Skepticism Surrounds Faulty Salary Study Findings
CFA members and CSU trustees are questioning results of Mercer’s faculty salary study presented at the March 22 Board of Trustees meeting.
The limited analysis that was made public included comparing CSU faculty salary data with other university systems across the nation, but did not use the University of California or the California Community Colleges as comparators. Mercer representatives concluded most faculty salaries are comparable to those of faculty at other universities and that there is little to no pay inequity among race, ethnicity, and gender.
To date we have still not seen the data Mercer used to generate its analysis, nor have we had access to the raw results of their regression analyses and models.
The Mercer study also highlighted the value of CSU benefits, but neglected to point out that a significant portion of CSU faculty members are not eligible for the benefits as presented to the Board of Trustees. Many part-time lecturers are not eligible for health benefits and an even larger percentage of lecturers are not eligible for pension or retiree medical benefits. Those lecturers are also typically among the lowest paid in the system even after adjusting for their part-time status.
CFA Stanislaus member Steven Filling served on the study steering group and noticed a shift in access and participation by stakeholders in August after Interim Chancellor Koester altered the composition of the group.
“I’m deeply disappointed by the interim chancellor’s ‘retake’ on the faculty salary study. CFA, along with several trustees, worked hard at designing something that could gather accurate and useful information,” Filling said. “After Interim Chancellor Koester’s ‘interruption,’ that camaraderie and shared goal was deflected by administration and, predictably, what resulted are conclusions supported by opaque analyses and ill-informed understandings of faculty compensation in the CSU.”
After last week’s presentation, trustees – including Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis and State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond – also appeared skeptical of the results and want to learn more about the data behind the analysis.
Trustee Leslie Gilbert-Lurie wants more accurate comparison universities.
“I am concerned about what we consider our peer groups, because it seems to me what we decide our peer groups and what we decide is a median that makes us feel satisfied or not satisfied. And I’m concerned in this peer group are not schools in California or few schools in New York,” Gilbert-Lurie said. “And that’s who we’re really competing against for our staff and our faculty. I go to the bottom line of our survey. To me, the fact that all of our faculty and staff – 80 percent feel underpaid. To me that is the bottom line. There are other categories that seem okay and if we’re okay, it doesn’t matter who we’re comparing ourselves to. But the fact that such a high percentage feel that they are being underpaid doesn’t make me feel better that we pull out a survey of institutions in other states and then we say, ‘well, you’re okay.’ They don’t feel okay and I think it’s no wonder to us that people living on these salaries in our states are finding it hard to make ends meet.”
Faculty Trustee Romey Sabalius also pointed out the difference in purchasing power for faculty working and living in California versus locations Mercer used in the analysis. He added that the CSU’s recent attempts to hire more diverse faculty might skew the pay inequity findings.
“When you have this great amount of women and faculty of color coming in more recently at a relatively better pay than the senior faculty has, it overall balances it out, but it doesn’t reflect the time continuum of the lived experiences of, let’s say, senior professors. If you have a woman of color of my rank and experience in the CSU, I’m sure there’s s significant difference. … So when the study reflects there is no systemic pay (in)equity across the CSU.
“I’m sure there are colleagues outside, they go ‘whoa, that data doesn’t reflect my lived experience,’” Sabalius said.
Student Trustee Diana Aguilar-Cruz highlighted the myriad roles faculty play in helping students succeed and the importance of rewarding that tireless dedication.
“It’s concerning that — we want to create graduating students, we want to create successful students – but yet, we’re not supporting our faculty enough. … Some of our faculty members have family, so we’re not only looking at one person, we’re not only looking at the data, we’re looking at a brother, a sister, a mother, a father,” Aguilar Cruz said. “We really need to be very cognizant that we’re not looking at numbers, but we’re – it’s in our hands, the lives of the people that educate the leaders of our future.”
CFA has filed an information request with the CSU to obtain the raw data behind the Mercer study. We also sent a letter to trustees highlighting our concerns with the study.
Trustees also signaled a desire to get more details in the next few months about data that went into the study. We’ll keep you updated on next steps.
In the meantime, CFA members who have not yet completed our Bargaining Survey, please do so here. Your feedback is critical as we prepare to bargain for better salaries and working conditions in our re-opener this year. The Bargaining Survey closes April 7, at 5 pm.