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UNC faculty skeptical of proposed tuition-funded raises

Say raises could come at expense of other needs

One year removed from a state-imposed salary freeze, some faculty members have expressed mixed reactions to a salary raise proposed last week.

At the Friday tuition and fee advisory task force meeting, Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Bruce Carney proposed lifting the freeze on faculty salaries, which has been in place since 2009. To fund merit-based pay raises, Carney proposed allocating $2.5 million of next year’s approximately $15 million tuition revenue to faculty salaries.

“It would be nice for morale to build up some salary money,” Carney said. “We want to do everything we can to hold our very best faculty here.”

But that proposal has been met with skepticism from some department chairmen and faculty council members who fear that providing a small pay increase may not solve retention problems.

Beverly Taylor, chairwoman of the English and comparative literature department, said there are multiple sides to the issue of raising salaries.

“Well, I’m sure people would be thrilled to have a raise,” Taylor said. “I’ve frequently heard my colleagues talk about not having a raise in three years.”

But Taylor said she is primarily concerned with the budget cuts within her department, and not her salary.

“It would be impossible for us to keep offering the same number of courses and instructions to the same number of students if we have to make more cuts,” she said.

“But if you lose your best faculty because they’re getting more lucrative job offers at other schools, then that’s a serious setback too.”

Carney said the money would be distributed among all departments, and raises would be given on a merit basis within the individual departments.

He added that funds would be specifically targeted at the College of Arts and Sciences, which receives most of its funding from the state, partially because many faculty members in professional schools attain funding from other jobs or grants, in addition to their state-funded teaching salaries.

McKay Coble, chairwoman of the faculty, said she appreciates the administration’s concerns. But she is concerned that the measure would not provide the silver bullet to prevent faculty members from leaving for other institutions.

“What is felt is the genuine concern from the administration about our welfare,” Coble said. “The administration wants to reward the excellent work of an excellent faculty.”

Coble, also chairwoman in the dramatic art department, said budget cuts could also lead to future layoffs.

“I personally would rather forgo any raise than lose a colleague or a staff member,” Coble said.

“If giving up that one percent keeps everyone here, then I would rather not have the raise.”

Carney said this discussion is ultimately rendered moot until tuition for 2011-12 is determined, which could be as high as a 6.5 percent increase for in-state undergraduate students, as defined by state law.

The raise would not be considered until a new budget is proposed by the state legislature in January. It is not yet known how the first Republican-controlled legislative branch in North Carolina since 1898 will respond to the request.

Associate Provost for Financial and Academic Planning Dwayne Pinkney said Friday that the total amount of state funding allocated to faculty salaries would be increased by one percent using tuition revenue.

Carney, who has received help from Pinkney for the financial aspects of the proposal, said on Friday that deans of the individual colleges would likely allow departments to determine which faculty members would receive raises. Those raises would vary by individual and include junior and fixed-term faculty members, he said.

“The faculty salaries are definitely only a component of tuition,” Carney said, adding that need-based aid and University expenses would compose the vast majority of the tuition money.

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