By Tysen Kendig and Alan Janesch
Faculty salaries at Penn State are lagging in comparison to peer institutions, according to an informational report received April 25 by the University Faculty Senate. But the University administration recognizes the slippage in national rankings and is continuing its efforts to keep increasing faculty salaries at or above the rate of inflation.
President Graham B. Spanier told the Senate last week that increasing the size and the salaries of the faculty remains among his top priorities, even though it appears that the upcoming 2000-2001 academic year budget will be "our tightest budget ever."
The percent increase in faculty salaries has risen steadily over the last three years, according to data from the American Association of Universities (AAU): 3.8 percent in 1998-1999, 3.39 percent in 1997-1998, and 3 percent in 1996-1997. Over the same period, the total number of faculty positions added has increased by more than 300.
"Salary increases have been, on average, at or above the level of inflation throughout my tenure," said Spanier. "However, we're sensitive to the fact that we have slipped in national AAU, Big Ten and peer institution rankings. We're also very sensitive to issues of equity. I can assure you that the competitiveness of Penn State's faculty and staff is of special concern."
The faculty salary subcommittee, chaired by Laura Pauley, presented a report comparing Penn State's faculty salaries with those of the other Big Ten conference universities and the 27 universities in the AAU Data Exchange, which shared salary information for this year. In its report, the subcommittee said that if Penn State is to stay nationally recognized as a top institution, it must "reverse the trend of continual decline in the competitiveness of faculty salaries."
Spanier noted that for at least the past five years, the University has handed out identical percentages of the salary pool among the various colleges and University campuses for pay increases. The compounded salary increase rate for faculty between the 1994-1995 academic year and 1998-1999 is 18.13 percent.
In addition, the 2000-2001 budget plan includes more than $23.7 million for faculty and staff salary adjustments and related employee benefits. However, without help from state appropriations or significant tuition increases, a quick solution to Penn State's falling wage rankings is unlikely.
"Regardless of what happens in Harrisburg (with appropriations), none of the numbers I've seen provide us with the flexibility to do some of the things we want to do in terms of getting salaries up to par," said Spanier.
The meeting also featured a forensic session to discuss intellectual property at the University. The report, presented by John Leathers, associate vice president for research, and Nancy Eaton, dean of University Libraries, capped two years of work on the issue and offered six recommendations on how it should be integrated into policy at Penn State:
n Penn State should invest more in intellectual property personnel and resources;
n The University and the Penn State Research Foundation should do more to assist the formation of start-up companies;
n Penn State should reaffirm faculty ownership of copyrighted materials, making no changes until current legislation becomes law;
n Faculty members who wish to sell courseware, or technology-based instructional materials, to an educational competitor of the University must gain approval from the vice president for research;
n Penn State offices that deal with intellectual property should be consolidated under the vice president for research;
n The vice president for research should form committees to develop introductory recommendations into policies and procedures, with each new policy coming before the Faculty Senate.
Much of the discussion addressed intellectual property rights to courseware, such as CD-ROM texts, software databases and Web sites. Also of concern was the proposed administrative regulation of the free exchange of ideas and information, and possible intrusion from the corporate sector. The senate resolved to form committees to refocus on the individual issues of copyright, patent and courseware.
Other senate business included a report and brochure from University Professor John Brighton on the Teaching and Learning Consortium. Established last July, the consortium is working toward improving the quality of teaching and learning at Penn State and serves as an umbrella group encompassing University-wide teaching and learning support units (Intercom, March 16).
John Coyle, who was honored with a resolution citing his 30 years of service as faculty athletic representative to the NCAA as well his contributions to the Senate as a former chair, gave a report on intercollegiate athletics and academic eligibility. Among the achievements by student-athletes this year, Coyle cited the 10 students earning GTE first-team academic All-America honors this year, and one student receiving an NCAA postgraduate scholarship.
Officers for the 2000-2001 senate, including incoming chair Cara-Lynne Schengrund, were installed at the conclusion of the session. The first senate meeting next year is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Sept. 12 in 112 Kern Building on the University Park campus.
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