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UNC's lagging faculty salaries discussed at Faculty Executive Committee meeting

Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Robert A. Blouin (front) and Chairperson of the Faculty Lloyd Kramer discuss lagging faculty salaries during the Faculty Executive Committee's meeting on Monday Jan. 27, 2020.
Buy Photos Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Robert A. Blouin (front) and Chairperson of the Faculty Lloyd Kramer discuss lagging faculty salaries during the Faculty Executive Committee's meeting on Monday Jan. 27, 2020.

The Faculty Executive Committee discussed faculty salaries and a UNC Faculty Assembly statement about the Sons of Confederate Veterans during its Monday meeting.

Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Robert Blouin said the University’s faculty salaries lag behind those at peer institutions. Members also discussed disparities in pay between research and teaching faculty. 

“A tenure-line person can come in having never taught a day in their life, and they’re making $15,000 to $20,000 more a year than I am starting out,” English and comparative literature professor Jennifer Larson said. 

Newly-recruited faculty are often paid more than current faculty due to funding limitations and the nature of attracting talent. 

“Very rarely is someone gonna move their family and come to a new location and come in and be told, ‘Well, we really love you, we want you to join us, but we have this compression issue on our school, so we’re gonna have to offer you a salary that’s below market just so you can stay in alignment with the existing,’” Blouin said. 

Members discussed analyzing sources of income and spending. Blouin said he hopes the North Carolina General Assembly will approve a recommended 2 to 2.5 percent increase on faculty salaries. Since this is the first year of the fiscal biennium, the increase would be applied again next year. 

The University would still have to consider new ways to increase wages for non-state funded employees. F&A funding, which partially funds these employees’ salaries, would not increase with the resolution. 

Representatives from other UNC System schools expressed frustration that their salaries lagged behind UNC’s, Chairperson of the Faculty Lloyd Kramer said. Kramer attended a recent UNC Faculty Assembly meeting.

Blouin said UNC differs from other system schools. 

“Those markets are so different, the talent pool is so different, the qualifications are gonna be so different,” Blouin said. “You know we’re competing against Michigan and Harvard and Stanford and Virginia, and either we compete successfully for that talent or we don’t and if we don’t, then it will be hard for us to maintain our status as an elite research public university.” 

Larson said there is a miscommunication problem between UNC and other system schools. 

“I think one of the problems that we have when we communicate what happens at UNC is that it’s one thing to be elite, but they perceive it as elitist,” Larson said. “And those are very different things.” 

Members all agreed that faculty salaries should be prioritized since they are essential to the University’s success. 

“If you don’t have quality faculty, the rest – you can have pretty buildings and nice landscaping and you can even have smart students wanting to come into your university,” Blouin said. “As soon as they come in and they determine you’re not what you pretend to be, then they won’t come back.” 

Silent Sam statement

Members also discussed a statement from the UNC Faculty Assembly supporting the Dec. 6,  2019, statement from UNC’s Faculty Council. The statement urged the System Office and the Board of Governors to work with the Judge presiding over the settlement to ensure that the distribution of funds will not allow the Sons of Confederate Veterans to use the funds to further the purpose of that organization. 

The Faculty Council’s December statement condemned the UNC System's $2.5 million Silent Sam statue settlement with the North Carolina Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans. 

Kramer said he expected a more forceful stand from the UNC Faculty Assembly, but it seemed that representatives from other universities wanted to put the issue behind them. Historically Black institutions raised specific concerns. 

“They argued that the real problem in the system isn’t the disposition of the Confederate monument but the new Jim Crow distribution of salaries,” Kramer said. “And that if we were really serious we would be engaged with that at Chapel Hill.” 

Kramer said he was asked by a colleague at Fayetteville State University if UNC’s Faculty Council would pass a resolution calling on the Board of Governors and the State Legislature to support enhanced salaries for partner institutions. This would be done in response to partner institutions supporting the Faculty Council’s position on Silent Sam. 

The Faculty Executive Committee also discussed a supportive statement from Appalachian State University’s Faculty Senate.  Kramer said he expects statements from several more universities’ faculty senates, but nothing more from the Faculty Assembly. 

Members closed the meeting by discussing potential changes to the Shared Governance Document, which, among other things, outlines the responsibilities and procedures of UNC-System schools’ faculty senates and equivalent bodies. Members did not expect to make major changes to the document. 

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