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June 23, 2016

Moratorium is issued on tenured faculty pay cuts

In response to a University Senate recommendation, Provost Patricia E. Beeson has agreed to a moratorium on salary reductions for all tenured faculty.

The Senate had asked that tenured faculty salary reductions be put on hold until University-wide guidelines could be established.

The Senate’s concerns were prompted by reports of 20-percent salary reductions for some tenured medical school faculty who failed to meet performance standards that were based on securing a major portion of their salary through externally funded research. (See April 14 University Times.)

“On consideration, I have decided to put in place a moratorium on salary reductions effective now and until a new policy is in place,” Beeson wrote in a June 2 memo to Senate President Frank Wilson and Senate tenure and academic freedom committee (TAFC) co-chairs Barry Gold and Maria Kovacs.

A 2014 Senate ad hoc committee found no policy exists for tenured faculty salary reductions and reported last fall that “the proportion of tenured faculty whose salaries have been cut is highly uneven across the schools, that formal criteria for such cuts are either ambiguous or nonexistent, and that the actual process is highly variable across schools. Additionally, faculty often have limited options for remediating the alleged performance deficits and genuine appeal procedures are nonexistent.” (See Sept. 17, 2015, University Times.)

Laurie Kirsch, vice provost for faculty affairs, development and diversity, headed a provost’s ad hoc committee charged with developing a set of guidelines as well as recommendations for performance evaluations of tenured faculty and associated salary decisions.

Kirsch presented an interim report to Faculty Assembly in March (see March 17 University Times) and a final report was submitted to the provost in April. Beeson subsequently asked TAFC and the Council of Deans for their comments and review, Kirsch told the University Times.

“The provost continues to have discussions with relevant faculty and administrators to gather input for updating the guidelines as appropriate,” she added. “Depending on the input received, the appropriate University process will be followed.”

“People are responding happily to it,” Wilson said of the provost’s moratorium, adding that he anticipates seeing a new policy in early fall.

Beeson’s response to the Senate recommendation is being hailed as an example of improved cooperation between the faculty and the administration.

“There certainly is a legitimate reason to believe that all sides are trying to strengthen the shared governance model and practice,” he said. “We’re demonstrating a more collegial and stronger version of shared governance all the time.”


Arthur S. Levine, senior vice chancellor, Health Sciences and dean of the School of Medicine, acknowledged the moratorium and elaborated on salary cuts in comments at the May 24 medical school faculty meeting. (

“There will be no reductions on July 1 unless the Cathedral articulates a University-wide policy before that date, and not until such a policy is articulated,” he said.

Levine said 24 tenured medical school faculty members had received salary reductions since 2008 — an average of three per year out of nearly 500 tenured medical school faculty. Three of the cuts were unsuccessfully appealed to a faculty committee, he said.

“Most people unfortunately have not been aware of why we would reduce the salary of a tenured faculty member, what our rationale would be and to what extent we’ve done it,” Levine said at the faculty meeting.

“The answer is very simple: People should earn their keep. People should be able to demonstrate that they merit their compensation. It is a simple fact of life.

“In the medical school we do that, if we’re researchers, by basically covering much of the cost of our research including the salaries that we put on grants that contribute to our compensation,” he said, adding that measures for teaching, patient care and institutional service likewise are part of faculty evaluations.

“We have worked hard for a number of years now to try to craft an annual evaluation … which basically lays out each year what our expectations are for that kind of performance across those different niches. It is always our hope that the faculty member and the department chair will agree upon what those expectations should be for the coming year,” he said.

“And if we give every possible opportunity to the faculty member to meet those expectations but the faculty member is unable to do so, and we find that that person simply is not earning his or her keep appropriately, then that faculty member is given fair warning and that salary will be reduced,” Levine said.

“I don’t think it is an unfair process but I don’t think it’s as transparent as it might be,” he acknowledged, adding that he agrees with the basic principles in the Senate and provost committees’ reports: that there should be clear expectations for faculty performance, warnings before a salary reduction takes effect, an opportunity for faculty to address any deficiencies, and a process for appealing a reduction.

In addition, “Salary reductions below a certain level obviously need to have increased scrutiny,” he said.

“These are the principles that I think will be the motive for us in the University as a whole and I certainly agree with these principles and believe that to a large extent they are already embedded in the School of Medicine review process.”

Levine did not respond to a University Times request for additional comments.

—Kimberly K. Barlow 

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