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The Daily Tar Heel

More than money

A faculty retention survey shows that UNC ocials need to take care to educate, inform and cultivate faculty members at this University.

For the most part, students who decide to attend UNC trust that they've chosen a university that will serve their needs, value their contributions and give equal treatment to each of them.

But, as is evident from a recently released report, most of UNC's faculty members aren't nearly as confident - and the administration needs to do a better job of mitigating the confusion.

A lack of funds for raises, improved benefits and research opportunities is a primary contributor to UNC's faculty retention dilemma, but results of a survey of faculty members presented at last Friday's Faculty Council meeting indicates that there are other issues that must be addressed to keep professors here.

Perception is just as important here as is reality. Even though administrators might be doing everything they can to retain instructors, the survey's collection of faculty opinions is a strong indicator of morale - and it's not good.

Almost two-thirds of the 1,493 respondents agreed to some extent that getting an outside offer is the only viable way to get a raise. Only 20 percent disagreed with that. And about a third of those who answered the survey said they don't fully understand the process used to allocate merit raises.

Officials have to level with the faculty about how they choose who's going to get a raise. Although the University's current budget situation keeps administrators from being able to look beyond the at-risk cases, they still have to convince faculty members that competition won't be the only impetus for earning more money in the long term.

Faculty members shouldn't be led to believe that their own university will reward their contributions only when other universities solicit them.

That's a dangerous mentality - one that almost certainly will lead to more professors strongly considering a change in scenery.

The faculty retention dilemma isn't just about re-allocating current funds and waiting for new revenue to arrive. It isn't just about the money - it's also about education. And it's clear that the administration isn't doing enough to set the record straight with faculty members.

Keeping good professors is crucial in the effort to attract new ones.

About 70 percent of respondents from the tenure-track, tenured and fixed-term categories cited the quality of their colleagues as a very important factor in their coming to UNC and in their continued work as faculty members here.

Retaining hard-working, devoted faculty members and recruiting new instructors of high quality actually is a battle.

It's a battle against headhunters at other colleges and universities - recruiters who smell blood and who will not hesitate to pounce on discontented faculty members to enhance their own campuses.

It's a battle against restrictive financial conditions. It's a battle against time, as many valued faculty members are set to retire in the near future.

So much is obvious.

But for administrators, it's also a battle against themselves. They can't afford to rest on their laurels.

They need to face up to the sobering reality of this report and to address promptly the multiple concerns that the faculty has expressed.

If they don't - if they allow the money problem to be the sole, dominant theme - they likely will lose this battle.

In terms of being up front with the faculty and uncovering the naked truth, it's clear that UNC's leaders need to step up the fight. The atmosphere of learning on this campus is at stake.

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