By Olivia Krauth–

Some Arts and Sciences faculty say they are underpaid and are working to change that.

The faculty salary working group defines their job as one of “research and information gathering,” according to an email sent to all A&S faculty members earlier this month. For their first goal, FSWG is looking into creating a proposal for upper-level administration that addresses lower salaries, which some have said aren’t competitive enough to retain top faculty.

“There’s an ethical argument,” Susan Jarosi, a FSWG member, said of fighting the low salaries. Jarosi said some faculty in the college weren’t getting paid enough to meet the level the Economic Policy Institute considers middle class, which Jarosi said was “bare bones.”

“One is an equity argument,” Jarosi said. “Faculty, over time, the longer they spend at U of L, find their wages further and further depressed.” Discussing this “loyalty penalty,” Jarosi said faculty who stay at U of L for many years are unable to keep pace with the market price for their position.

Because of state budget cuts and a lack of endowment funds supporting faculty, there have been many years when faculty have gotten no raises,” Dawn Heinecken, a FSWG member, said. “As a result, our salaries in the College for full-time tenure track and tenured faculty compare very poorly to those at other Universities who are teaching and researching in similar disciplines. This makes it difficult to not only attract top faculty to the College but also to retain them.”

To complete their second goal and assist with the first goal, the eight person group ran their own survey to determine the most up-to-date information possible for the proposal.

FSWG compared 2015 departmental salary information to the Oklahoma State University Faculty Salary Survey, which used information from 111 universities. Between all departments across the levels of assistant, associate and full professor, only four types of professor at U of L had salaries above the average for their group. 21 U of L A&S faculty members were at or above the average, while the remaining 210 were below.

“Ultimately, the group is working to develop the following: an analysis of the data, identification of the primary problems, a proposal for minimum/living wage salaries, targets for baseline/threshold salaries at each rank and recommendations for phasing in any corrections,” the group said of the study in the initial email.

U of L’s most recent salary comparsion comes from 2013, according to VP of institutional research Bob Goldstein. Using information from 19 public ACC schools and benchmark schools, U of L salaries range from 72 to 105 percent of the median salary depending on the college. School of Dentistry faculty made 72 percent of the median salary for those in that job. Faculty in the School of Public Health made slightly more than the median, making 105 percent of the median. On average, U of L salaries were at 91 percent of the median.

The College of Arts and Sciences salaries were 87 percent of the median, meaning U of L A&S faculty typically made less than the national average for the position. Goldstein said it would require $4.4 million for U of L to meet the 2013 median.

President James Ramsey said U of L is currently working on updating the figures in September, and Goldstein said the new numbers should be available by the end of the year.

In the initial email, FSWG said they wanted to complete their proposal by the end of the year to align with U of L’s findings.

“We are responding to the administration’s timetable,” the group wrote. “The President’s leadership team communicated to Dean Leonard that the updated internal salary study is planned for completion by the end of December. So we are aiming to have our data gathered and analyzed and proposals framed in anticipation of when the administration solicits recommendations from Dean Leonard.”

“This is a campus issue that the President and Provost have been working on for a few years,” A&S Dean Kimberly Kempf-Leonard said. “They’re in a better position to lead, but I’m very willing to do what I can from my office. I’ve definitely made getting us to competitive market salaries for faculty, and graduate assistants. We’re trying to hire competitively, and advance where we can.”

The group’s third goal is to make the process as transparent as possible. Through using a Sharepointe site, FSWG hopes allow faculty suggestions and feedback in an open forum.

Jarosi was a part of the spring 2015 Faculty Assembly motion to create an A&S fund that would support A&S initiatives and fund competitive faculty salaries. Jarosi then worked with John Gibson to ask the President, Provost and Board of Trustees for immediate action on salary correction earlier this semester.

“These are highly educated professionals who teach a large percentage of students at the University and they deserve a wage  commensurate to their skill and expertise,” Heinecken said. “Ultimately, low faculty salaries affect the quality of education received by students.”

The group is currently working on a motion to present to the Faculty Senate on Jan. 22, 2016.