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'There are no plans'
Faculty ‘skeptical’ of salary increase, University battles loss of funds

Austin Ramsey, asst. news editor & Ben Morrow, staff writer MSU News,

 Reprinted with permission from Murray State News 

    Murray State faculty members are expressing disappointment in administrators as they continue to see a lack of recognition in annual raises, according to some faculty. Administrators, meanwhile, are feeling pressured from both the University and constrictive state regulations.

Faculty dissatisfied with progress

    Jack Rose, professor and former dean of the College of Education, is the faculty representative on the University Board of Regents. Rose explained his dissatisfaction with current salaries.

    "I'm not comfortable with the progress we've made," Rose said. "When you look at faculty salaries and compensation, we basically haven't made any progress."

    Rose said faculty salaries have not been an administration priority.

    "If you want to know what people value, look at their priorities," Rose said. "If you want to determine their priorities, look at where they put their money. What are the priorities of this institution?"

    That is the question many teachers are waiting for the Board of Regents to answer. Rose said it might be up to the Board to spur University President Randy Dunn to produce.MSU Appropriations 2008-2011

    Dunn could not be reached at press time due to a University recruiting trip to Asia.

State funding fluctuates

    Josh Jacobs, the president's chief of staff, said faculty received two raises over the last three years: a one-time gift of $400 in addition to last year's 1 percent raise.

    Jacobs said administration gave small raises instead of keeping the money for other projects and deferring raises to later years.

    "As an institution, we believe it was valuable to give that to the employees to say we value you," he said. "We know it's hard. You're struggling as an individual, we're struggling as an institution, but we've made it a priority to give you this."

    Tom Hoffacker, director of human resources, said all full-time and part-time regular faculty did receive a raise in January, albeit a small one.

    He said "A 1 percent pay raise was given to all (faculty) employees, with a $450 minimum and a $1,200 maximum" amount added to the employee base, depending on the size of salary." 

    The raise was not reported in the 2009-10 Murray State Fact Book.

    Administrators are facing pressures from lack of state appropriated funding to increase salaries on a yearly percentage basis.

    When the 2009-10 fiscal year state budget was first enacted, the University was granted $52,943,200 after requesting $60,021,900, according to the 2008-10 Budget of the Commonwealth.

    However, a reduction led to a decrease in funds making the final amount $51,884,300, a sum almost $10 million below the requested amount, according to Tom Denton, vice president of financial and administrative services at Murray State.

Faculty are becoming jaded

    Terry Strieter, history department chair and former Faculty Regent, said, "I have to call myself a skeptic that (administrators) are trying hard enough to give us a small raise."

    Strieter said faculty are becoming jaded and skeptical about the administration's desire to reward faculty.

    "When you do a good job, you get rewarded," Strieter said. "Our faculty is not getting rewarded, and they haven't been for three years. If we go a fourth year, I predict even deeper demoralization. (Faculty) can go elsewhere. They don't have to go without raises this long."

     Strieter said his experience on the board tells him administrators could find appropriate funds for teachers if it was their priority.

    He said previous University presidents Kern Alexander and King Alexander demonstrated how to continue annual faculty raises even during tough economic times.

    "The University has argued now for several years the same thing: there is no money left over for faculty salaries," Strieter said. "I would argue that yes, there is. If you start your budget by telling your budget director that we are going to find a way to give faculty a 2 percent raise this year, they'll find it.

    "They'll look for the pools of money that are squirreled away. That's what the Alexanders did. They found it out of cut budgets. We got a raise every year."

    During Ronald Kurth's reign as president, faculty received a 2 percent decrease in the 1992-93 fiscal year, according to the 2001-02 Fact Book. 

Employees question budget

    Strieter said administrators could delay projects such as buying up properties adjacent to the University, or could redirect funds from vending into the general fund as the Alexanders did.

    Strieter said his time on the Board of Regents also showed him how little the athletic department is able to sustain itself. He suggested decreasing some athletic subsidies. 

    "The football program is subsidized by basketball and by other revenues," Strieter said. "Only basketball makes money. All the other (sports) don't make money, especially football. Football gets a (yearly) subsidy of approximately $750,000 to $1 million. I don't think we need to subsidize football to the extent that we do."

    Strieter said administrators should watch personal spending as well"Maybe money (for faculty) has to come out of the president's own budget," he said.

    Hoffacker was asked if administration has considered cutting other programs to find funds for salary.

    "I haven't heard that talked about," he said. "That's not (being) contemplated right now at all."

    Hoffacker said he believes University funds are being spent as they should be.

    "I think the way the University is running is awesome," he said. "I think it's great."

    Rose said if he had to choose one area where the University needs to decrease spending, it would be in administration.

    He said the current trend is for universities to create "additional professional staff that does not offer instruction to the students."

    "Nationally, higher education is spending more and more money in areas other than what I think is our basic mission, and that is instruction," Rose said.

Next step is unknown

    Strieter said the faculty knows it will never get the raises in salary it missed in the previous three years.

    "I'm not asking for a 7 percent or 8 percent raise to get us back up to where we should be," Strieter said. "Even a 2 percent raise would be very meaningful to this faculty."

    According to average salaries of full-time instructional faculty as surveyed by the Council on Postsecondary Education, Murray State pays a little more than 1 percent less to its faculty than Eastern Kentucky University - a trend not abnormal as compared to other schools in the region.

    Hoffacker was asked what administrators were planning for future faculty salaries.

    "There are no plans," he said. "We don't know what the next step is for the next pay increase."

    Rose said he is hopeful, however, that faculty members could obtain favor from the administration this year, though it may take a push from the Board of Regents.

    "If all the regents are telling the administration we want you to work on this, then it's time," Rose said. "It's going to take everybody working together, and it's going to take the administration understanding that the board has a strong interest in this area."

    Jacobs said salaries are definitely on administration's radar.

    "We have a desire to recruit and retain the best (faculty) we can," Jacobs said. "The president has made it clear that the Board desires to work on salaries over time."

Students side with faculty

    Tony Cardon, senior from Hardinsburg, Ky., said he advocates raises for faculty if they deliver in the classroom.

    "It depends on how well they're doing," he said.

    He said he believes there should be a better system of evaluation and teachers should be rewarded on an individual basis.

    Sarah Kelty, senior from Louisville, says it is time for the Board of Regents to re-address faculty pay if the administration wants to keep quality faculty.

    "There have been multiple times when professors have given me individual attention outside office hours and helped me succeed," Kelty said. "I believe they deserve to be paid for their efforts."

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