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 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.

Housekeeping information and communication page

April 17th, 2018

I’ve set up a page regarding the outsourcing of housekeeping with information and links to documents. That page is here:


I’ve turned on comments there, so people can discuss or ask questions. I thought that might be perhaps less chaotic than a multi-step e-mail chain. I also thought it would be more accessible to Guilford staff, who can’t read the faculty e-mail chain on this topic, who aren’t permitted to write to the address, and who might wish to take part in the discussion or make anonymous comments.

Compensation Committee Updates

September 25th, 2016

Compensation Committee has asked me to share with the community the following items. These are located on the Committees@Guilford Google Drive folder in the Faculty Meetings section under the September 28 2016 Meeting.

The items are:

  • The Faculty Salary subcommittee’s report from last May 2016
  • The updated recommendations from the subcommittee from September 2016
  • A set of slides describing the recommendations and the thinking behind them which will be presented at the Faculty Meeting on September 28, 2016.

Note that with the slides, there are a set at the beginning that will be presented, and then another group at the end that provide further information and background.

I have also updated the Salary Calculator I programmed on the Moon Room last May to reflect the new proposal. Feel free to go there and see what your salary might be under the new proposal.

Clarification on compensation policy with regard to non-tenure-track faculty

June 18th, 2016

Some questions have come up on how the proposed compensation policy might affect part-time, temporary, and non-tenure track faculty. Here’s what I think the situation is now:

For part-time faculty, compensation is handled using the new compensation structure implemented by Beth last year. This is as follows:

  • $4000 per four-credit course.
  • $1250 per one-credit course.
  • $2500 per two-credit course.
  • $850 per lab section.
  • For four-credit courses, faculty earn an additional $500 if the course enrolled more than 25 students.
  • For four-credit courses, faculty earn an additional $500 for courses that end after 10 pm.
  • This structure applies regardless of whether there are CCE or traditional students enrolled.
  • This structure does not apply to music lessons, which are compensated from student fees.

For visiting full-time faculty, salaries are currently set by or negotiated with the Dean’s office as for tenure-track faculty.  Under the compensation policy proposal, they would fit under the faculty formula, which includes a base for rank (visiting or non-tenure-track is one of the ranks) plus additional increments for a terminal degree, for experience, and for some disciplines (amounts and which disciplines still to be determined).  Full-time non-tenure-track faculty are included in the hypothetical salary calculator I wrote, which is here.

Sorry for any confusion. Please feel free to ask questions or leave comments below this post or in the forums I’ve set up.


Notes from informal compensation meeting June 17 2016

June 17th, 2016

We had an informal meeting to discuss the proposals and environment for compensation at Guilford today. About twelve people came, including four from the compensation committee (all also on the faculty salary subcommittee). All were faculty except Christine Riley (compensation committee consultant) and Daniel Diaz (staff member of the compensation committee).

We had a wide-ranging discussion covering many parts of the compensation policy and also some general questions and comments on present and past leadership and initiatives at Guilford. Though the conversation was free-flowing, here are some of the points that came up:

  • The draft of the compensation formula is a little depressing to some because it points out how far behind we are from comparison with other schools. Most present had used the draft salary target calculator to calculate their target. There was some concern about who would make decisions about its subjective components, like how to count previous experience. People expressed a desire for transparency, clarity and an opportunity to review the components of the formula after they’re assigned.
  • One faculty member described a current problematic situation where there was a visiting faculty member Guilford very much wanted to recruit, but the salary we were able to offer (despite approaching the average for tenure-track assistant professors) was $15,000 less than their current visiting position at a similar small school. Other faculty members talked about issues they faced when hired, or issues that have arisen as their careers have progressed, where their salaries have been out of balance with colleagues within or outside of their departments.
  • It is very hard to know how large the problems are, or where they are most severe, without knowing more information about salaries. Some present were frustrated that there is not more information provided. Some would want to go as far as to publish salaries, but others were uncomfortable with that idea. Compromise strategies for information release were also discussed, including describing ranges, trends, and distributions rather than individual salaries, or creating a randomized virtual data set that has a similar distribution and trend to ours but would not reflect the salaries of real faculty.
  • Prioritizing the order and magnitude of salary adjustments is complex, both within faculty and also across all faculty and staff. Most present who spoke seemed to feel that, while the worst off should gain the most prompt and largest adjustments, it would be worth making some progress for everyone who is below targets rather than only addressing the issues in order of severity. That would be closest to the third model on this page.
  • The component of the faculty salary formula that reflects market differences by discipline was discussed. Nobody seemed particularly excited about it, but the modest disciplinary adjustments, to be phased out as we approach targets, seemed not to be unacceptable to those who commented. Being very clear and open about how discipline-based adjustments will be made, and based on what data sets, was important to some of those who attended.
  • There was a significant amount of skepticism about whether Guilford would actually be able to commit permanent sustained funds, or commit them fast enough to make a difference, to move salaries towards their targets. Some noted that we have not ever really prioritized faculty salaries other than an occasional bump. Including annual growth in compensation budgets, which we have started doing this year, is an important positive change, but we are far enough behind that we’ll need to do more than this to make progress toward the target salaries, which seem very distant ideals at this point.
  • We also discussed (or speculated about) what opinions the Board of Trustees has about this process, or whether they could or should be a source of leadership on these issues. It was noted that there seems to be positive movement on that front with some board members who seem willing to advocate for employees and for adequate compensation.

These were not the only topics, and I am sure I have not adequately summarized the complexity or breadth of people’s opinions here. Please feel free to ask questions in comments below, and if the people present wish to add more observations, please do so below.

We discussed whether to have another one of these meetings over the summer. If you would be interested in having another meeting, please let me know, and we can try to organize one in July or early August. Also, feel free to keep asking questions here or posting comments on the other pages.


Models for salary adjustments

June 3rd, 2016

The ad hoc Compensation Committee has been working to produce a formula for faculty compensation which I’ll be sharing with you over the next couple of days. We’ll be inviting participation and feedback as we head into next year, when we hope to implement a comprehensive policy with formulas and targets for faculty and staff salaries.

Supposing that all goes off without a hitch, there’s a chance we may have money to allocate to salary increases as early as the middle of next year. I and others have encouraged the college to include salary adjustment money as a continual and growing part of the college’s budget process, the same way we budget for maintenance, computers, subscriptions, and supplies. Under that plan, if approved, we will have some room to make salary adjustments every year *(unless the budget reaches deficit and faces cuts, in which case the pool for salary adjustments might be cut just as any other budget line might).

So, with perhaps unwarranted yet unbridled optimism, a question interesting to me is how we might apply adjustments to existing salaries. The following are in place as starting conditions:

  1. There will be a formula in place for faculty (and probably staff) salaries based on parameters like length of service and rank
  2. Most faculty will be below their targets, although possibly not all
  3. After guaranteeing a living wage for all employees, which is our first priority, the draft compensation philosophy recommends that we address those employees farthest below their targets first.
  4. Even if above formula targets, no salaries will be reduced as part of this process, although such highly compensated people will likely not get raises for a long while.

Imagine, then, a set of faculty who are mostly below their targets, like this:


As you can see, most faculty are below their targets, although two (#5 and #9) are above. Faculty member #4 seems to be the worst off, while #8 is close to the target.

Here are some models that could be used to get faculty up to their formula-specified targets.

Model #1: Capped flat percent raises

One of the simplest models for salary adjustments is to assign all raises based on a flat overall percentage. Although the methodology for allocation of raises at Guilford in the past has been secret, it seems in many cases to have followed this model for most faculty (likely with additional adjustments for increased rank, positive performance, and other factors).

Imagine if we applied this model, but capped salaries at their formula-specified limits. This would violate our principle of helping those farthest below their targets first, but it would be simple to calculate. I’ve created an animation of how that might look here:


As you can see, faculty member #8 reaches the formula target first, while #4 takes the longest to hit the formula.

This model, while simple, is really the opposite of what we want to do. I don’t think we should follow it, even though flat percent raises are often broadly applied in academia and in the general job market.

Model #2: Help the worst off first

Another approach would be to give raises to those faculty members farthest below their formula targets first. This could be calculated either as a dollar amount or as a percentage, but the percentage approach seems more appropriate. Here’s what that looks like:


As you can see here, application of raises is somewhat spotty, as the worst-off people get helped first. Faculty member #4 gets many raises, including several from the first few phases, while faculty member #8 waits nearly to the end of the process to receive a raise.

Model #3: Proportional adjustments

Finally, here’s another model. This is mathematically more complex, but what it does is assign a pool of raise money to everyone below the formula target based on how far they are from the target. Again, this could be done by dollars or by percent, but I used percentages. It looks like this:


What you see here is that everyone below the formula target grows towards the target and receives a raise every year, but the size of the raise is proportional to the deficit. This also means that everyone reaches their target at about the same time (other than the folks who are already at or above when the process starts).


One caveat – obviously, our formula targets should move upward over time in response to inflation and salary changes at our comparison schools, so these models I’ve made don’t include that factor. It’s not hard to add, though.

I’d be curious what people think of these. Both #2 and #3 above honor the priority to help those worst off first, although #2 does it more literally. I think #3 might generate less confusion and more goodwill, although it is slower to correct the worst problems.

If there are other models or approaches people would like me to animate, let me know and I can do it.


Data requested at Faculty Forum on Compensation

February 25th, 2016

From Christine Riley:

As promised, I’m sending along the website where you can find the CUPA data we referenced. CUPA is the gold standard for staff salaries in higher education, and they are the only organization [that I know of] that surveys faculty salaries by discipline. This information is publicly available.
Look for the link for “Executive Summary” on this page.  There are also reports from the past 7 years, if you’re interested. Drilling down into this data requires institutional membership [which I believe we are getting.]
Also, Damon asked how many faculty are in each rank at Guilford:
Instructors: 11
Lecturers:   17
Asst Prof:    33
Assoc Prof:  29
Professors:  35
These include those with ‘visiting’ in their titles.
UPDATE: Here’s a document that lists visiting vs. tenured/tenure-track faculty: Faculty list

The Moon Room

A Community Forum on Guilford College Faculty Life