Magazine Article

The time is now
Campus-Based Equity Pay Programs

By Kevin Wehr
Sociology, Sacramento
Member, CFA Bargaining Team

One of the key components of the new collective bargaining agreement on salary (Article 31 of the faculty contract) is the opportunity for campus presidents to implement a campus-based Equity Pay program.

Such programs are intended to alleviate pay inequalities known as salary inversion and salary compression which have plagued faculty for many years.

The relevant contract language reads:

31.12 Presidents may make additional awards which, if issued, must address campus equity issues, including, but not limited to inversion and compression.

The President shall consult with representatives of the campus CFA chapter in developing the procedures and criteria to be used in determining the distribution of such equity awards.

While not all departments and/or programs may be affected, the distribution of awards must use criteria that are developed based upon a campus-wide review of salary issues.

These awards are distinct from Market Increases set out separately in Article 31.25.

Salary inversion and compression have oc-curred in the CSU system for several related reasons.

The CSU must compete nationally for the best new hires, so starting salaries have increased based on the larger market. Sadly, because Service Salary Increases (SSIs) have been paid so inconsistently over the last 12 years, many faculty at the CSU have been unable to realize salary progression in their ranks or ranges.

This has caused new hires to be paid more than (or close to) the salary of experienced faculty who have been on campus for many years. This is known as salary inversion (or compression). 

Inversion can happen at any level of pay regardless of whether you are above or below the SSI max in your rank. A department may hire in new faculty at even higher starting salaries and the faculty already there may experience inversion or compression.

Salary compression occurs due to a lack of in-range progression because at the time of promotion, tenure-line faculty must get a minimum 7.5% raise or be moved to the minimum salary in the next rank. 

This has caused many faculty to be clustered together at or near the bottom of the salary range, especially senior faculty in the highest range. They are all there at roughly the same pay despite differences in years of service—sometimes a decade or more of difference. This is known as salary compression. 

Compression, then, means that wherever your pay lands after your last promotion through the ranks, that is likely to be where you will remain for many years. As people  behind you also promote, experienced faculty will be paid the same as growing numbers of younger faculty moving up.

Adding to this pile of problems, there are cases in which the administrators doing the hiring over the years “low-balled” new faculty at the time of hire. This has gone on generally on some campuses (and in some colleges), and it has happened specifically, in some cases by race or gender. 

Outside of the tenure-line, Lecturers depend on steady payment of SSIs in order to gain eligibility for range elevation and the attendant pay increases. Lack of SSIs also has caused compression and, in some cases, inversion for Lecturers. 

Based on the language in contract Section 31.12 and in consultation with local administrators, campus CFA leaders will be tasked with working to develop and oversee Campus-based Equity Pay programs to fix these problems. 

As noted in the contract language, these Equity Pay programs are distinct from increases for market differences and must treat similarly situated faculty in similar ways, so management cannot discriminate or play favorites with the program.

Since a campus-based Equity Pay program is to be developed locally to address the particular problems on each campus, the programs may vary from one campus to another in size of award or criteria for distribution.

The programs may be designed to adjust salaries based on a standardized benchmark or they can be based on year of hire or year of promotion. They might also attempt to make a valuation of each year of service a faculty member has performed and use a percentage adjustment per year of service.

Additionally, such a program might count the number of missed SSIs that a faculty member should have gotten in recent years.

The programs might use a combination of the above designs or another novel approach.

The amount of awards will depend on how much money a campus president is willing to commit to it. On some campuses this may be just a few hundred thousand dollars. On other campuses where the problems are more severe, the cost may be multiple millions of dollars.

Please contact your campus CFA chapter to an help to make the Equity Pay program successful on your campus.