Faculty frustrated with salary freeze
A state-imposed salary freeze, now in its third year, has left some University faculty and staff with lowered spirits and an abundance of frustration.
“Salary freezes that last over a period of three to six years, combined with furloughs or temporary pay cuts, are devastating to faculty morale,” tenured English professor Peter Baker said. “We have had a hard time retaining newly-hired faculty. And faculty of longer standing with obligations such as mortgages, children in college or in daycare, feel the pinch as well.”
Alex Storrs, a tenured associate professor in the department of physics, astronomy and geosciences, said one of the main predicaments with the freeze is salary inversion – newly-hired faculty and staff whose starting salary is higher than that of faculty and staff who’ve been at the University longer.
“Obviously it’s unfair and not a huge problem, but it is a bit of a morale problem,” Storrs said. “Salary inversion is just an extension of salary compression that we’ve been complaining about for years.”
Storrs said he is concerned for some of his colleagues who’ve been teaching at Towson University 15 to 20 years.
Interim Provost Terry Cooney said there are modest exceptions to the salary freeze, for example, if a university can pay more to retain a particular faculty or staff member who has been offered a position elsewhere with higher pay.
“If the employee is particularly valuable and received a job offer from another institution, then the University can make an adjustment in attempt to keep that position,” Cooney said. “The general idea of an exception is in cases when there’s a compelling reason that’s very important to the University. Then an increase can be considered.”
Adjunct salaries increased beginning this fall, but are still low compared to surrounding institutions, according to Cooney. Cooney said the $500 increase per course was what Interim President Marcia Welsh and former Vice President for Admission and Finances Jim Sheehan could fit into the budget at the time.
Cooney said administrators are facing the freeze, too, but there are also exceptions.
“If a new person were hired into a senior position, it doesn’t necessarily mean the previous person’s salary is what it will be,” Cooney said. “It can go down or up depending on hiring circumstances, experiences and credentials of the person being hired.”
Cooney said it is only human that faculty and staff are upset if salaries are frozen. Another frustration comes from an increase in parking permit prices.
“On the whole, people have been understanding that it’s not under control of Towson or even the University System of Maryland,” Cooney said. “We have actually faired reasonably well compared to other systems in a lot of states across the country.”
Baker said his main concern is the uncertainty of future funding.
“One problem looming in the future is how to allocate any future funds for salary adjustments when they become available so that inequities in faculty salaries are not made semi-permanent,” he said. “Just as an example, someone promoted to full professor in my department could quite well be making more than I do next year, and I’ve been a full professor since 1996.”
Storrs said any chance of problem solving is at a halt because of the lack of funds.
“The administration is not doing anything about this problem and won’t do anything until a miracle occurs and dumps a lot of money on us,” he said.
Even though this is the case, Storrs still said there should be a plan in place for when the money is available.
“We should try to solve one problem at a time to correct this small injustice amongst the vulnerable members of the faculty,” he said.