The issue with the annual increment

I’m getting a lot of mail about the revised letters that Frank posted. Rather than answer them all separately, let me put some of that here.

The graph below shows three different models applied to three different faculty ranks.

The 2018 model (heavy dashes) used a $300 per year annual increment, as we’ve been doing since the beginning of the compensation plan. It also used salary baselines that were far too low because of spotty non-representative data we got from CUPA. Had we used robust peer data, such as from AAUP, all of those 2018 lines would be significantly higher.

The wrong 2019 model (faint dashes) was the source of the first contract letter that got sent out this year. It used updated baselines based on our bigger group of peers, and it was higher at all ranks, because the new CUPA data didn’t suck and was more representative. This wrong model used an annual increment of $300/$400/$500 for assistant/associate/full, which is why the lines are steeper than the 2018 model. This was one of the options discussed by Compensation Committee last year, but they went with a higher annual increment. That’s the error mentioned in the new contract letters.

The correct 2019 model (heavy solid lines) uses the appropriate $300/$500/$700 annual increment that Compensation Committee agreed on. That produces lines that are even steeper at higher faculty rank. However, they aren’t higher or lower than the “wrong model” lines, because the baseline for each rank got recalculated (appropriately) to reflect the average service time. The point where the wrong (light dashes) and correct (heavy solid) meet is the peer median value we use to set targets and represents the average target salary by rank. Because there was no change in peer median between the wrong and correct models, they cross at that point. The assistant lines aren’t any steeper and didn’t change between letters, because they still use the $300 annual increment.

The correction means that if you are associate or full rank, if you have less credited experience than the average amount for your rank, you likely saw a drop in target between the first and second 2019 contract letters, while if you have more experience than the average amount for your rank, you likely saw an increease in target. That’s not wrong – it’s just the model being applied with the corrected numbers.

The point of changing the increments at associate and full was to reduce compression at those ranks. For example, the old model only had about $9000 difference in target between when you got promoted to full and when you retired 3+ decades later at the end of a 45-year career. That’s a much narrower and more compressed range than most other schools have, and it meant that our new full professors had really high targets, almost as high as our late-career full professors. By increasing the slope, we spread out the range of incomes much more, to better match the shape of most careers in academia and in other fields.

Importantly, these changes in increment were not intended to move the line up. When they changed the annual increment in the corrected letter, they also had to decrease the base to ensure the mean full compensation stayed in the same place, which is what the model intended.

There is another issue with the peer data they used this year, which affected the baselines they set. I don’t think we did that correctly. I’ve raised this issue with Frank, and I’m waiting on a response. If we did it correctly, we’d likely see a fairly significant increase to some targets, and we would be where we intended to be at this point rather than artificially low (for the third year in a row).