By Cady Inabinett
Members of the Board of Trustees approved a 2% salary increase for university faculty at their Nov. 5 meeting.
The increase is an effort to reach College and University Professional Organization benchmarks for average faculty salaries, with the university aiming to get faculty salaries within 95% of these averages for tenure-track faculty.
The board indicated they would like to explore increasing staff salaries in the future, specifically looking into ensuring that the university’s lowest paid staff members are making living wage.
Board of Trustees Chair Todd Strange pointed towards the university’s financial success and increased enrollment as making salary increases possible, as well as indicating that it would put the university in a “better position” to increase staff salaries.
“Enrollment, enrollment, enrollment,” he said, “What makes the world go round.”
Additionally, trustees voted to keep summer semester tuition the same. University Chief Financial Officer and Treasurer Susan Hayes pointed out, during the past summer semester, graduate enrollment increased compared to previous summers. However, Hayes also reported undergraduate summer enrollment had decreased slightly.
University President Dr. John Stewart’s employment contract was renewed by the board as well. His new contract will be set to expire in 2026, with Strange claiming that this will make Stewart the university’s second longest serving president after Dr. Thomas Palmer, who was president of the school for 19 years.
Updates to Stewart’s contract include a retention and performance bonus, as well as an increase in his insurance coverage — Strange pointed out that, by the expiration of this new contract, Stewart would be 65 years old. In regard to this, Strange commented, “We’re not increasing it hoping he’ll die. We’re increasing it in case he dies!”
Other trustees spoke congratulatorily of Stewart’s time at the university so far, with Personnel Committee Chair David Wheeler saying Stewart has done unprecedented work during unprecedented times.
Sen. Rodger Smitherman remarked that Stewart has “done a great job,” and is “the right person for the right time.”
The board approved several new academic programs as well. The first was a Master of Education program in Applied Instruction. The other approved programs were all business major concentration programs. The group approved two management concentrations, International Management and Human Resources, and two finance concentrations, Financial Sales and Sustainable Finance.
The group also was provided an update on the building renaming working group by working group chair Leroy Nix. The renaming group was established in June as a way to review building naming criteria and guidelines.
Nix outlined some modifications made to the university’s building naming guidelines, including changes in how namesake nominees are approved, and assured trustees that the university is now better equipped to handle building naming now than before.
The board went on to approve two new name suggestions submitted by the working group. The first would be in honor of Charlie Webb, who worked as a postal worker on campus from 1941 until 1977. This name would be applied to the campus post office, and, according to Nix, work to honor the contributions staff make on campus.
The other approved name would be in honor of Dr. Wilson Fallin, Jr. Nix said this would be a way to draw attention to and commemorate Fallin’s life-long commitment to Montevallo and social justice activism. There are no specific plans as to what building Fallin’s name will be applied to as of yet.
The board’s Marketing and Communications Committee provided two other naming recommendations in honor of university donors that the board approved. The first approved name would be applied to the community counseling room in the Sims House—naming it the Paige Golden ’16 Behavioral Health Corridor. This would be in honor of Montevallo alum Paige Golden, who earned a Master of Education focusing on clinical mental health counseling in 2016 and died in April.
The other approved name would change the name of the university’s accounting program to the James and Jennifer Newman Accounting Program, to honor the donations the pair have made to the Stephens College of Business.