By Cady Inabinett
University president Dr. John Stewart III announced to faculty at the Oct. 8 Faculty Senate meeting that university administration would be looking into increasing faculty salaries over the next academic year.
Stewart’s current goal is to have faculty salaries reach 95% of the College and University Professional Organization’s averages for faculty salaries. CUPA is an organization that monitors and collects data on workplace trends in higher education, including data on faculty salaries.
Stewart said that this is, “an industry standard that we’ve followed for a long time.” He added that he believes that, “The Faculty Senate is comfortable maintaining that as a benchmark for right now.”
Additionally, Stewart outlined other goals, including, “bringing all faculty salaries to a benchmarked industry standard, increasing salary for faculty upon promotion through rank, more consistent compensation for ‘overload’ work and investing in a living wage for the lowest paid UM staff colleagues, as well as other compensation related issues.”
When asked about the timeline and plan for rolling out faculty salary increases, Stewart said, “Well, we don’t know exactly yet because we’re finishing up our year end finances,” adding that, “The timing of it is still a little up in the air.”
He added that the fiscal year ended Sept. 30, so administration typically finishes reviewing the budget in October. From there, he said they are able to make recommendations at the upcoming Board of Trustees meeting on Nov. 5.
Stewart outlined the plan for this upcoming Board of Trustees meeting, saying, “We’ll make recommendations to the Audit and Finance committee of the trustees on Thursday, and we’ll discuss those and we’ll discuss our financial condition and then we’ll make, you know, in the general meeting on Friday, if the finances are all strong, then we’ll make recommendations.”
He added, “The administration hopes to make commitments to some of those goals that the Faculty Senate committee has requested us to consider. We hope to make some commitments by the end of the fall semester,” saying that this “might even include increases this year.”
Stewart explained why he believes focusing on increasing faculty salaries is important, saying, “It is necessary that our institution compensate its people fairly because our faculty and staff serve students so closely,” and going on to say, “teaching is at the heart of everything we do. Faculty are why students come to Montevallo.”
He also outlined some of the factors that affected the decision to move forward in looking into increasing faculty salaries, pointing out that the Faculty Senate has requested salary increase for the past couple of years and that university administration, “always kind of took the position that we felt that their requests were really balanced and fair and timely.”
He added that there had been worries about “a nationwide enrollment crunch,” but that Montevallo has “been able to see some increases in enrollment this year, especially in graduate enrollment.” Additionally, he pointed out that Montevallo’s state funding has “remained stable” for this year.
He also pointed out that he has felt, “really fortunate,” that the university has been able to cap tuition for the past few years, saying that administration found it important to, “do that first” before looking into increasing faculty salaries.
Stewart remained forward looking and expressed desire to continue to work on improving faculty salaries, saying, “we have to take good care of our people and so we welcome the conversations and feel we will make concrete strides as early as this semester and on into the Spring.”