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April 14, 2016

Moratorium sought on pay reductions for tenured faculty

The University Senate tenure and academic freedom committee (TAFC) is calling on the chancellor and provost to impose a moratorium on salary reductions to tenured faculty until University-wide and school-specific policies and guidelines are finalized in accord with shared governance principles.

The concerns were prompted by reports of 20 percent salary reductions for some tenured medical school faculty who failed to meet performance standards based on securing a major portion of their salary through externally funded research. (See May 1, 2014, University Times.)

A TAFC resolution approved by Faculty Assembly April 12 recommended that the moratorium be retroactive to April 29, 2014 — the date when Faculty Assembly formed an ad hoc committee to investigate the issue of pay cuts for tenured faculty.

That ad hoc committee found that salary cuts for faculty were rare outside of the School of Medicine, and that the policy was being applied without uniformity, noting that some medical school faculty were subjected to cuts in consecutive years. (See Sept. 17, 2015, University Times.)

In introducing the resolution, TAFC member Nicholas Bircher told Faculty Assembly that focusing faculty evaluations on the ability to generate external funding while marginalizing scholarly contributions, teaching and service, “negates the criteria which are used to grant tenure, and is antithetical to the threefold mission of the University, which is teaching, research and service.

“Further, the evaluation procedure in question is sufficiently vague as to allow a targeted application to an individual, or group of individuals, in an arbitrary, capricious and unfair fashion,” he said. “Moreover, it creates a hostile working environment, by constant threat of salary reduction, thereby undermining the fundamental protections afforded by tenure.”

He acknowledged that the provost had created a working group in response to the ad hoc committee’s 2015 report, with a goal of creating University-wide guidelines. The group, which provided an interim report to Faculty Assembly last month, continues to work. (See March 17 University Times.)

Developing University-wide and school-specific guidelines will take time, Bircher said. “While the lengthy process in and of itself won’t be harmful, the very problem intended to be solved – the unfair treatment of faculty — continues unabated,” he said. “This moratorium is not intended to be confrontational. It is intended to protect faculty from being potentially subjected to unfair treatment while giving the deliberative bodies sufficient time to develop appropriate guidelines.”

John Fedele, senior associate director of News, responded on behalf of the administration, telling the University Times on Wednesday, “The Faculty Assembly just passed the resolution yesterday afternoon. The Provost takes their concerns seriously and will review the document and their request. There is no timetable for resolution.”

—Kimberly K. Barlow 

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