August 23, 2000

C.U. Plans Faculty Salary Increase

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Overworked? Perhaps. But underpaid no more if the University has its way with faculty salaries.

President Hunter R. Rawlings III and Provost Biddy (Carolyn A.) Martin announced a program last month that is intended to raise average faculty salaries and affect virtually every department in the University.

“For 20 years Cornell faculty salaries have been sinking in comparison to peer institutions,” said R. Laurence Moore, history, “and now they stand at the bottom.”

The initiative, a particular administrative priority that follows the ambitious investments in North and West campus development, focuses on the University’s standing among competing peer institutions.

“Cornell regards itself — rightfully so — as one of the top schools in the country and the world,” said Prof. Paul Sherman, neurobiology and behavior, noting the recent distinction paid the University by Time magazine and The Princeton Review.

Earlier this week the two publications converged to print a magazine that recognizes elite institutions of higher education, and Cornell was selected as the private research university of note.

By 2007 Cornell aims to improve its faculty salary ranking among 11 specific competitor instituitions. Currently the University is last on a list of state-supported universities including North Carolina and Michigan State University. Cornell fares next to last on a list of endowed universities featuring Chicago, Yale and UCLA.

Sherman served an ad hoc committee this summer in the College of Arts and Sciences to study faculty salaries. He perceived a sense of dismay in the college due to the disparity in faculty salaries, especially in light of the academic success this University has maintained against higher paying competitors.

“It’s not so much that Cornell is losing faculty left and right but that the faculty here was feeling discouraged and disappointed,” he said.

Despite a retention level that is by no means labile — about one percent of the University faculty leaves Cornell each year — a strong faculty sentiment indicated that the salary issue is one of great concern. The Arts and Sciences committee received 406 responses to a college-wide inquiry and petition this summer that addressed low faculty salaries.

“I think if we don’t compete with schools, we are liable to lose faculty. [Furthermore,] the people that the other schools want are the people who are probably not being paid what they are worth,” said Thomas R. Dyckman, A. W. Olin Professor of Accounting.

A member and incoming chair of the Faculty Senate Financial Policy Committee, Dyckman has been involved in the recent collaboration between faculty, the administration and representatives of the Board of Trustees.

While the President and the Provost have committed to elevating professors’ salaries, the means by which the University will accomplish such a feat will be a product of the deans from each school, and it will be a product of the future. Endowed schools will undertake a five-year process next year and the statutory schools will then begin their initiative, a six-year commitment.

“The President has never said where the money is going to come from,” Dyckman said, highlighting an outstanding concern about the issue that remains to be resolved.

If not from a higher payout from the school’s endowment and from state grants, the University will have to rely on alumni support or a hike in student tuition.

Once the faculty initiative is under way, Dyckman said, another concern of the same nature will remain. There are members of the Cornell staff who have over ten years experience at this school but retain an annual salary of less than $30,000, he explained.

“We have a problem at the staff level too. I worry that we leave the staff behind [while they] should be recognized for their contributions,” he said.

Archived article by Matthew Hirsch