Proposal to use grants, other sources to fund salary increases causes concern

As the UC system faces another year of diminishing state support, a new policy has been proposed to increase salaries for certain faculty members to improve retention rates.

The proposed Negotiated Salary Program would increase faculty salaries by tapping into the many sources of self-generated incomes faculty have access to in an attempt to supplement their general income, according to the proposal.

Under the new proposal, non-state funds — grants and contracts, endowments or special course fees — would be used to augment faculty salaries under certain conditions, according to an email from Dianne Klein, spokesperson for the UC Office of the President.  If implemented, state funds that would be used originally for faculty raises could be used for other purposes.

However, according to Robert Anderson, chair of the UC Academic Senate, there would not be a large increase in usable state funds.

“It is not clear that this proposal generates any new money,” Anderson said. “It doesn’t use any revenue source that is not already being tapped.”

The proposed policy would increase a faculty member’s salary by charging the raise to grants or other sources of self-generated income, Anderson said.

“The salary scale has not increased very much, and it is now significantly below what a comparable person would be paid in a comparable institution,” said Joe Kiskis, professor of physics at UC Davis. “It makes it harder for the university to keep their best faculty and to hire new faculty.”

The policy states that faculty in good standing who are meeting teaching, research and service obligations may propose a new, higher negotiated salary. The decision to negotiate an increase in salary is determined by the department chairs, deans and the executive vice chancellors or provosts at each UC campus.

However, faculty are concerned that this policy would concentrate the decision-making authority into a few positions. The policy would give the deans extensive power to reduce or increase a faculty member’s salary on a year by year basis without a review to justify the change, according to Anderson.

“It would decrease transparency,” Kiskis said. “It is inevitable that there would be more imbalance in the system.”

At UC Berkeley, increases to faculty salary are recommended by the Committee on Budget and Interdepartmental Relations as part of an academic review, according to campus Academic Senate policy.

The proposed salary plan utilizes the principles found in the Health Sciences Compensation Plan, a policy that allows UC campuses to award competitive salaries by drawing on a broad range of revenue funds. The compensation plan uses clinical income as well as endowment earnings, grants and contracts to create a more competitive market salary for their clinical faculty.

“(The compensation plan) works fine for what it is,” said Stanton Glantz, a professor in the Department of Medicine at UC San Francisco. “If you try to apply this on the general campus, where you don’t have this big clinical revenue scheme, it will create chaos.”

The salary plan would not be enforced systemwide — each chancellor may decide whether or not to implement the policy. Currently, UC Berkeley is not set to participate in the program, according to UC spokesperson Steve Montiel.

“Campuses with medical centers seem more disposed towards the program because faculty in the sciences often feel at a disadvantage to their peers on the Health Service side who are able to take advantage of the (compensation plan),” Klein said in the email.

Currently, the proposal is still in the discussion phase, according to Klein. The Academic Senate is estimated to discuss the proposal in December, after which the proposal will be sent to UC President Mark Yudof for approval.