Faculty deserve a concrete plan for the salary increases already committed to. Maybe we will get one on Feb 14 at 2pm Grandfather Ballroom.
The Happy Hour Memo from Chancellor Everts on Faculty Salaries – Friday, Feb 7 at 5pm – does not contain a concrete plan or commitment. Perhaps you were drinking when you read it, or missed it altogether. Here it is, with annotations:
Since my arrival on Appalachian’s campus in 2014, I have remained steadfast in my commitment to improve working conditions for all Appalachian employees. This includes investing in our physical infrastructure to support our faculty, staff and students. It also includes improving the compensation structure for our most valuable resource: our people.
Faculty perform the core mission of the university and it is the faculty specifically who have suffered dramatic salary decline. It was the faculty salaries specifically that the administration committed to raise by an average of 4.99% starting July 1, 2019. The Chancellor has invested heavily in athletics infrastructure. The badly needed renovations to Sanford Hall, where our first year students take their required composition courses, are on hold. Other academic buildings routinely flood or leak water from the ceilings. And yet the football stadium end zone project goes over budget by $5million and the administration immediately seeks approval to spend an additional $5million.
As I advocate for Appalachian at the state level, I consistently emphasize these two key areas.
This is hard to believe in light of what the Chancellor told the Board of Trustees at the Nov 2019 meeting. The first 7 substantive paragraphs of that report to the BOT had to do with successes in athletics and the activities at football games. There were but two paragraphs each on faculty and on staff, and there was absolutely no emphasis on the need to increase our compensation to stay competitive.
Authorization, compliance and reporting measures for different sources of funds add additional layers of complexity to an already complex system.
The administration knew not to expect more than a small percent increase to the budget from the state this year, and had already committed to a 4.99% faculty salary increase from a reallocation of existing funds. It’s not that complex. It’s time to honor the commitment.
Remaining competitive in the current higher education market is critical to Appalachian’s success, and competitive compensation is one key to recruiting and retaining the talented faculty and staff who create the premier undergraduate experience for which Appalachian is often lauded.
And yet the administration has for the past five years starved the faculty, adding one administrator after another, paying them handsome salaries well above market rates. The Chancellor just doubled the salary of the Athletics Director – who now earns nearly $500,000 with added bonuses and raises built in. Evidently it’s more important that Appalachian remains competitive in Athletics than competitive in Academics. Actions speak louder than words.
The ideal scenario for salary increases is legislative funding and authority to provide a merit-based annual raise process this year. It remains my priority to continue advocating for this option using every available avenue.
Of course, the IDEAL scenario is legislative funding. But the fact remains that the institution can use the money it has to pursue its central mission and pay its core actors, the faculty. If times are tight, it’s even more crucial to spend wisely and prioritize the central mission of the institution. But then maybe the university’s mission is just a bunch of words.
However, in the event that we ultimately do not get an approved budget and authority to conduct an annual raise process, we will explore options within our existing campus authority. For example, at my direction, Vice Chancellor Paul Forte and Human Resources Director Mark Bachmeier have been working with Academic Affairs to identify how resources can best be applied toward labor market adjustments for faculty and staff.
We will explore options only if we do not get an approved budget in April?? And yet, our sister institution, NC State, did not wait. NC State found internal money for faculty salary increases and released the funds in Jan. 2020. We ought to know if Appalachian’s hands are tied or not, and how and why.
At this point, we feel the best path forward is to wait for the legislature to reconvene, and make a decision that will have the broadest possible impact for the most employees, but we are prepared to act within our existing authority.
In other words, the Chancellor does not want to proffer the raises now. She prefers to wait. She does not mention her commitment to giving the 4.99% raise pool for faculty salary increases. In fact, faculty specifically are not even mentioned. The 4.99% is not mentioned. Raises being retroactive to July 1, 2019 not mentioned. The administration already committed to a 4.99% faculty salary merit increase to be retroactive to July 1, 2019. The 4.99% faculty raise pool would cost about $5million. The administration has already committed an EXTRA $5million to cover cost overruns for the football stadium renovations. Just look at where the money and efforts go. Actions speak louder than words.
It is important we control what we can as we continue advocating for a sustainable source of funds and the authority to move forward, unified in our shared goal to achieve a compensation structure that matches the talent of our employees.
Sheri Everts, Chancellor
Actions speak louder than words. It is not clear that solving the faculty salary crisis is a goal our Chancellor shares with the faculty.