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I. Introduction

Included on this page:
A. Provost's Charge to the Committee
B. Committee Deliberations
C. Overall Conclusions

Faculty salary levels at the University of Washington present a severe and increasing problem. There are several aspects of the "faculty salary problem" at the University of Washington. UW salaries are low--both in comparison to peer universities and relative to the high cost of housing in metropolitan Seattle. Over the last decade, the "wage gap" has been compounded by very modest increments for faculty salaries from the state budget. Indeed, in several years, there were no funds allocated for salary increases.

There are also procedural problems in the distribution of faculty salaries. The University Handbook and Faculty Code specify a salary policy and a merit review process formulated many years ago when it was assumed that a steady stream of increases in faculty salaries would prevail. Moreover, some aspects of the policy are unnecessarily complicated and opaque. These conditions have led to misunderstandings and to some tensions between the University administration, the Faculty Senate, and departments on campus. Although every department has established procedures for merit review, there are wide variations in practices across campus. Most department chairs have not received adequate guidance to insure that departmental procedures conform to the Faculty Code.

Another dimension of the problem is that the distribution of faculty salaries is often a product of incremental decision making rather than thoughtful planning. Market pressures for hiring, efforts to retain faculty who receive outside offers, unit level disparities inherited from the past, the constraints of state budgets and policies, and perceptions of political considerations with Olympia have all shaped the current distribution of faculty salaries between and within units in the University.

A. Provost's Charge to the Committee:

With awareness of these problems and of the need for reform of the University's salary policy, Provost Lee Huntsman appointed an ad hoc Advisory Committee on Faculty Salaries. In his letter of February 17, 1998, appointing the committee, the Provost charged the committee with the following instructions (see appendix A for the Provost's letter):

  1. To undertake a critical evaluation of the merit review process,
  2. To arrive at a clear and defensible characterization of the salary situation at the UW,
  3. To suggest a unit level approach to salary considerations,
  4. To characterize an ideal salary system.

B. Committee Deliberations:

For the past three months, the committee has met weekly to discuss these issues and to consider potential reforms. The first step of our study was an analysis of the trends and variations in faculty salaries at the University of Washington and an assessment of UW salaries relative to peer institutions. We also conducted a survey of selected UW departments and colleges on merit review procedures and the allocation of salary increments in their units. As part of our deliberations, we reviewed the salary policies at a number of other universities. Throughout our many weeks of study, discussion, and occasional disagreements on details, all committee members were united in the hope to make the process of salary allocation as clear as possible and to bring salary policy into alignment with the priorities and values of the institution.

The primary objectives of this report are to: 1) provide a basic portrait of faculty salaries, including trends, distribution, and comparisons with peers, 2) describe variations in the practices of merit reviews and salary recommendations at the departmental level, 3) suggest basic principles that should shape the University's faculty salary policy and offer some specific procedures for implementation of the policy, and 4) discuss some considerations for the distribution of salaries across units in the University. The initial section of the report contains our analysis of the UW salary situation and a summary of the practices of salary allocation in selected units. We then review the current salary policy and offer our recommendations for reform.

C. Overall Conclusions:

We have concluded that the University of Washington salary policy must reflect the realities of the academic market with appropriate consideration of the unique contributions of individuals and units to the broad and multifaceted mission of a great university. The guiding principles of salary allocation should be:

Regular Evaluations of Merit:
Merit increases must be based on rigorous evaluations of merit. The system must be fair and transparent, both to members of the academic community and to the citizens of the state. We propose a balanced set of annual reviews and less frequent, but more intensive, peer reviews tied to salary increases for promotions in rank and grade.

University Value:
To achieve and sustain "internal equity," salaries must reflect valued contributions to teaching, research, and service. There must be opportunities for career advancement in salary for all faculty who are judged to be meritorious. The establishment of grades within professorial ranks, with progress marked by peer reviews, will enable most faculty members to achieve recognition and rewards throughout their careers.

Market Value:
To achieve and sustain "external equity," general salary levels should be set relative to an appropriately chosen group of peer institutions. The selection of the peers should reflect the aspirations of the University of Washington to maintain its status as one of the nation's leading academic institutions where superb undergraduate education and top-ranked research are mutually reinforcing. In order to maintain parity with peers, general increases at all ranks and grades must be made on a regular basis.

Our report does not directly address the question of the amount of funds available for faculty salaries, but any meaningful reforms will require additional funding. In addition to support from the state general fund, our committee recommends the University consider additional sources of funding for faculty salaries, including, but not limited to: private development/endowment, increases in tuition, and funding from the federal government and private sector.

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