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New faculty-compensation policies introduced
Academic Senate learns of plan to make Berkeley a more competitive employer, beginning with a $6,000 'promotion increment' at tenure

| 03 May 2006

As some of the campus's lowest-paid workers celebrated new raises, those scaling the academic ladder got a financial and morale boost of their own last week, with the unveiling of new faculty-compensation policies at the Academic Senate's spring meeting.

Under a plan announced to Senate members, and later via a broadly distributed e-mail, assistant professors advancing to the associate-professor rank will receive a $6,000 promotion increment (a permanent increase to their annual salary) in addition to the merited step advancement at promotion. Most current associate professors are also slated to get the promotion increment, either this year or next, depending on when they were tenured; some faculty in the lowest-paid professor ranks will also receive the raise.

The "tenure bump," to go into effect July 1, is part of broad effort to restore the campus's competitiveness in the academic job market; most of Berkeley's private and public peer institutions, for example, offer some kind of salary increase with a tenured appointment.

"Ideally we would provide $6,000 right now to every tenured faculty," achieving in a stroke what will instead take 25 years to accomplish," said Jan de Vries, vice provost for academic affairs and faculty welfare. But lacking the funding to do so (the estimated price tag is $7 million a year to cover all tenured faculty), the campus plans to proceed in stages, starting with new faculty promotions. In this way, "we will hopefully signal to faculty that the campus is serious about restoring competitiveness to Berkeley's compensation package," de Vries said.

"In the fullness of time, our entire faculty will have been hired and tenured under the new policies," added Janet Broughton, chair of the Academic Senate budget committee and co-chair of the campus task force that recommended the new policies. If, in addition, "we start getting reasonable range adjustments again," Berkeley faculty "will have fewer financial incentives to accept offers from other institutions."

A growing gap

Setting the context for the launch of the new policy, de Vries said the gap between faculty salaries offered by Berkeley and its private competitors "is large and growing," is larger at particular points in the academic career ladder (namely associate professor and the early years at full-professor rank), and varies widely by discipline.

One might argue that salary is only one component of the total compensation package for faculty and that when other parts of the package, especially pension benefits, are factored in, UC's total compensation appears more competitive than does salary alone. But for young scholars, especially those with children, de Vries said, a better pension years down the road may not be as appealing as a bigger paycheck sooner. If Berkeley is to remain great, said Broughton, it has to make a strong commitment "to the faculty of its future." The current UC package is "pensioner-centric," she noted; the campus hopes to attract younger scholars by making its total package more "family friendly."

A new definition of 'equity'

The new compensation policy, argued Broughton, will be not only more competitive but more equitable, "if we're willing to think of equity in a new way." While "equity," in past decades, meant a single pay scale for all faculty at the same level, regardless of discipline, Broughton observed that the widening pay gap between fields, outside of and within academia, makes the old notion of equity, however appealing, impossible to maintain. "What the campus now aims to do," said Broughton, "is to pay people the same salary for the same level of accomplishment within the same discipline."

"We're out of business if we maintain the policies of the '70s, '60s, or '50s in the current environment," added de Vries. Calling himself "a Dutch realist," he said the campus must accept the realities of the market, but with new policies that are sensible, can be monitored, and allow for equitable assessment of performance within each discipline. Under the new policy, for instance, deans may recommend raises for current professors in steps I through IV in cases where the new increases create salary inequities within a department or unit.

During the Q&A session that followed de Vries's presentation, senate members expressed concerns about the potentially arbitrary application of such a policy; de Vries responded that the procedural guidelines are "reasonably well articulated" on this point.

He conceded, however, that the academic budget is ultimately linked to the number of students being served and the resulting student/faculty ratios.

"To be frank with each other. ultimately we face a tradeoff of more faculty or more competitively compensated faculty. We don't want the student/faculty ratio to deteriorate further," he said. "But the first priority is to protect the quality of faculty."

Details on the new faculty-compensation policies are available from the Academic Personnel Office at apo.chance.berkeley.edu.