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Wednesday June 29th

'Devastating to morale': State budget impasse halts faculty raises at UNC

<p>The North Carolina General Assembly building in Raleigh, N.C. on Jan. 29, 2020.</p>
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The North Carolina General Assembly building in Raleigh, N.C. on Jan. 29, 2020.

The budget impasse in the North Carolina General Assembly doesn't just affect statewide issues like healthcare or taxes — it also affects UNC faculty.

The General Assembly has adjourned until April without passing a budget. For the UNC System, that means universities can't pursue major capital projects or infrastructure repairs, enrollment growth will go unfunded — and there won't be any raises for UNC System faculty and staff.

“We’ve done a lot of good over the years in terms of building up our national reputation, and failure to pass this budget, I would say, is devastating to morale,” Kerry Bloom, Thad L. Beyle Distinguished Professor and Department of Biology chairperson, said.

Bloom said the lack of a state budget and the subsequent halt on raises can cause faculty to look for jobs elsewhere. Faculty members may secure other job offers to use as leverage in obtaining a raise, Bloom said.

“In my mind, this is the worst thing that the legislatures can do, which is to just not give us a budget," Bloom said. "They have to give us a budget so we can work. It's the unknown and uncertainty that really wreaks havoc in the system.”

Megan Plenge, teaching assistant professor in the Department of Geological Sciences, said her department has been somewhat protected from the effects of the impasse because of available supplemental funds within the department. But she said the impasse has affected the department's growth.

“To have a chronically understaffed department is kind of stressful for everyone," Plenge said. "And the fact that you keep asking for a tenure line and there's just no money for it is probably the most problematic thing that has happened."

Patricia McAnany, Kenan Eminent Professor and Department of Anthropology chairperson said that she, along with other social science department chairpersons, recently met with Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Bob Blouin to discuss funding issues.

“He acknowledged that (funding issues) are severe," McAnany said. "That there are gender inequity problems among the faculty and that also in general, our faculty throughout the College of Arts and Sciences is paid less than faculty at other comparable colleges and universities."

Because the faculty knows this, McAnany said, there is already a morale problem. It can be difficult in regard to retaining faculty and staff, she said. 

McAnany agreed that the delayed budget increases the likelihood that faculty will look elsewhere to raise their current pay. That's an expensive way to bring up a salary level, she said — the legislature and governor agreeing on a pay raise for faculty would be a better way to go about the issue.

Kenan Eminent Professor of Classics and Department Chairperson James Rives said the lack of an approved raise process is discouraging, but he is fortunate for his faculty. 

“They are dedicated to the department, they are really dedicated to the students," Rives said. "We’re going to continue to do the best job that we can, but it would be nice for that to be recognized financially at some point."


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