Notes from informal compensation meeting June 17 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.