Editorial: Faculty pay changes get mixed reactions

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Faculty at Webster University haven’t been getting along well lately. During the school year, administrators and faculty have been deliberating on changing the way teachers are compensated. The Mercer group which advised Webster on the compensation changes, was contracted by the administration to determine whether or not Webster faculty was receiving competitive pay in their respective fields.
The new plan would automatically give pay raises to approximately forty percent of the Webster University faculty here in St. Louis. The plan indicates that teachers should be paid on discipline-based market values. And for some, this is a point of contention. As one educator voiced to The Journal during our reporting, it would mean teachers in the same department will suddenly be compensated differently, based on their professions’ market value.
The Journal will not pretend to understand the many complicated mechanics of the Mercer plan, nor will we pretend to fully understand the frustration some faculty must be feeling as their paychecks prepare to change.
But The Journal does believe Webster faculty should take a moment to realign their perception of the compensation process.
While many public universities are slashing resources, Webster is seeking increased compensation. As state and federal aid decreases during these times of economic woe and universities continue to shrink, Webster faculty will be getting a raise.
Like children seeing their parents argue, students at this university get a tad squeamish when faculty bicker. Maybe it’s silly, but we don’t have interest in faculty pay or the debates they produce.
We simply want our education, the one we pay for. We want our teachers, the ones assigning us books. We want to leave the university better and smarter than we were before.
The Journal believes that faculty must approach continued compensation discussions with more humility and gratitude than recently revealed. With graduation rapidly approaching and countless students searching for future employment, it seems a tad indelicate that a group of comfortable, employed teachers should bemoan their sudden pay problems.
We want the best and brightest educators for our campus and we want our teachers paid well and appreciated for their service. But when questions arise about increasing annual pay, remember that many in the audience are wide-eyed students that know nothing of $60,000 salaries and health benefits.
We can neither reconcile nor change what injustices might occur during the adoption of the Mercer plan. We do not support a plan that suddenly and indiscriminately determines educator value through market value. But we do support a system allowing Webster to hire better, more competent faculty.

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  1. Although I’m happy you’re looking at this issue, I’m disappointed with your analogy of faculty as the bickering parents of squirming students/children. I encourage you to take a more grown up view of this conflict and disagreement, even if it makes you a little uncomfortable in the short term. The provision of a quality education can’t be separated from issues of compensation, except in a fantasy world. You should be encouraged not resentful that this small group of people may get higher pay — it’s a small ray of hope in an otherwise dismal employment scene. If you care about receiving a good salary or wage after you graduate, you should be cheering. If you probed a bit more deeply into the issue of faculty compensation, you’d also see that the university depends on contingent, temporary faculty (adjuncts) to teach the majority of its courses. These folks are paid much, much less than what a full timer makes for teaching those same courses, and they receive no benefits at all. This heavy reliance on cheap, adjunct labor gets very little attention but it’s really inseparable from the justice issues concerning full-time faculty compensation.

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