President, provost dismissal of discussing faculty equity disappointing
The issue of faculty and administration pay in our University of South Carolina was reported by The Daily Gamecock some months ago. It was thereafter discussed at the Faculty Senate meeting of November 7, 2012. What was said at the meeting has not yet been revealed.
At the meeting, USC President Harris Pastides assured faculty he was working on state-supported pay raises for faculty and staff. He wondered if faculty knew the amount of state raises coming from state funds. The president further said the university had kept quiet about pay raises because such matters would not be received “in a popular way, if you will, during a period of economic hardship.”
He then criticized the reports in The Daily Gamecock, which, he said, gave the impression that most pay raises went to central administration when “the data indicate” that 93 percent of those increases went to faculty. The president concluded that his own salary was modified because the board of trustees changes leadership every four years, “as you know or perhaps don’t know,” and the board had hired an “expert in presidential compensation.”
When Provost Michael Amiridis followed up, he made a point of saying he relied on “numbers” and “specific data,” which showed there would be no difference between those making more and less than $100,000 per year, as each group had about the same proportion receiving bonuses. Referring to The Daily Gamecock reports, he noted that “the students do not understand the exact terminology” and that the matter involved “supplemental pay” rather than bonuses.
The comments by the president and provost raise a number of issues. Forgoing the question of just what a compensation expert is, making unsubstantiated claims to assume ignorance and a lack of maturity on the part of faculty and students are not indicative of strong leadership.
The implied aim in relying on numbers is also clear: Nobody is allowed to argue with somebody who has numbers, even if by definition it is only the university’s higher administration that has access to such information.
Besides, numbers can be presented and interpreted in more than one way. Both our president and provost only spoke of the relative number of faculty affected by supplemental pay decisions, but they did not mention the dollar amounts involved, the extent to which supplemental pays are accumulated and the manner in which supplemental pay also affects salary raises. They also remained silent about the effects of the salary levels of recent and ongoing faculty hiring.
While it is true that faculty at our university generally have nothing to complain about when it comes to salaries, we should all be allowed to discuss equity issues. There are also matters of form and transparency our university’s leadership may wish to consider. Such issues display who we are as a community and ultimately affect us all, faculty and students alike.
—Mathieu Deflem, professor of sociology