbers reported by US News do not correspond to FSU’s official and verifiable annual report of salary data to UFF-FSU. That report lists salary averages as of May 2017 (some of which are for 9 months and some of which are for 12 months) as follows:

We do not understand why the Administration would rely on data from an external source, when those data disagree with reliable salary data maintained by FSU’s Department of Human Resources. And if the US News data do not agree with what we know to be true about our own salaries, why should we respect their salary data from other universities?

The US News numbers also seem to have little in common with those from the U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System’s Preliminary Salary Data for 2014-15 (the most recent available). This source reports FSU salaries (with rounding) as follows:

Full Prof:                     $118,400
Associate Prof:           $ 82,900
Assistant Prof:           $ 82,800
Inst/Lect/No Rank:  $ 58,900

These figures are closer to FSU’s own data, despite being two years old and including higher paid faculty in the School of Medicine, School of Law, and faculty administrators. Even considering these factors, the US DOE data seem more credible than those of US News.

The variance between FSU’s own data/US DOE data and the US News data is both vast and problematic. As noted above, US News’ comparison group is all public universities rather than only doctoral-granting ones or those deemed “Very High Research.” US News also relies on a cost of living index that is available only for a fee and thus unavailable for checking. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Tallahassee’s cost of living index is 96.75%. This implies that this factor would not be a large contributor to the high US News salary number. FSU’s fringe benefits average to 28%, which cannot account for the discrepancy. In sum, while it is unclear why US News places FSU so high, it is clear that other sources of data are more in line with one another and report a much lower figure.

Finally, if FSU faculty salaries are on par with comparable institutions, how can it be that the Market Equity adjustment spreadsheet for October 2016 revealed a total Market Equity gap of $10 million? Thanks to the approximately $1 million the teams negotiated last year to help remedy this problem, that figure went down to just over $9 million. Since the new year, however, the gap has again grown due to inflation. What this indicates on its face is that FSU salaries are many millions of dollars below those of faculty in Very High Research institutions. Logic dictates two ways to take care of this Market Equity problem: increases that apply to all faculty and increases geared to address faculty whose salaries are compressed. Without both strategies, FSU will continue to lag behind our peers across the nation.

In short, the UFF believes that while progress has been made in recent years, FSU faculty remain markedly underpaid relative to peer institutions and that rectifying this problem should be a priority and is essential to attaining top-25 status.

Despite these differences, the two teams share the goal of retaining faculty. Florida State University’s 2017-2018 Legislative Request Form lists reasons this goal is a priority. It points out how retaining faculty is cost-effective because it leads to the following outcomes: more sustained relationships between students and faculty, smaller class sizes, better mentoring for students, more research opportunities, and ultimately a better reputation for the University. It goes on to note that “Reducing faculty turnover will facilitate the development of more interdisciplinary programs, which have been shown to not only produce higher-quality research outcomes and unique solutions to problems, but also improve student engagement and learning, promote students’ entrepreneurial activities, and enhance their critical thinking skills. Improving faculty retention means more students will be able to engage in high-impact practices such as directed individual study, undergraduate research, community and project-based learning, honors courses, entrepreneurial activities, and internships.” For all these reasons, we look forward to working together to improve faculty retention by offering meaningful salary increases.

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