Tufts administration and faculty are reviewing faculty compensation and promotion policies, with an emphasis on hiring and retaining talented faculty. mike howardthe executive vice president of Tuftsand Kim Ryan, vice president of human resourcesmade a presentation on the subject to the University Faculty Senate to her February Meet.
Anne Mahony, The Senate secretary and senior lecturer in classical studies, explained what prompted the Faculty Senate’s discussion of retention in an interview with The Daily.
“We thought about [faculty] retention for a long time. It’s hard to keep a good faculty. There are so many other places teachers can go,” Mahoney said. “And for some disciplines, for example, you can make a lot more money in non-academic work. Veterinarians, for example, can make a lot more money – and sometimes with less stress – in private practice than they won’t earn as teachers in veterinary school.
The cost of living in Boston has also presented a barrier to hiring and retaining faculty, as Ellen Pinderhughes, Eliot-Pearson Faculty Senator and Professor of Child Studies and Human Development, underlined during the meeting of the Senate of the Faculty.
The inability of the university to increase faculty salaries in proportion to the rising cost of living “resulted in a salary that…leaves Tufts vulnerable to faculty being – appropriately, through my lens – recruited from other institutions,” said Pinderhughes.
There were few faculty involved in conversations about hiring and retention before the eestablishment of the Faculty Senate in the spring of 2017. Faculty members hope to become more involved in setting faculty compensation policies now that the Faculty Senate exist.
“The faculty of the university as a whole has only really been able to come together and discuss things in the last five years since we had a senatee,” Mahoney noted.
In his presentation to the Senate, Ryan describes the objectives of the university’s merit-based faculty compensation policy.
“First and foremost, it’s really about attracting and motivating talent,” Ryan say it Senate of the University Faculty. “And what I mean by that is…we have a competitive rate [of compensation] …to get people into college.
Mahoney acknowledged that the university sometimes struggles to offer competitive salaries to faculty with job prospects in non-academic fields.
“We don’t always have the resources to pay as much as we would like and as much as we think we should,” Mahoney said. “We try to stay close to the market, but it can be difficult because again, [with] engineering or biology or veterinary medicine or human medicine, the market is so much wider than what other colleges do.
Ryan explained that to Tufts, hiring decisions are made at the discretion of the relevant academic department, and salary decisions are made by the deans of the individual schools that make up the university.
Mahoney says that most universities make hiring decisions at the departmental level because expertise in the relevant discipline is needed to determine which candidate is most qualified. Tufts is unique in that salary decisions are made by individual school deans rather than central administration.
“Tufts is quite decentralized. Harvard has a similar structure. … But in other schools – the schools where I was a student or where I had jobs as an instructor – things are much more centralized. Deans are less powerful and more decisions are made centrally,” Mahoney told the Daily.
Mahoney says that this decentralized approach has advantages.
“The benefits are that decision-making is closer to where things are happening,” she explained. “If something needs to be done in [the School of] Arts and sciences, we don’t have to coordinate with headquarters, we don’t have to coordinate with the provost or the vice president of finance or anything. We just do it. Dean Glaser and his team are doing what needs to be done.
There are also downsides to decentralization, and Tufts actively considering moving away from the decentralized model.
“If you’re not careful, you end up with a bunch of different schools all going in different directions, and nobody looking at the big picture,” Mahoney noted. “When times are good, when there are good returns on staffing, when enrollment is healthy, [the decentralization] doesn’t matter much because things run smoothly. In times of crisis, things have to be a bit more centralized.
President of the Senate Jette Knudsen, a professor of politics and international trade to Fletcher Schoolexpressed concern about the February senate meeting that tthere is little transparency in the decentralized model about how faculty salaries and promotions are determined. Mahoney later explained to The Daily that Knudsen repeatedly received increases without knowing the criteria that determine when and by how much his salary was increased.
Ryan replied to by Knudsen concerns.
“There is definitely a gap in faculty expectations…and guidelines for merit increases, compensation, promotion and tenure,” she acknowledged. “It’s something that [Vice Provost] Kevin [Dunn] and I’m going to tackle the provost. … In fact, Mike Howard and I also had a discussion with [University President] Tony [Monaco] on this subject.”
Mahoney explained to daily how salaries are currently determined: Non-tenured professors such as full-time lecturers generally receive a standardized salary set in their contracts. However, department chairs have the discretion to determine tenured faculty salaries based on the work they publish, their teaching ability, course enrollment, and collegiality toward their colleagues, among other factors.
Course evaluations play only a small role in salary decisions, Mahoney, because research indicates that they reflect students’ implicit biases.
“It’s not just a Tufts thing; it’s universal” said Mahoney. “Teachers get comments about how cute and motherly they are. Male teachers receive feedback on their skill level. And don’t even get me started [on] faculty of color, who also tend to come under fire in course evaluations.