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Recommendations for a New Salary Policy

Included on this page:
A. Problems with the Current System
B. Suggested Statement of Principles for a New Salary Policy
C. A Suggested Model of Faculty Reviews and Career Development

Problems with the Current System

The description of the Faculty Salary System in the University Handbook (Vol. 4, Part IV, Section 2) contains many unrealized goals (e.g. over a period of a 30-year career faculty salaries should rise 2.5 times the entry-level salary) and rather cumbersome procedures for the allocation of funds for merit, exceptional adjustments, and other objectives. Moreover, some concepts and principles, such as merit, are not clearly defined. The result is that there is neither a shared understanding of the University's faculty salary policy nor clear directions for those who are charged with implementing the policy. The first step to reform would be a clear statement of core principles behind the University's salary policy.

Suggested Statement of Principles for a New Salary Policy

The University's faculty salary policy reflects the objective of recruiting and retaining highly qualified faculty members whose teaching, research, and leadership serve the University and the citizens of the State of Washington, and also contribute to the welfare and enlightenment of humanity. The three elements of the salary policy are salary allocation on the basis of merit, competitiveness with peer institutions, and opportunities for career advancement.

The core principle guiding the salary allocation shall be meritorious performance of academic duties. Both at the University and at other institutions merit is defined as the professional judgements of academic peers on the quality and originality of scholarship; the effectiveness of teaching; the distinction of artistic performance; and the contributions of professional and public service. Regular and rigorous evaluations of merit shall be the primary determinant of the allocation of salaries at the University.

In order to maintain the distinction of the University, salary levels must remain competitive with those of peer institutions of comparable standards. Staffing a top-ranked university, such as the University of Washington, requires competition for talented scholars and teachers in the academic marketplace with other great universities and research organizations. Without a commitment to competitive salaries, the quality and distinction of the University of Washington will erode. The selection of peer institutions should be based on aspirations for national and international leadership.

In order to maintain the values of shared responsibility and long-term commitment of an academic community, the University salary policy must also provide opportunities for career advancement. If entry-level salaries are rising faster than average faculty salaries, many loyal and meritorious faculty members encounter relative or even absolute erosion in their salaries. For individual faculty caught in this bind, the only perceived recourse is to solicit competitive offers from other universities in order to boost their local salary. For the institution as a whole, this strategy is an enormous waste of precious faculty time and administrative effort. Moreover, if career advancement is only possible with validation from the external market, the responsibility of the academic community to evaluate merit is eroded. A career advancement policy should allow every faculty member to be evaluated with the expectation that successful performance is rewarded with promotion and increases in salary commensurate with professional achievements without resorting to outside offers as a mechanism for gaining a salary raise.

C. A Suggested Model of Faculty Reviews and Career Development

The current system of salary distribution is not linked to anything more specific than the annual evaluations of merit. Annual evaluations of merit are, however, diffuse, without a clearly specified process, and usually occur at one of the busiest times of the academic calendar (the end of the spring quarter). In most cases, the general outcome is a rating of faculty performance aligned with recommendations for high, medium, or low annual salary raises. Most departments do take special account of patterns of inequality and also respond to external offers, but the general pattern is not organized to provide clear goals for medium-term and long-term career advancement.

We recommend a more formal link between academic progress, formal reviews, and the allocation of salary increases. The most important change would be creation of grades within each professorial rank. Each grade would have a salary minimum, and there would be a clear process of peer evaluation for advancement through grades and ranks. The details of how many grades and how frequently reviews are conducted are less important than the principles that guide them. In order to clarify our recommendations, we make specific recommendations on the number of grades and the procedures for reviews, but these details are separable from the broad principles of a new salary policy.

The average time in each grade should be long enough to allow for the accomplishment of significant scholarly production (research and teaching), i.e., longer than one year, but the periods in each grade should be short enough to provide regular support and evaluation for regular career advancement. Within the three major ranks of professor, associate professor, and assistant professor, there will be a set of clearly specified grades with a minimum and maximum salary attached to each grade. We recommend three grades within the assistant professor rank, four grades within the associate professor rank, and eight grades for full professors. The highest three grades in the full professor rank will be reserved for exceptionally meritorious faculty.

The transition across grades and ranks would be based on a clearly stated policy of major reviews and regular reviews. A faculty appointee at the UW is expected to maintain a high level of professional involvement in scholarship, teaching, and service both to the University and external community. Reviews will normally consider all such aspects of a person's contribution, although there are situations in which a faculty member may specialize in one or the other of these contributions. This is permissible, providing that such agreements are explicitly made between the faculty member and the departmental chair, and there is a net increment to the welfare of the department. For example, a senior faculty member whose research career has slowed might agree to teach extra courses in return for a greater weight being assigned to teaching contributions.

Major reviews
would be conducted for promotion to associate professor, promotion to full professor, and to the highest three grades of full professor. A major review would involve a comprehensive evaluation of a faculty member's scholarly, teaching, and service contributions. In addition to a written evaluation prepared by a committee of peers (higher or equivalent in rank), major reviews would require external letters of evaluation, a departmental vote (by faculty senior in rank), and approval of the Dean and College Council.

Regular reviews
would occur, on average, every two years for assistant professors, every three years for associate professors, and every four years for full professors. Regular reviews would be less comprehensive than major reviews (external letters would not be solicited), but would be an in-depth review of the faculty member's contributions to scholarship, teaching, and service since the last major or regular review. In addition to submitting the usual materials (updated CV, papers, and teaching materials), the faculty member being reviewed would submit a self-study report of current activities and plans for the near term (until the date of the next regular or major review). These materials would be reviewed by a committee of three faculty members higher (or equal) in rank, and a written report would be submitted to the departmental chair with a copy to the person being reviewed. The person reviewed shall be offered the chance to write an addendum. The regular reviews conducted for assistant and associate professors would be evaluated by all faculty members superior in rank, and this pool (faculty superior in rank) will vote to recommend a within-rank grade promotion. The regular reviews for full professors will be handled in a similar manner to the evaluation of the review conducted by the departmental chair and the full professors. Regular reviews can be accelerated if there is significant achievement warranting it.

For major and regular reviews, there will be an associated salary change. Promotions following a major review will be associated with a significant salary increment. Regular reviews will also be associated with promotions to the next grade within ranks. Such promotions will carry significant salary implications commensurate with merit-based evaluations. It will be possible for regular reviews to result in negative decisions - not to promote to the next highest grade.

Annual Performance Evaluations
are conducted by the departmental chair or the department's executive committee (or a comparable departmental committee). Each faculty member will file an annual faculty activity report (see Appendix D for a sample) containing a summary of academic, teaching, and service contributions during the last year and information on any honors received. For all assistant professors, these reports will be a subject of discussion at the annual meetings with the chair. Annual performance evaluations can serve as a diagnostic in deciding whether a regular review should be accelerated or postponed.

Competitive Offers:
A faculty member or administrator may request review of a faculty member for the purposes of countering an outside offer. Within the constraints of time, such a review shall approximate the regular review described above. The existence of an outside offer may be considered as a partial external evaluation of the faculty member's worth. The committee and administrator shall consider the impact of the faculty member's leaving the University, the levels of contributions made by other individuals who are at the faculty member's current rank and grade, and individuals who are at the target rank and grade requested by the faculty member. An attempt shall be made to balance the market pressures indicated by the offer with considerations required to ensure fair distribution of salaries.

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