Replenishment program hopes to increase qualified professors
USC plans to provide up to $3.4 million in annual salary dollars for 27 new faculty members, addressing what it calls a campus-wide shortage in qualified faculty.
According to the Office of the Provost’s website, the aptly named Faculty Replenishment Hiring initiative will provide salary funding of up to $150,000 each for 15 senior faculty hires at USC. It will also provide up to $300,000 per cluster for four inter- or intra-disciplinary clusters of three faculty members each, one senior and two junior.
USC spokeswoman Margaret Lamb said the program’s funding comes from tuition and state appropriations.
According to a state-required accountability report available on the University’s website, 90.6 percent of full-time faculty had terminal degrees in their primary teaching areas during the 2005-2006 school year. Four years later, that number dropped to 79.9 percent.
“The drop in 2006-07 and in 2007-08 reflects the difficulty the University has in replacing retiring faculty with qualified new members of our community,” the report states.
“Over the last several years we have lost faculty, and we have not hired at the normal rate because of the budget cuts,” said Senior Vice Provost Christine Curtis. “When the provost went around to all the departments last year, it was very obvious that we have a number of departments that only have junior faculty or assistant professors or associate professors. Some departments have none; others have one or just a very few.”
Curtis pointed to the Teacher and Employee Retention Incentive Program as the reason so many faculty members have left.
According to the South Carolina Budget and Control Board website, the TERI program allows state employees to retire but continue working for five years while receiving retirement benefits on a deferred basis. After the five years are up, they receive their money but must terminate their employment. Curtis said the program was designed to help public schools retain teachers, but it applied to university faculty as well.
While Curtis described TERI as a “good program,” she said many took advantage of it.
“We lost a number of senior faculty because of that program, and they would have retired anyway, but they all started to in a fairly short period,” Curtis said.
Academic units — the term the initiative uses for academic programs, departments or non-departmentalized schools or colleges — submitted their proposals for new faculty hires to the Provost’s Office. The due date for proposals was Jan. 14; the winners will be announced Feb. 15.
Curtis didn’t know the exact number of proposals submitted but said she expected a “tremendous response” from all units of the University.
“Almost all of our departments participated; some departments sent in more than one request,” said Steve Lynn, senior associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “We had a hiring freeze, and we’ve had terrible budget cuts. We’re probably are a little behind on hiring.”
In response to the drop in the percentage of faculty with terminal degrees, Lynn replied, “That’s why they call it a replenishment, huh?”
Greg Niehaus, associate dean of the Darla Moore School of Business, said five out of seven departments there submitted proposals.
“We have a faculty shortage given the number of students we’re serving,” he said.
When asked about the cost of the new hires, Curtis described it as an “investment in the future,” saying faculty members are necessary to maintain the University’s past 10 to 15 years of progress.
“When you think about the total budget of the University, it’s not a very large percentage,” Curtis said. “ ... If you look at our budget model, you will see that tuition is our biggest driver in terms of funding. Students are paying the tuition dollars. It’s very important that we have a very strong undergraduate and graduate program for our students. The faculty are the core of that program.”