By Austin Cook
A report submitted to the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) details shocking statistics regarding faculty salaries, which have been largely stagnant in recent years, failing to even keep up with the rate of inflation.
The report, compiled by Hank Kennedy, professor of politics and international affairs, lays out salaries for Wake Forest's professors, associate professors and assistant professors and compares them to various other universities both larger and smaller, as well as those most similar to Wake Forest.
When examined side by side, the statistics reveal a large disparity between faculty members here compared to other universities, including state schools. When compared to the list of "Cross-Admit Schools," which includes Duke, Emory, Richmond, Vanderbilt, UNC-Chapel Hill and the University of Virginia, professors here earn thousands of dollars less. While the mean salary for professors at these schools is $157,200, professors at Wake Forest earn $139,600, roughly $17,600 less.
All levels of faculty, including professors, associate professors and assistant professors would be earning more teaching at a UNC-Chapel Hill, a public university funded by the state.
Professors would earn $8,300 more working at Chapel Hill, while associate professors would earn some $3,600 more. Assistant professors would receive $6,000 more.
At Duke University, a school that the admissions office often compares our university to, professors earn over $180,000, roughly $40,000 more than professors at Wake Forest.
Yet what was most surprising about the report is that while faculty salaries have failed to keep up with inflation, high level administrators including the president, provost, vice president and athletic director has received salary increases and sizeable bonuses over the past few years.
President Nathan O. Hatch's total compensation nearly doubled between 2009 and 2011 from $865,800 to more than $1.4 million, while Jim Dunn, vice president and chief investment officer, saw his total compensation rise from $387,400 to $770,900 in the same time frame. Ron Wellman, director of athletics, saw his total compensation jump from $695,000 to $2.44 million between 2009 and 2011.
Hank Kennedy, the professor who compiled the report, said that the stasis in teacher salaries at Wake Forest has happened quickly -- just in the last few years -- but that it has the university behind other schools with significantly less funding.
"There are some really interesting opportunities for comparison," Kennedy said. His report notes that when compared to the 20 best liberal arts colleges in the country, Wake Forest is ranked 17th in faculty salaries, behind schools that are all smaller.
"We are below the mean," Kennedy said. "The point of this study is to show that we are losing ground with respect to universities that we compare ourselves to."
He noted that while just three years ago Wake Forest faculty salaries were still towards the bottom of the list, they were not last.
"This happens really fast because it's a moving target and there's a compounding effect," Kennedy said. "This is a function of the priority of the school. It depends on the priority of the school, not the size."
Kennedy pointed out that Wake Forest spends more money per-student on its athletic department that any other institution in the United States -- at least $20 million annually, a figure that has risen much more steadily than faculty salaries and the rate of inflation.
"It's a stunning figure -- truly a very significant drain from faculty resources," Kennedy said.
That figure is even more shocking when considering that teacher salaries are stagnate and tuition costs for students have been rising at more than twice the rate of inflation. "[The total spent on athletics] was less than half of what it is now 15 years ago. It's risen much faster than the rate of inflation and tuition."
Provost Rogan Kersh, who met with representatives from the AAUP May 2, stressed that working to improve faculty benefits, including salaries, is one of his top priorities.
"It was a good, general conversation," Kersh said. He pointed out that in the early 2000's during the Hearn Administration, the status of faculty salaries were much worse than they are now.
After Hatch became the university's president, the administration's focus shifted to improving faculty salaries. "There was a concerted effort to catch up, and now it's time to do that again," Kersh said.
According to The Chronicle of Higher Education, faculty members at the university still have some of the higher salaries in the nation out of master's institutions. All three levels of professors earn salaries in the 90th percentile or higher.
Shortly following the report's completion, faculty members began meeting to discuss options of how to present their complaints to the administration. James Hans, professor of English, feels that the faculty has been ignored in recent years, and that the university's faculty has taken a back seat to costly improvements to campus and administrative bonuses.
"The bottom line is this: the faculty have become employees of a large business, and they have no say in anything anymore and remain completely disconnected from the policies that govern where the money goes," Hans said. "Like a good business, Wake Forest's administrators always have an explanation for why there is money for buildings, or athletics, or this or that, and none for faculty and staff. But the bottom line here is as it is at any other major corporation: the 'human capital' at Wake Forest -- that is, the faculty and staff -- are clearly secondary to everything else, regardless of what justifications may be used."
Hans continued by questioning the university's priorities involving funding. "[W]e have money for those [campus renovations], but not salary increases for staff and faculty?" he questioned.
"What does it say about an administration that can commit $55 million to Deacon Tower at the football stadium, $10 million for a tennis complex, $5 million to buy Ernie Shore Field? Another $10 million for the coliseum ... and all of this during a time of 'austerity' -- it doesn't make any sense," he said.
David Weinstein, professor of politics and international affairs, feels that the while progress to rectify the salary gap was made in the initial years of the Hatch administration, the issue has never really been dealt with.
"Things got better and now it's worse again," he said.
But Weinstein also pointed out that the Board of Trustees is the body responsible for determining faculty salaries. "Ultimately, it's the Board of Trustees," he said. "I'm not sure if it's malice on their part, it's indifference. Only if pressure is put on the Trustees will there be a reaction."
Weinstein believes that the university's obsession with athletics is what drains funds from what he feels are more worthy causes, faculty salaries among them. True or not, he recognizes that it is highly unlikely that athletic funding will be cut in the future. "That is a fight that is hopeless."