Decision to adopt premium pay for new professors has implications for faculty

By Julia Cinquegrani || Editor-in-Chief

Approximately eight years ago, F&M changed its salary policy and began paying professors in select departments higher starting salaries than other newly-hired faculty. Before this change, all newly-hired professors in every department were paid the same salary.

The higher pay, referred to as premium salaries, was made in response to the struggles the College was having in hiring their preferred job candidates. Before premium salaries were established at F&M, many similar colleges had enacted policies like this. As a result, other colleges were able to offer job candidates in specific fields higher salaries than F&M was offering, and consequently, F&M was losing some of their preferred professorial candidates to other colleges.    

The original salary policy, which established equal pay for all newly-hired faculty regardless of their field, was meant to emphasize the unity of the College and its academic departments.

“The philosophy that entry-level faculty would be hired at the same wage seemed consistent with the notion that we are one faculty,” said Alan Caniglia, vice president for planning and vice provost. “This philosophy is still very strong.”

However, as other colleges began to increase the pay for professors in select fields, F&M’s administration was faced with market forces that came into conflict with this philosophy.

“About eight years ago, it became apparent that there were a small number of departments where this [equal salary policy] was getting in the way of us being able to hire the people we wanted to hire,” Caniglia said. “People were being hired by other places at higher salaries. And so we were not able to recruit the type of people we wanted to recruit, to have the most excellent faculty and programs.”

In response to this situation, the College’s administration researched the salary policies at other schools, and decided that offering premium salaries in specific departments was the best way to attract their preferred faculty members. Caniglia would not disclose which departments were offering newly-hired faculty premium salaries. He explained how various departments were selected to offer professors higher starting salaries.

“What we’re looking for is evidence that something seems to be holding us back in
recruiting the faculty that we want [in specific departments],” Caniglia said. “Sometimes job candidates will tell you what they were offered by another college. Sometimes the faculty within that department will know what is being offered at other institutions.”

Since implementing the new salary policy, Caniglia said F&M has had increased success
when hiring faculty in departments with premium pay. The pool of applicants has been stronger, and when F&M offers a candidate a faculty position, he or she is more likely to accept the job.

The majority of academic departments are not offering professors premium pay, and these departments are all paying their newly-hired professors the same starting salary. Among departments offering premium pay, the salary offered to job candidates can be higher or lower depending on the department. However, each newly-hired professor within one department will be paid the same salary as the other new professors in that individual department.

Once professors are employed by the College, every department has the same structure for promoting faculty and granting tenure. Increases in professors’ salary are determined by their seniority, promotions, and merit evaluations. F&M has approximately 200 tenured or tenure-track faculty and 30 other full-time faculty. Between 45 percent to 50 percent of the faculty is female.

The establishment of premium pay policies has raised concerns about gender and wage inequality. Nationally, male and female faculty tend to be concentrated in different fields, and areas that are dominated by men are often paid more highly than fields that are primarily female. Caniglia said he and other members of the College’s administration are aware of this, and have processes in place to ensure increases in salary and promotions are given equally regardless of a professor’s gender or race.

Caniglia predicted that premium salaries will continue to be offered in the future, and said they have been successful in helping to attract the best professors.

“Our ultimate value is to provide the best education we possibly can for our students, and that involves hiring the best faculty,” Caniglia said. “At this point, I don’t imagine we’ll change this policy in the foreseeable future. I think these pressures are pretty strong and it’s hard to see them changing anytime soon.”

Senior Julia Cinquegrani is the Editor-in-Chief.  Her email is jcinqueg@fandm.edu.

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