The Moon Room

A Community Forum on Guilford College Faculty Life

Faculty compensation

September 24th, 2019

I was part of a meeting on Friday with several members of college leadership, our compensation consultant Christine Riley, Jim Hood, and Natalya Shelkova (from compensation committee).

In that meeting, we discussed whether the college has been using the wrong number for setting faculty salary targets over the past three years. We know that in 2018 and 2019, and maybe in 2017, the college used the median of individual salaries of professors at our peer institutions rather than what our policy calls for, which is the median of mean faculty salaries at our peer institutions. Natalya, Jim, and I were in agreement that the median of individual salaries is both (a) not the number specified in the policy, (b) not a number that works in our target formula, and (c) a number that tends to be significantly lower than the number specified in the policy, especially for full professors. I have confirmed this gap by comparing our target salaries for this year, and the CUPA data on which they were based, with the median of peer institutional mean salaries (the number we’re supposed to be using) from AAUP. I shared that information with you around the time of the opening faculty meeting in this document.

In Friday’s meeting, Christine Riley confirmed that the intent of the policy was to use the median of institutional means salaries among our peer institutions, something that the faculty members of Compensation Committee have also confirmed.

It is clear that for each of the last three raise cycles, our salary targets at most ranks were set too low, sometimes far too low (e.g. ~$7500 for full professors in 2018). We now know that this was not merely bad data, as was cited last year, but instead it was an error in implementation. The outcome of that error has been to deny equitable raises to faculty, particularly to full professors, under the compensation policy. The money that would have gone to faculty has instead been allocated to staff, whose targets were set correctly.

I raised this issue in August 2018, immediately after the raise letters came out with very low targets for full professors. I had the magnitude of the shortfall figured out by September 2018. The college delayed in discussing this until February 2019 and then declined to take any reparative action at all. The only action it took was to change our peer group to a larger and different set of peers. Using a different peer group did not fix the error, and in July 2019, the college again set targets far too low, again without running the salary target numbers through Clerk’s Committee as indicated should be done under the policy. This review by Clerk’s has never happened in the history of the policy, despite being written into it.

In 2018, I did not know that we were asking CUPA for the wrong number. All I knew was that the targets were way too low, and I accepted that it was possible that changing the peer group might help to address what had been very inconsistent and skimpy data from CUPA for 2017 and 2018, although I still felt that the college should do something to correct for the impossibly low numbers it had used in those years.

In July 2019, Jim Hood and I reviewed the raw CUPA data in the human resources office. We discovered that the college was using not just incomplete or flawed data, but had in fact asked for entirely the wrong kind of number from CUPA. It later became clear that it had been using the wrong kind of number for at least 2018 and 2019, and perhaps also for 2017.

At the meeting on Friday, the administrators there seemed to accept that they had made these errors in implementing the salary policy for faculty. I hope they will make a public statement to that effect. After that discussion, which occupied the first half of the meeting, there was some discussion about two concerns. The first was whether the correct institutional data could be delivered by CUPA, and the second was whether using a median of means for faculty targets was fair to staff, whose targets are set based on individual medians.

The first concern, about CUPA data, is largely immaterial – if we cannot get the correct numbers from CUPA, we certainly can from AAUP, which is open-access and much more robust in reporting than is CUPA. CUPA has not served us well in any of the three raise cycles, even setting aside our asking it for the wrong numbers, because they consistently have a small minority of our peer instiutions reporting, and the numbers we’ve gotten from them have varied a great deal (unrealistically so) between years. If we can’t get CUPA to work, we can just use AAUP.

The second concern, about potential fairness questions between faculty and staff, is also immaterial, at least for the past three raise cycles. The college’s compensation committee, comprised of faculty and staff, agreed on this policy. The college published it and implemented it, but it then used incorrect numbers that significantly undercut faculty raises and compensation, three times. That is a wrong that should be righted, and I believe it to be legally actionable, although I hope we do not need to go that route.

Even if the second concern (fairness) doesn’t matter for the past three raises, it does matter for the future of the policy, because we want the faculty and staff formulas to be fair, and we want both groups of employees to reach equitable peer targets. However, I actually don’t think staff salary targets would change much if they were based on medians of institutional means rather than medians of individuals. This is because there are many, many kinds of staff positions, and most of them are unique or in very small numbers at institutions our size. Therefore, a median of individuals will be essentially the same as a median of institutional means for these positions. This is in contrast to faculty positions, where there are only four ranks we track, and they contain many faculty, who are often in those ranks for a long time, with salaries that can vary by tens of thousands of dollars at Guilford (or even by hundreds of thousands at some of our peers). I would be happy to check my prediction here if I am given the data to work with, but my sense is that there is no fairness issue in this area. Regardless, we should have followed the policy we have on the books, and we should keep following it correctly until we agree to change it. The fairness issue is, I think, a red herring at this point, given that we had a policy and didn’t follow it in a way that was already unfair.

I don’t know what happens now. It’s my strong feeling that something should be done to repair the harm caused by this error, and that the repair should be more significant and more immediate than just “we’ll do better in the future,” because all tenure-track faculty have been and continue to be negatively impacted. I would like to talk to people about what the nature of that repair should be, because while I can represent the math well, I have no current role in representing the faculty.

I am attaching five slides I prepared for the Friday meeting which lay out the argument I made. Natalya also prepared slides on the median/mean issue and discussed it very effectively. If you need help interpreting what I’ve got here, please ask questions in the comments. There’s a caption under each slide that gives some context and guidance.

This shows the policy language that clearly says we should use the mean of peer means by rank.
This shows our formula as applied this year. It takes the peer value and subtracts our mean years of service and mean disciplinary weight (and also the terminal degree, although that’s not shown). This explicitly sets our mean target salary to the peer value, which should therefore be a mean.
This is a multi-part argument showing why what we’ve done is incorrect.
This shows the numeric impact of the low targets and lost raises. The targets were set at the top of the light blue, but they should have been set at the top of the red checked area. The raises derived from the wrong targets are shown in darker blue, and the raises we were due but didn’t get are shown in red. The unawarded raise amounts are corrected for reallocation of the raise pool (see next image).
This is an estimate of the impact of the bad peer values we have used, both in terms of raises but also in terms of total lost compensation. Every month that goes by without fixing this, we lose more money compared to where we should be. Note: this does not include the 11% match that most tenure-track faculty receive for their retirement contribution.

Raise comparison between faculty and administrators

May 7th, 2019

I asked for Guilford’s most recent IRS Form 990. I do this for several reasons, but I got started with the 990’s after the administrator bonus fiasco at the end of the Chabotar administration in order to have a look at our reported compensation for administrators. This most recent report allowed me to track the impact of the January 2017 raises for some of our administrators. I’ve shown the raises below, compared with changes in faculty compensation as reported to the AAUP for the same years.

Data

Data sources for administrators are 2016-17 and 2017-18 Form 990’s, which cover our fiscal year. Because of a change in our fiscal year start date, the 2016-17 report only covered 11 months, so I prorated the salaries reported in that document to 12 months before calculating the raises.

Data sources for faculty are our average salary by rank for the academic years 2016-17 and 2017-18 as reported to the AAUP by the college.

The 2016-17 numbers include part of the period covered by the large January 2017 raises. I think those raises are included in the 990 reports, because those report total dollars. I am not sure if they are included in the AAUP faculty salary reports, but I don’t think they were, because they show very little change from 2015-16 numbers. If the January 2017 raises were included in the 2016-17 data for administrators and not for faculty, then the difference between faculty and administrators is even more stark, and the faculty raise percentages should be decreased by about half to make them comparable.

For the administrators, I only included people who were working for the full year in both years and whose income was reported on the 990 in both years, with two exceptions:

  • Todd Clark, whose reported compensation dropped between the two years for reasons unknown to me, and
  • Kent Chabotar, whose compensation was set at $100,000 for five years following his presidency under the terms of his initial presidential contract

Barbara Lawrence is a special case, because her position changed from faculty to VP between those two years, so the high raise percentage shown probably mostly represents her new position. Her faculty compensation was high enough (>$100K) to be reported on the 990 in the earlier year, likely in part because of her involvement in the prison education project.

Analysis and Notes

With the exception of Jimmy Wilson, all of the administrators listed received higher raises (by percentage) than all faculty ranks. Jimmy’s raise percent was higher than all faculty ranks except Associate.

In dollar terms, all of the raises were higher than average faculty raises, in some cases much higher. Administrator raises for those on this list ranged from about $8,000 to $26,000, while the faculty averages changed by $2,000 to $4,300.

Jane Fernandes’ salary is set by the board and is not included in the compensation plan. The board granted her a raise during this time.

If the compensation plan was applied appropriately to all of these individuals other than Jane, for whom the plan does not apply, this outcome (higher raises for administrators than faculty) is possible if the administrators listed were all farther behind their targets than the average faculty member. I don’t know if that is true, because I don’t know the targets used for administrators, but do we know the faculty are far below their targets, so the administrators would have to be even worse off. That doesn’t seem entirely likely, given that faculty were at or near the 20th percentile among peers. However, setting targets for administrative positions is tricky, because the administrative positions we have don’t necessarily equate to similar positions at other institutions.

The raises for faculty were affected by the bad data used to set targets, as I’ve discussed earlier this year. That error was likely not made for administrators. All faculty ranks were affected by the improperly low targets in the first round of raises in January 2017, included in these data. However, the effect of these low targets is not big enough to account for the full difference in raise percentages between faculty and administrators.

Some faculty members who were farther from their targets received larger percentage raises than those who were closer. For example, my personal percent raise during this period was 8.9%, higher than the full professor average and higher than some of the administrators.

There is the potential for an apples-to-oranges issue here, because the faculty percentages are based on groups of 20-30 people, while the administrator raises are individuals. However, assuming the faculty salaries are reported correctly, that should produce no significant systematic difference in the numbers, with the possible exception that retirements, departures, or promotions of many high-salary faculty at any rank could depress the average salary for that rank to some extent, though likely not too much. When looking at the numbers, remember that the individual faculty raises are a range centered around the percentages reported, and are probably on average a little higher than the reported figure due to retirements/departures.

Updated compensation percentiles

April 13th, 2019

Back in February, I calculated an update to the Category IIB percentiles we used to publish in our Factbook. That post is here.

The AAUP has now posted data for the 2018-19 academic year. This year includes both the recent rounds of raises in January 2017 (in effect for the last half of 2016-17, although I don’t think that our AAUP salary reporting included the raises until 2017-18) and August 2018 (in effect presumably for the 2018-19 reporting).

I’ve updated each graph I made for the earlier post. Those are below, with interpretation:

Here are my interpretations of the additional year of data. Please see the earlier post for a more complete analysis.

  • Of the four ranks at Guilford tracked here (heavy solid lines), all showed a modest increase in 2018.
  • Nationally, the AAUP median for Category IIB schools increased more than Guilford’s raises for Associate and Assistant, which means we lost some ground against the median of our peer group at those ranks. This is not a surprise given the small size of our raise pool last year.
  • Nationally, the AAUP median for Category IIB schools increased less than Guilford’s raises for Full and Instructor, which means we gained ground against the median of our peer group at those ranks.
  • For Instructors, our reported modest increase in salary contrasted with the drop in the national IIB median Instructor salaries.
  • For Full Professors, our reported increase in salary coming in slightly stronger than the increase in the median may have to do with the large gaps full professors had from their targets, which meant they may have gotten more of the raise pool under our formula than others who were closer – i.e., we’re still pretty far behind our peers, but we filled in a little of the gap. I suppose we could have had fewer retirements or departures than other schools, also – we lost so many folks in 2016-17 that we have fewer left to lose now, which might have elevated our numbers somewhat relative to others. This is all speculation, though.
  • Fundamentally, in 2018-19, we appear to have more or less kept pace with other IIB schools in terms of dollars, but we did not make progress on closing our sizable gaps with them except at Instructor rank, which we only did because of a national decline in Instructor pay. Though not the best outcome, this is better than period from 2010-2016, when we stagnated or even lost ground in real dollars (this was even worse if you take inflation into account, which was a total of about 10% over that period).

Here is the impact on our percentiles compared to other IIB schools:

Remember that these percentiles are tracking a different thing from the dollar values above. The percentiles are only about our ranking relative to other similar schools, while the first graph is raw dollars.

Here are my interpretations of the additional year of data on percentiles. Please see the earlier post for a more complete analysis of the history.

  • At all ranks except instructor, we lost ground in terms of percentiles.
  • This was most pronounced at Assistant rank, which grew more strongly nationally than other ranks.
  • That means that, unlike 2017-18, when we made significant upward progress in our ranking, other schools passed us, although this didn’t wipe out all of the progress we made with the January 2017 raises.
  • We are now back to similar percentiles from 2013, when we were already in the midst of our very steep decline, as opposed to our heyday in 2008-09, when we were still well below where we’d set our goals at the time but (unbeknownst to us) at easily the highest level we’d experience for the next decade.
  • If we reach the stated goal of our compensation plan, we will be up near the 50th percentile for IIB, which is close to both the original Compensation Plan peer group of 46 schools and to the revised peer group of ~350 schools proposed this year.

Here are the raw numbers and last year’s percentage change in table form.

Guilford 2017-18 2018-19 Percent  change
Full  $    74,700  $    76,200 2.0%
Assoc  $    60,000  $    60,500 0.8%
Asst  $    56,200  $    56,400 0.4%
Inst  $    46,300  $    47,100 1.7%
IIB Medians 2017-18 2018-19 Percent  change
Full  $    87,300  $    87,800 0.6%
Assoc  $    71,300  $    72,100 1.1%
Asst  $    61,200  $    62,300 1.8%
Inst  $    53,500  $    52,500 -1.9%

 

We need to have raises at least as big as last year’s not to lose ground. If we want to regain some of what we’ve lost, or even (heaven help us) reach our stated goal, we’ll need to have raises that average more like 4-5%.

Not all of that needs to come from new revenue. Every year we have some more senior, more highly compensated folks retire, and if they’re replaced, they are usually replaced with younger, lower-compensated folks, which creates room for raises for remaining faculty without adding to the overall budget.

That’s how I see it. Let me know if you have questions.

Invitation from Guilford’s AAUP chapter

September 14th, 2015

[From Richie Zweigenhaft, Gail Webster, and Maria Rosales]

The three of us have been active for a number of years now in the Guilford chapter of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP). We met recently to talk about our plans for the coming year. Among the things we talked about was posting a message on The Moon Room about the AAUP so that newer arrivals to Guilford will be aware that we have a chapter, and so that older-timers will be reminded that we are around. This is that message.

As you can see on the link below, the AAUP is a national organization that has fought to defend faculty governance and the tenure system since early in the twentieth century. There was an AAUP group that met sporadically at Guilford in the 1970s, but it was only in 2007 that the current chapter was established as the result of discussions that grew out of a faculty reading group. Over the past eight years, we have done various reports (e.g., on the experiences of contingent faculty at Guilford College), we have stimulated others to do reports (e.g., a report by the Budget Committee on matters related to faculty and administrative compensation), we have brought speakers to the campus, and we have sponsored forums (e.g., to discuss the qualities we hoped that the College would seek in a President when it did a search a few years ago).

https://intranet.guilford.edu/?page_id=6929

Most years we have picked a single issue to focus on primarily, but some years we have simply met periodically to talk and we have waited to see what issues were emerging that we thought we should address. We have not yet formulated a plan for this year, but we invite you to suggest topics, and we would be glad to talk individually with you about the AAUP at Guilford.

Richie Zweigenhaft
Gail Webster
Maria Rosales

The Moon Room

A Community Forum on Guilford College Faculty Life