Budget offers MU faculty a gloomy outlook,
University of Missouri faculty members are going to need some tough talks about how the system should boost salaries to a level comparable with peer universities.

That was the take-away message of a more than hourlong meeting yesterday between Betsy Rodriguez, vice president of human resources, and about 40 MU faculty members on campus. The presentation was a scaled-down version of the five-hour presentation Rodriguez gave the UM Board of Curators in August.

“I don’t want you to leave depressed, I want you to leave with a lot of questions” and things to discuss, Rodriguez said at the end of the program.

The facts aren’t encouraging. MU ranks at or near the bottom of every salary list when compared to peer universities, even when colleges on the coasts are taken out of the mix.

And a salary gap between new employees entering at market value and their more experienced counterparts creates a systematic salary problem, she said.

In some cases, new hires end up with higher salaries than veteran faculty members.

And that can be awkward, said Greg Alexander, a School of Nursing assistant professor. He said he has noticed when filling out grant forms with co-investigators that he makes more than veteran colleagues. Although no one talks about it, “there’s definitely a morale issue,” he said.

Boosting salaries requires money the system doesn’t have. Rodriguez said it would cost $8 million to increase salaries by 1 percent.

A $32 million increase in state funding would allow the university to give a 4 percent raise, roughly a cost-of-living increase, Rodriguez said. But if current trends continue, the state won’t have that kind of extra money to spend. The Associated Press reported yesterday that Missouri tax revenues plunged 10 percent in the first quarter of this budget year.

Another option to give a 4 percent raise would be to raise tuition 8 percent. That’s also unlikely because state law limits how much a public university can raise tuition in a year without special permission. Plus, that increase would be a hard sale to the public and students, Rodriguez said.

She challenged employees to consider whether they’d want to reduce some benefits — such as a better-than-average early retirement health plan — in exchange for higher take-home pay. She also questioned whether employees would want to look at doing away with systemwide tuition and salary increases and instead base those increases on individual campuses.

“These are tough discussions,” Rodriguez said. “We can no longer afford not to” increase salaries, “so how are we going to pay for it?”

Although there are no current answers, MU Faculty Council Chairwoman Leona Rubin said there are places to consider. For instance, she questioned whether duplicate programs are needed on each of the four UM campuses.

Mainly, she said, faculty needs to have a seat at the discussion table.

“Whatever the solutions are, they need to be coming from the bottom up as well as the top down,” Rubin said. The decisions “are not going to be easy.”

Posted by imran Saturday, October 3, 2009


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