Enterprise Reporting - A Divided Front: What lies in the void between Ohio State's administrators and teachers?
Originally published on TheLantern.com.
By Amanda Etchison and Eric Weitz
In his 12 years of paychecks at Ohio State, Pranav Jani, an associate professor in the Department of English, said he still remembers one specific year.
“One of my raises recently was tiny; it came out to about $30 a month,” he said. “That’s roughly seven more Starbucks coffees a month.”
After his first year in Columbus, University President Michael Drake was also approved for a pay increase. However, Drake’s raise — a 2 percent increase to his $800,000 base salary, which equates to an additional $16,000 a year — will cover a bit more than a few mochas.
A Lantern analysis of university employees’ base salaries from the past five years shows Drake is one of many high-ranking administrators who are awarded a median salary increase of 2.4 percent each year.
Full-time teaching faculty saw a median pay increase at the same rate: 2.4 percent a year.
When part-time faculty is included, however, the rates are no longer equal. Median salaries for all instructors increased less than 1 percent.
This discrepancy is driven, at least in part, by the increased hiring of part-time teachers at OSU.
At the same time, the number of full-time educators dropped.
Since 2010, OSU more than tripled its part-time teaching workforce. The number of part-time educators on the payroll increased by an average 146 employees each year.
Over the same period, the number of full-time teachers at OSU decreased by an average of 127 educators each year.
Some higher education experts say they have observed this gap between administrative and faculty salaries at other universities throughout the United States.
“We have seen an increase in administrator salaries,” said Samuel Dunietz, a research and policy analyst for the American Association of University Professors. “On a nationwide trend, it has grown much faster than the rate of faculty salary increases.”
Dunietz added that there is also an increase in the number of administrative positions. This is coupled with the hiring of more part-time faculty — a trend that’s hardly limited to OSU.
University spokesman Chris Davey said the administration has initiated several strategies to “make sure that we have the appropriate compensation structure in place for all our employees.”
Davey acknowledged that the increased hiring of part-time instructors contradicts the university’s goal of increasing the number of tenure-track faculty members.
“There was a goal that had been identified of increasing the number of tenure-track faculty that we would have at Ohio State, by between 8 and 10 percent,” Davey said. “And, in fact, the number has decreased, and that’s reflected in the numbers you have identified.”
“That is something that the university is not happy with and that we are working actively to address,” he added “It is a top priority of the academic leadership of Ohio State to determine why this is happening and to get us back on track, not only on reversing that trend but achieving the goal that had been identified some time ago.”
Jani said he thinks unequal administrator and faculty pay, when paired with the increased reliance on part-time teachers, can have adverse effects on education at all levels, not just at colleges and universities.
“It’s just like teachers in K-12. If you get teachers who aren’t well-paid and who don’t have a kind of security to actually pay attention to students and really give their time, which is why we go into teaching,” he said. “If teachers aren’t given that, then students actually don’t benefit either.”
The push for part-time
The increased reliance on part-time faculty is a national trend, and one that is explored in a 2014 report by the Institute of Policy Studies titled “The One Percent at State U: How Public University Presidents Profit from Rising Student Debt and Low-Wage Faculty Labor.”
In its report, the IPS found that the number of part-time faculty at the state colleges and universities with the highest-paid presidents increased 22 percent faster than the national average.
OSU topped IPS’s list of highest-paid presidents. The report found that between fiscal years 2006 and 2012 OSU paid then-President E. Gordon Gee more than $10.2 million in total compensation, making him the highest-paid administrator at any public university in the U.S.
The report further stated that from autumn 2005 to autumn 2011, the number of part-time faculty at OSU increased almost three times faster than the national average.
“In the last 30 years, we’ve seen a huge decrease in the number of tenure and tenure-track positions and a rise in contingent faculty. That is not only part-time faculty, that is also full-time, non-tenure track faculty, and that is also graduate student employees,” Dunietz said.
OSU defines faculty who work above .75 full-time equivalent as “full-time” in terms of benefits.
In 2010, 266 part-time teachers fell below this threshold. Five years later, this number more than tripled, as OSU employed 882 part-time faculty in 2015.
Coordinating hiring policies across an institution as large as OSU is difficult, Davey said.
“Ohio State is a large, complicated institution with thousands of employees,” Davey said. “Managing the compensation appropriately for all of our employees is an ongoing thing that the administration is actively engaged in and is committed to paying appropriate and fair salaries for all the members of the university community.”
The trend extends far beyond OSU.
Nationally, more than 70 percent of the academic instructional workforce is made up of contingent faculty, Dunietz said.
He added that he thinks the increase in part-time employees has broader implications for students and faculty, as well as society as a whole.
“I think from a public perception point of view, having an increase in administrator salaries, presidential salaries, while at the same time relying on part-time contingent faculty is not really a good narrative to have, necessarily,” he said, explaining that part-time faculty rarely have time to host office hours to aid students outside of class or conduct intensive research-related breakthroughs.
Jani agreed and said he believes that relationships between teachers and students are at “the heart of any university.” He added that he worries these connections are lost as OSU invests more money in part-time faculty than full-time employees.
“By replacing full-time jobs with part-time jobs, by basically hiring people on the cheap, by not supporting their research, not giving them their benefits so they can be secure here, by not giving them tenure … the administration is not only doing a harm for us but for students,” he said.
Addressing administrative bloat
The growth in the number of employees hired at different levels at colleges and universities has been a topic discussed among higher education professionals for decades.
In its 2013-14 “Annual Report on the Economic Status of the Profession,” the AAUP included an excerpt of a lead article written for the November-December 1991 issue of “Academe” that criticized the topic of “administrative bloat,” a phrase coined to describe the surge in administrative spending at colleges and universities.
“Undetected, unprotested and unchecked, the excessive growth of administrative expenditures has done a lot of damage to life and learning on our campuses,” wrote Barbara R. Bergmann, then-president of the AAUP and a distinguished professor of economics at American University. “Huge amounts have been devoted to funding administrative positions that a few years ago would have been thought unnecessary … But the bloating of college administrations over the past decades has made administrative performance worse rather than better.”
More than 20 years later, the AAUP’s 2013-14 report showed that full-time, nonfaculty professionals — which the report says includes individuals such as buyers and purchasing agents, human resources employees, lawyers and “other non-academic workers” — showed the most growth between 1975 and 2011. This group of employees grew 369 percent during that time period while full-time senior administrative positions increased 141 percent.
“I think what we’ve seen is that there has been a number of new positions that have been created. In the face of decreasing state appropriations, there are budget implications that come into play,” Dunietz said. “What we are worried about is that is coming at a cost of inhibiting faculty develop, which also inhibits student success. It creates a barrier to student success.”
Some, like Joanne McGoldrick, the associate vice president for total rewards within OSU’s Office of Human Resources, justify high administrator salaries by citing the round-the-clock nature of those positions.
“A president of a university such as Ohio State is a 7/24 position,” she said. “He or she … is dealing with a community, both nationally and locally, and internationally, and is required to be a fundraiser, a politician, an educator, so salaries of that type of individual would definitely be at a certain rate.”
The Board of Trustees and the Talent and Compensation Committee recently launched a new initiative to address starting salaries for future administrators at the university. The plan will move starting salaries for top administrators closer to the median value for comparable positions at similar universities across the country.
“We are going to establish what the market is paying for any particular position at the senior executive level and when we bring in new people, we will target the median of that market that has been identified empirically,” Davey said.
“That represents a pretty significant shift for the university because previous to the implementation of that system, under Gordon Gee’s leadership, the university targeted the 75th percentile of the market. That is a really significant difference.”
Under the new initiative, salaries will shift to the 50th to 60th percentile, Davey said.
Davey added that over the last fiscal year, members of the president’s cabinet received no raise and one executive voluntarily took a 5 percent salary cut.
“That is important to note as part of the university’s overall commitment to managing compensation in a way that is frugal and aligned with the market and reflective of our values as an institution,” he said. “As contracts for senior executives are coming up for renewal, each one is being examined with an eye towards our compensation philosophy.”
OSU determines faculty salaries based on a variety of factors, McGoldrick said. These include an evaluation of the market value of jobs, as well as the qualifications of individual candidates.
“With compensation, people think it is a science, and it is. It is very data-driven, but at some point there is art in it as well because you are involving people and what they bring and their experiences,” McGoldrick said.
The university completes surveys and also analyzes data from organizations such as the Association of American Universities to determine compensation benchmarks for certain positions, McGoldrick said.
“When we go to hire a professor, we have an idea of what the market will bear,” she said.
McGoldrick added that the differences in starting salaries emerge from factors such as an individual’s years of experience, as well as the research opportunities he or she brings to the university.
Movin’ on up
At OSU, raises are awarded on an annual basis and are determined through performance reviews, according to a letter from former Executive Vice President and Provost Joseph Steinmetz to vice presidents, deans, department chairs and school directors.
McGoldrick said the letter, which is sent out annually by the provost, details the merit compensation process.
“The board, along with finance and others, weigh in and determine what the university can afford in relation to a merit increase,” she said. “And then each department has to fund for it.”
Steinmetz’s July 2015 letter outlines the process by which departments must budget 2 percent of their payroll for merit-based increases in pay. An additional 1 percent is available for “one-time payments to regular faculty beyond the regular merit pool,” the letter stated.
The decision to award an individual a merit-based increase is determined by whether he or she has met specific goals, McGoldrick said.
These objectives vary from individual to individual, and employees are often working toward completing a piece of a larger goal, McGoldrick added.
“My goals in HR cascade up to my senior leader. But those senior leader goals are broad, and each person has a piece of the goal … We may have a broad objective of ‘compliance’ in HR, but each one of us takes a piece,” she said. “In the professorial roles, it could be anywhere across the board. They may say that they are going to teach so many classes or they are going to do so much research.”
Based on the goals identified, the individual’s ability to reach these goals is assessed on multiple performance scales, McGoldrick said.
“And then the individual’s leader sits down at the end of the year and has a discussion and then decides what to award,” she said. “And then a determination is made, and that is an annual award.”
In his letter, Steinmetz explained that some faculty members will receive raises and others will not.
“The aggregate merit pool should in no way be viewed as floor for merit increases or as entitlement for ‘just being employed,’” he wrote. “We also expect that there will be employees who receive no merit increase because their base pay is already commensurate with market or because their performance does not justify an increase.”
Search for solutions
The problems of discrepancies between top administrator and teacher salaries and the changing composition of the workforce with an influx of part-time teachers are seen not only at OSU but nationwide. Several suggestions for remedying these issues have been posited by national organizations such as the AAUP.
“In our report this year, we actually touch on converting those part-time faculty to full-time faculty and the specific costs of that,” Dunietz said. “If you really want to … achieve greater results in research and ensuring student success, this is one option that might not be as drastic as one would think … It is something which would not only help faculty and students, but the institution as a whole.”
While individual universities contemplate implementing this part-time to full-time conversion, smaller scale efforts to incorporate part-time faculty are already being implemented at the department level.
“What we’ve done in the department is a few things to ease the burden of the part-time lecturers in our department, but also to demand more and keep putting in more requests for full-time, tenure-track jobs,” Jani said.
At OSU, this conversion — if based on current base salaries and full-time equivalents — would increase the payroll for 882 current part-time employees from more than $59 million to almost $123 million with additional undetermined cost of benefits such as retirement contributions and health insurance.
Davey was unable to address OSU’s position on converting part-time teachers into full-time employees, but he did note other potential remedies that the university is currently exploring.
“Some of these include an examination of senior-level administrative salaries that Dr. Drake initiated immediately upon his arrival at Ohio State,” he said. “(And) the establishment by the Board of Trustees of a Talent and Compensation Committee … to oversee a multifaceted approach to executive compensation at the senior level at the university.”
While professors like Jani still see room for improvement in relations between administrators and teaching faculty, he said he appreciates his position at OSU.
“I have a good job. It’s a well-paying position. I’m happy with it,” he said. “But what happens is the cost of things are constantly going up, and you know for a fact that you’re not valued; what you do is not valued as much as it ought to be.”
Five years of base salary data for OSU employees at the Columbus campus were analyzed after categorizing appropriate faculty as “top administrators” or “teaching faculty” by their position title. “Top administrators” were categorized as those employees at and above dean level. “Teaching faculty” were categorized as employees whose primary role is to educate students and varied from lecturers to tenured professors.
The median salaries for these employees were calculated to analyze the rate of growth each year from 2010-15. Direct comparison was made in rate of increase between administrators and teachers who were classified by OSU as 1.00 full-time equivalent. Assessment of the number of “part-time” faculty and “full-time” faculty pivoted at the 0.75 FTE level, above which employees earn benefits.
Total payroll projections for converting part-time teachers to full-time were based on percentages needed to convert university-supplied FTE designations to 1.00.
The discrepancy in overall comparison between administrator and teaching faculty median salaries was based on analysis of all teaching faculty, regardless of FTE.
While the increase in part-time employees and decrease in full-time educators contributes to the disparity presented, other factors such as the replacement of retiring faculty with new educators at lower starting salaries might also contribute to this observation.