Subcommittee on Academic Affairs
raise determinations are important issues for faculty at
The purpose of this proposal is not to oppose the use of merit criteria in the determination of faculty salary. The SAA neither endorses nor opposes the idea that some faculty should receive higher raises than other faculty at the same grade and seniority due to a desire to reward and/or inspire greater achievement. The purpose of this proposal is to emphasize that if merit criteria are to be used in order to determine a portion of faculty salary, then 1) the faculty should have input into the specific criteria to be used in their department, 2) the criteria should be communicated to faculty in advance so that they can plan their activities accordingly, and 3) the process by which the criteria are applied should be transparent.
The Subcommittee on Academic Affairs
has studied the criteria for determining merit raises from a number of
departments and colleges (hereafter called units) and has listened to
faculty concerns. In the interest of
facilitating more effective communication within units, eliminating practices
that needlessly engender resentment or controversy, and promoting less
secretive and inconsistent procedures, the findings of the subcommittee are
summarized below. These findings are
followed by recommendations for changing and standardizing the raise
determination process at
II. Findings of the Subcommittee
A review of
current practices relating to raise determinations reveals that the
determination itself is often made without
input from the faculty. In other
words, the faculty member is not given the opportunity to point out particular
activities and to explain to the decision maker (who may or may not have a
background in the particular area of scholarship or research) why these
activities are significant and deserving of merit consideration. The SAA is aware of some cases where an
interview takes place, during which the unit head and the faculty person
jointly negotiate the faculty person’s ranking for salary purposes. In other cases reviewed by the SAA, written
forms give faculty the opportunity to provide the decision maker with
information about his/her activities and publications. However, our review indicates that, in most
cases, current practice at
The prevailing practice is unacceptable to many faculty. Fields of scholarship are so diverse and specialized that it is not possible for a unit head to judge the value of everyone’s scholarship. People who come from pure rather than applied traditions often do not understand the nature and value of each other’s scholarship, but have strong biases toward one or the other. Especially in areas of non-traditional scholarship, one person’s ability to judge the value of another’s work may be seriously impaired by a limited notion of what constitutes scholarship.
The SAA is also aware of some instances where teams of faculty persons have been used to rank their colleagues. In an atmosphere where there is not a large enough pot to be shared, this opens the door for petty jealousy and biased rankings. This practice also raises issues concerning who is or isn’t invited to serve on the team doing the rankings. The SAA believes that the appropriate decision maker is the unit head, but that the individual faculty member should have the ability to make the case for a merit raise.
The usual criteria utilized in order to determine merit raises are teaching, scholarship, and service. Each unit currently weighs these three areas in different proportions. Sometimes the three criteria are weighed equally. Sometimes service is given a lesser weight (or, while nominally weighed the same, the service component winds up being weighed less than the other two components in practice). Sometimes there is no indication of how the three criteria are weighted.
Additional criteria are also used in some units – criteria that do not seem to fit into any of the three traditional categories noted above. When this is the case, the SAA is concerned that these additional criteria not be developed arbitrarily or secretly. Criteria outside of the traditional teaching, scholarship and service should be developed with faculty consultation and input. The final selection of appropriate criteria should reflect the consensus of unit faculty and the unit head. Criteria should be developed and selected to fit the needs of the whole unit, and not with a view towards serving the needs of any one individual.
Criteria developed for individuals will breed resentment when individuals are to be singled out for special or different treatment upon the application of vague or ill defined factors. For example, a person who has not published anything in 20 years might be given a raise using the criterion that his/her work in progress is more difficult than that being done by others. Special consideration for such an individual is not acceptable to the faculty for whom scholarship is measured by paper counting. Particular care should be taken to ensure that units do not adopt criteria that cannot be applied evenhandedly across the affected faculty.
It is the opinion of the SAA that some criteria are never appropriate considerations for a salary increase. For example, assertiveness should never be an actual or a de facto criterion for a merit increase. Nevertheless, it is well known that some faculty will approach the dean every year to complain because by doing so they get an increase. Faculty who are less likely to complain (and some who are willing to complain but who do not know about the potential success of this technique) go unrewarded.
Similarly, it is not desirable to encourage faculty to obtain job offers from other institutions in order to get a raise. In one unit, it was stated that the person having a job offer would be ranked higher than would be justified purely on the basis of all the other criteria. The SAA believes that the use of competing job offers as explicit criteria for raises will encourage department members to seek out such offers and will, overall, work at cross purposes with the goal of rewarding and retaining our best faculty.
Once appropriate criteria have been identified, they should be memorialized in a form and location where they are communicated to faculty well in advance of the evaluation period. There is widespread misunderstanding among the faculty of what “counts” towards consideration for a merit increase. In some units, a number of new criteria appear in the guidelines each year, or worse yet, do not appear in the guidelines but are cited orally. Faculty cannot plan their activities or meet expectations if the criteria used to determine raises are constantly changing or are not communicated effectively.
Similarly, poorly communicated criteria may cause faculty to overlook contributions to the unit that would otherwise receive consideration for a merit raise. For example, many faculty consider activities such as devising new courses or using innovative teaching activities to be part of their teaching responsibilities. Accordingly, they do not separately draw attention to these efforts on their faculty activity reports, and they are surprised when they learn that others have used similar activities as criteria for raises. The merit raise process should not be reduced to the question of which faculty members are better at marketing themselves.
As noted in the prior section, even if the criteria for raises are memorialized and communicated to faculty, these criteria may nonetheless be vague, resulting in subjective judgments, favoritism, and inequitable applications across a department. “Fuzzy criteria” allow whoever is applying the guidelines to use his/her own personal bias to interpret and apply them. Thus, even when faculty members have been informed of the guidelines before the determination of raises, they have no confidence that the guidelines are interpreted and applied fairly.
For example, such criteria as “flexibility” (how many courses a person can teach), “number of advisees” and “how demanding one’s committee work is” implicitly put an undesirable emphasis on quantity of tasks rather than quality. Others, such as “energy and effort,” “rapport with students,” and “popularity,” reflect anecdotal knowledge about a person and often amount to no more than rumors. The SAA believes that these types of subjective criteria should be avoided due to the lack of any demonstrable connection between the individual faculty member and the quality of teaching, scholarship or service within the unit.
To the extent possible, the criteria for faculty raises should use measurable inputs that apply generally to faculty across the unit. Care should be taken to ensure that these criteria do not disadvantage particular categories of faculty, such as more senior faculty or female faculty. The SAA expects that faculty participation in the development of the guidelines put in place within each unit will diminish the likelihood that “fuzzy criteria” will be adopted.
It should be noted that the information elicited by the Faculty Activity Report (FAR) should not be used unthinkingly as the criteria for determining the amount of faculty raises. The FAR was developed to serve a different purpose, and many faculty approach the completion of the FAR with varying degrees of creativity. In other words, some faculty are quite aggressive in listing every conceivable professional activity over the prior 12 months, while other faculty focus more narrowly on their substantial accomplishments. Some faculty complete the FAR by including information beyond the scope of the questions provided, while other faculty limit themselves to responding to the precise questions asked. To use the information solicited by the FAR as a proxy for the information set utilized to determine a raise would not address the concerns expressed in this report. Similar considerations counsel against using other information sources prepared for different purposes, such as SCOT scores, as a primary resource when determining the amount of faculty raises. The objective should be to have one designated document that solicits comprehensive information on the ways in which faculty have contributed to the betterment of the University over the reporting period.
D. The Importance of Advance Notice
In most units, it appears that the salary guidelines change each year and affected faculty are notified of the new criteria immediately before they receive their contracts. It is highly irregular that one must play the game without knowing the rules, and, in addition, play a different game every year or every time there is a change in unit head. Criteria and procedures for determining raises should be explicit and faculty should know them well in advance so that they may plan their scholarship, teaching, and service accordingly. Changes to the guidelines from year to year may need to occur, but these instances should be the exception rather than the norm.
Heads of units determine raises, and they also exercise control over faculty members in many other ways. In cases where a faculty person feels that they have been treated unfairly by a unit head, that person is unlikely to complain for fear of retaliation at the time raises are given. This is a special concern for women faculty who sometime endure special challenges in a male-dominated university.
The SAA notes and applauds the increased role played by faculty in the evaluation of department heads and deans this year. Although this is a step in the right direction, some modifications of the procedure might make it more effective. The timing of the evaluations of deans and department heads, occurring as they did at the same time as salary determinations, meant that they may not have elicited honest responses. An effort should be made to separate the two processes across the academic calendar, in order to reduce the possibility of intimidation and/or retaliation.
From time to time the University has made special
allocations during the salary review process in order to address systemic
inequities in the compensation structure of the University. For example, special allocations have been
made to address gender inequity or the disparity of compensation levels between
We understand that different areas of scholarship may require different criteria for salary or merit raises; however, some universal guidelines should be capable of application across the University.
1. Faculty Input
Every department (or unit in which salary or raise issues are handled) should have in place a procedure (via a written submission, whether or not supplemented by an oral interview) by which each faculty person can inform the decision maker of a) the significance of his/her work within their field of expertise, b) his/her participation in works that are jointly authored, and c) the local/national/international influence of that work. A process that requires goal-setting, self-assessment, and reflective statements by faculty members could help to demystify the raise determination process and give faculty the sense that they have some influence on the outcome.
2. Determination of Criteria and Procedures
Criteria for merit raises should be largely consistent from year to year, public knowledge within each unit and should be finalized well before December (which is just before raises are decided). The criteria for raises as well as the procedures for raise determination should be memorialized in a written document, and approved after review by a vote of the faculty. These criteria and procedures should not be determined unilaterally each year by the incumbent head of unit.
Just as instructors have been struggling with the measurement of knowledge and skills in the CORE curriculum, faculty and unit heads should giver careful attention to the measurement of criteria for determining raises. Measurable inputs, capable of uniform application within the unit, should be adopted in lieu of subjective criteria.
3. Public Statistics
Each year, the university should publish statistics for each unit that allow faculty to evaluate whether their efforts on behalf of the university have been rewarded in comparison to their peers, or whether the faculty member needs to improve their performance. At a minimum, each unit should publish the average raise amount within the unit and also the mean salary within the unit. Without such information, faculty cannot know whether they are satisfactorily meeting the criteria set forth at the start of the raise determination process.
4. Appeal Procedure
There should be some procedure by which a faculty member can appeal a decision about raise determination. The case should be revisited first by the faculty member and the unit head, but if they are unable to reach a mutually agreeable decision, an external mediator might be asked to help them interpret and apply the unit’s criteria to the particular case.
5. Uniform Procedures
While the specific criteria used to determine raises will vary widely from unit to unit, it appears that some procedures could be standardized across the university. For example:
a. How long a time period should be examined in determining merit raises each year?
It seems that some period of time longer than one year would allow productive faculty to slip in one criterion while less productive faculty would be unable to obtain a large increase based on a one-year effort.
b. When should each unit complete faculty interviews for salary purposes?
The SAA believes that the merit raise system of determining salary increases can work effectively if the system gives faculty a voice in determining the appropriate criteria, if the process is transparent, and if the process is capable of being applied in a uniform manner across each unit. It is strongly urged that the salary determination process be modified in order to achieve greater progress towards these goals.