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April 30, 2009

AAUP report more rosy than current reality

The good news contained in this month’s American Association of University Professors (AAUP) report — that, unlike most recent years, average faculty salaries nationally rose at a rate above inflation — is not representative of current conditions in higher education, the report says.

The average salary nationally of a full-time faculty member rose 3.4 percent in 2008-09, a rate above the minuscule 0.1 percent inflation rate, or Consumer Price Index, from December 2007 through December 2008, according to the AAUP report, “On the Brink: The Annual Report on the Economic Status of the Profession, 2008-09.”

The report notes that salary levels for full-time faculty generally were set for the 2008-09 academic year well before the worst of the economic news began to hit home.

Citing a shaky stock market, dwindling endowment performance, a number of hiring and/or salary freezes recently announced in academia and the dramatically expanding use of contingent faculty appointments, among other glum economic news, the report states, “The current situation is an economic ‘tsunami’ for academia. Thus, the AAUP survey data reflect a more positive economic picture than actually exists. As this report went to press, still months before the end of the academic year, the effects on higher education of changes in the national (and global) economic context were not yet fully evident. The systematic data we have been able to assemble do not reflect the ominous economic reality that is now confronting colleges and universities across the land.”

The report further calls on faculty to be involved in institutional spending and budget decisions and to examine critically the claims of administrations and legislatures regarding the financial situation of higher education.

“Like the larger economy, we are on the brink,” the report states. “It will be critically important for faculty members to participate fully in the difficult budget decisions to come. They must insist on full access to information, and take a critical look at claims about the need for immediate actions that will result in further demands on already strained human resources. Decisions about salaries, reductions in faculty positions and academic programs, and changes in the employment conditions of contingent faculty will affect the quality of the education we can offer for years to come, and we must ensure that the choices we make are good ones.”

Although Pitt administrators use a group of 34 public Association of American Universities institutions for benchmarking faculty salary comparisons for the Pittsburgh campus, the larger AAUP survey uses salary figures from 1,259 public, private/independent and church-related institutions divided into doctoral, master’s, baccalaureate and two-year colleges with and without ranks to make its comparisons.

(A Pitt-specific companion report to the Academe survey is being prepared for the University Senate budget policies committee, according to Cindy Roberts of the Management Information and Analysis office. The committee plans to discuss the data at an open public meeting, tentatively as part of the May 29 agenda.)

Salary in the AAUP report represents the contracted salary excluding summer teaching, stipends, extra load or other forms of remuneration. Department heads with faculty rank and no other administrative title are reported at their instructional salary (that is, excluding administrative stipends).

Where faculty members have duties for 11 or 12 months, salary is converted to a standard academic-year basis by applying a factor of 9/11 (81.8 percent).

The Academe report has tracked male-female faculty salary comparisons for years. This year’s report again showed female faculty members’ pay nationally continuing to lag behind males’.

At doctoral institutions, women professors earned an average of $114,860 while male professors earned an average of $126,214. At the associate level, women ($79,145) lagged behind men ($85,305); at the assistant level $67,411 to $73,287; female instructors trailed $46,726 to $49,135, and female lecturers lagged $51,023 to $57,930. Women with no academic rank trailed men $58,584 to $68,950.

Combining all ranks, women earned an average of $76,539 while men earned $97,889.

The full AAUP report, which appears in the March-April issue of Academe also is available online at

—Peter Hart

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