UC Berkeley launches initiative to increase faculty salaries, improve retention

A campus initiative with $1.5 million allocated for UC Berkeley professor salary increases is scheduled for implementation this year and will operate until 2015.

The Targeted Decoupling Initiative, which will affect approximately 180 to 200 professors, will increase faculty’s salaries in an effort to reduce the campus’s number of retention cases and to lessen the salary inequalities that the cases create, according to Vice Provost for the Faculty Janet Broughton.

All faculty nominations, which are made by the deans of each school, have already been made and are in the Berkeley Division of the Academic Senate’s Budget Committee for review, according to Executive Dean of the College of Letters and Science Mark Richards.

The $1.5 million for the initiative will come from the operating budget of the university, which is primarily funded through state funding and student tuition, Broughton said. The funds are allocated to the different schools in UC Berkeley and will be distributed to faculty at the time of each member’s next merit review, he added.

Richard Mathies, dean of the College of Chemistry, said that faculty are considered for nomination based on how strong they are in terms of performance in teaching and research and how their salaries compare to their peers at other institutions.

In light of rising tuition costs and further budget cuts, Mathies acknowledged the possibility of controversy and student disapproval, but said the initiative would actually help the campus save money.

The process of retaining faculty costs the campus more than the money allocated for the initiative, Mathies said. Both Mathies and Broughton said the campus wants to avoid the more costly salary raises from retention cases by introducing more reasonable and timely increases from the initiative.

“The idea is to reduce the cost of retention because we have to throw a lot of money to keep professors around here,” Mathies said. “Retention almost always drives up salary unusually well above the levels that we would do with the Targeted Decoupling Initiative.”

Because of UC Berkeley’s financial circumstances, other colleges and universities have been targeting UC Berkeley professors, Mathies said. In most scenarios, UC Berkeley has to compete with better-funded private schools, he added.

He also said the initiative would free up resources to raise funds that could be directed towards students and research.

“Because of the financial notoriety of California, the faculty at Berkeley are being targeted like crazy by other universities,” Mathies said. “I’m spending so much time on retention these days so I don’t have enough time to do fundraising.”

UC Berkeley faculty have consistently been underpaid compared to their peers, averaging around 10 percent lower than the global average, according to Mathies.

Despite the financial difficulties, Broughton said UC Berkeley has done well in retaining faculty. She cited Yale University and Stanford University as UC Berkeley’s biggest retention competitors for the 2010-11 academic year.

Of the 49 retention cases that began in 2010-11, 30 of the faculty members involved have decided to stay as faculty at UC Berkeley. The campus has lost six cases, and 13 of the cases are still in progress.

“If we look at our best performers and make sure they’re not being undervalued, we can nip that in the bud,” Mathies said. “These retentions take up an incredible amount of time and an awful lot of money.”