As the University approaches its fifth year without faculty pay increases, faculty members expressed their frustration in a recent news release that highlights the effect state appropriations have on salaries and faculty retention.
The news release, sent Jan. 25, spoke for hundreds of faculty members who feel neglected by the state legislature whose higher education appropriations fund their salaries, according to LSUnited executive board member and author of the release Michael Russo.
“Eventually your patience runs out,” Russo said. “You have to start saying something – otherwise you get taken for granted.”
After months of discouraging news and additional budget cuts, associate professor Stuart Irvine, a member of LSUnited, said he wanted answers.
Irvine compiled a list of faculty salary data from the 13 peer universities identified on LSU’s Flagship 2020 website.
Every university on the list issued faculty pay raises within the past two years, and many are scheduled to receive raises this fiscal year, with the exception of University of Georgia and University of Maryland, College Park, according to Irvine’s findings.
“None of them have gone as long as we have gone without a pay raise, and more importantly, in the last year, they’ve started to get at least small raises. We don’t have that hope,” Irvine said. “It doesn’t appear that we’re coming out of it. I’ve been here for 25 years, and I can remember faculty going three years without a raise. I don’t think ever four-and-a-half years.”
Irvine said the news release is a way to let administration, the state legislature and the public know University faculty are serious about this problem.
“Beyond the money, going so long without pay raises makes a person, makes me, feel undervalued,” Irvine said. “I don’t want to get too personal here, but a pay raise, especially a merit raise, is an important way in which an employer shows the employee that he’s valued, he’s appreciated. I speak of the employer because LSU is public. The employer is the legislature. It’s the public.”
Irvine said that after so many years without salary increases, it takes more than optimism to keep faculty around.
The University has lost 156 full-time faculty members since 2008, the last year faculty received pay increases, according to the LSUnited news release.
Although all 156 faculty members leaving cannot be attributed to stagnant salaries, many faculty have found better opportunities elsewhere, Irvine said.
Interim Chancellor and System President William “Bill” Jenkins also voiced concerns about the correlation between a lack of salary increases and faculty leaving.
“As we struggle to meet budgetary needs, we are losing some of our best and brightest,” Jenkins said.
Irvine said he knows Jenkins is aware of the problem and has advocated for faculty salary increases numerous times.
“President Jenkins doesn’t have his own money to give us. Neither does Provost Bell. Their job, one of their jobs, is to champion the faculty’s cause with the legislature. It’s the legislature that holds the keys. They’re the ones that have the power in this matter,” Irvine said. “I think all faculty recognizes that the higher administration here, they’re not the bad guys. It’s not like it’s their decision not to give us raises. All they can do is go to the legislature and ask for money to be appropriated.”
Jenkins said although the University will deal with serious financial shortfalls in the coming months, he thinks state leadership will recognize that the University can’t take many more budget hits.
“I actually am beginning to see a light at the end of the tunnel. Leadership across the state is recognizing that irreparable harm may be occurring at our University and we must do something to stop it,” Jenkins said. “Do I see a golden hand reaching out to us now? No. But I do see the level of concern rising and our political leaders see that we cannot harm the universities any more than they’ve been harmed.”