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Salary Cuts

March 19th, 2009

John Carroll University’s proposed cuts to faculty salaries will affect more than just the professors who receive a pay check.

A decreased salary could tempt qualified faculty to search for more lucractive positions at other schools, and retaining less faculty on staff means larger class sizes.

JCU President the Rev. Robert Niehoff addressed these concerns at a community meeting held Friday with faculty, staff and administrators.  Niehoff made clear that he understood the contentious nature of salary cuts.

He said frustration had culminated with two faculty members who tried to leak false information to local media outlets.   

“Two situations that concern me are that two members contacted The Plain Dealer and told them we [John Carroll University] were closing.”  

The main point of contention is the potential salary cuts.  Faculty have recently seen the staff take a 3.85 percent salary cut.  Unlike the staff, a faculty handbook ensures that no decisions will be made regarding salary without the consent of the faculty.  The handbook said, “In no case shall the rank of a tenured faculty member be reduced, nor shall the salary of a tenured faculty member be reduced except as part of a general reduction of salaries to avoid reaching the point of financial exigency.”  

Chair of Faculty Council Matthew Berg said, “There have to be special circumstances under which faculty can be asked to take the salary cuts and it has to be discussed by the faculty.”

Niehoff said, “I don’t see what we can do about faculty salary without more money.”  

Chris Roark, chair of the rank, tenure and salary committee, said the declining faculty salaries have been an issue for the past five years.  In that time, the English department has seen three faculty members leave. All went to schools where they received better pay and none of those faculty members have been replaced by full-time tenure track faculty.  “That affects our ability to educate the students,” said Roark.

Berg and Roark agree most people in education aren’t there for the money, but they still deserve a fair wage. Berg said, “It isn’t that we are greedy; it is that we should be paid what we deserve as professionals.”

A faculty salary report of the rank, tenure and salary committee in May 2008 addressed the fact that there were salary issues even before the economic decline. The report said, “The last three years of fiscal difficulties at [JCU] have particularly impacted faculty salaries.” 

The notice was presented to the Board of Directors in May, and in December 2008 Niehoff responded to the faculty.  He said, “It is apparent to all that the University’s salaries have not kept pace with the cost of living or with the salaries of many other institutions.”

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in the 2007-08 academic year inflation was at 2.96 percent. Faculty received a three percent raise not including the one percent raise to cover University Heights increased income tax.  The raise barely exceeded the rate of inflation. Roark said, “If the raise is just at inflation you’re not keeping up with other institutions.”      

In the community meeting Niehoff addressed the reasons that cuts are a feasible solution.  Niehoff referred to JCU as a tuition-driven institution, where primary funds come from student tuition.  The average JCU student receives a 52 percent discount rate.  

Referring to the students that transferred this semester, Niehoff said, “We didn’t retain the most important students fiscally.”  Most had been paying full tuition.  

When students aren’t paying full price, JCU isn’t receiving as much to be spent within the University.  

Another problem is the amount of donors.  While the number of donors is at a low, those who are donating are not making contributions toward salary.  Niehoff said, “They [donors] are not going to give me money to pay your salaries.” 

Administrators are avoiding taping into the endowment because they want to allow it to continue to grow.  Niehoff said, “It [endowment] is our resource for the future.” 

At this time, Berg said, “The faculty has not resolved anything yet.  We are aware that sacrifices have to be made, but at the same time we have to protect our interest.” Berg is also concerned with the possible increased avearge class size. 

Director of the Core Curriculum Earl Spurgin said, “Anytime you have to increase class size it is not an ideal situation.  It is difficult to have class discussion.”

If the First Year Seminar class is taken to 25 instead of 20 as suggested by the administration, it will cut back the number of professors teaching and eliminate an estimated eight sections. 

Spurgin said, “It is a better situation for classes to be smaller, but it is a different kind of time and we have to know where to take hits and taking this hit temporarily is better.” Berg said, “Even as we debate these measures, we’re still determined to maintain our standards and commitments to working with our students.”

Changes continue to be made to the budget. Niehoff said, “I understand that many of you are angry, concerned and pained, and I am, too.”