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SENATE Economic Status of the Faculty

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Executive Summary of the Economic Status of the Faculty 2003-2004 Report

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SCESF Recommendations and Questions for the Administration for 2003-04

In accordance with Faculty Senate policy, following are recommendations and questions for the administration that have arisen in the SCESF discussions, including some updates on the status of recommendations made in last year's SCESF report.

1. Salary Competitiveness Issue. The need to attain and maintain faculty salary levels that are highly competitive with salaries provided by peer universities, while simultaneously sustaining other components of university operations essential to providing high quality instruction, research, and service.

SCESF Recommendations

a. While the recent changes in Penn salaries generally apparently have been positive relative to peer institutions, there are a few areas in which apparently mean faculty salaries in academic fields included in the MIT Salary Survey have fallen behind the comparison groups (e.g., compare first and last columns in Table 4). If these four faculty groups are as meritorious, on the whole, as comparable faculty groups at Penn with changes towards more competitive mean salary levels, it is recommended that priority be placed on increasing mean salaries to Penn's competitive level of the groups that have fallen behind.  These areas are:

(1) Full professors in:

     (a) Engineering

     (b) Architecture

(2) Associate professors in:

     (a) Social science/humanities

(3) Assistant professors in:

     (a) Management

The SCESF has identified specific areas where Penn may have fallen behind its peers. The Provost agrees to explore this further by examining what explains this outcome in each area. 

b.  Even though priority should be placed on regaining Penn's competitive level in the academic fields identified above, it is recommended that equal priority be given to recognizing in advance and rewarding with salary increases distinguished performance of faculty members who choose not to seek, or use, attractive offers of external appointment to negotiate salary increases. We note that while generally Penn's salaries have tended to become more attractive relative to the comparison group in the MIT survey, there are very few fields/ranks in which Penn is in the top tercile (only for professors and associate professors in management in column four in Table 4). The question arises whether the university can keep and attract faculty members of the caliber to improve the university to the top group to which it aspires unless faculty salaries are in the top group.

The Provost agrees that in setting salary increases, deans and department chairs must balance the need to attract distinguished faculty and to retain those with outside offers against the need to treat equally distinguished faculty fairly. The Provost will closely scrutinize data related to market conditions as the basis for ascertaining what level of increase is necessary to attract and retain faculty. In comparing our salary levels to those of our peer institutions, it must be noted that Penn has made steady progress over the last decade and overall ranks fourth in the listing. This reflects a conscious strategy of devoting resources to faculty compensation to increase Penn's competitiveness in attracting and retaining faculty. Moving into the top tercile, however, will be quite difficult in the immediate future given Penn's resource base as compared to some of our peers.  Recognizing this, the President and the Provost are committed to growing the size of Penn's resource base to further enhance Penn's ability to attract and retain the very best faculty.

2. Salary Equity Issues. The need to identify and eliminate inequity among individual faculty salaries by rank within departments (and schools organized as single departments).

SCESF Comment

As reviewed in this SCESF's Annual Report for 2003-04, a considerable percentage of faculty members (11%) received salary increases for FY 2004 that were below the growth in the CPI (Phil.) for the 12 months ending June 2003. Though this percentage has been declining in recent years (e.g., from 18% in FY 2002), it still raises questions of whether some faculty members who have performed at least at a satisfactory level have received salary increases less than growth in the CPI. If so, this represents an effective reduction in salary in terms of purchasing power—a circumstance that is clearly inequitable given that the overall salary increase percentage for each school was well in excess of the growth in the CPI.

SCESF Recommendations

a. In view of the quantitative facts identified above, it is recommended that further consideration be given by the Provost and the Deans to decreasing the instances in which faculty members who have performed at least at a satisfactory level are awarded salary increases below the annual growth in the CPI (Phil.). In making this recommendation, we realize that the feasibility of awarding increases to faculty members with satisfactory performance at least as great as growth in the CPI depends on the difference between funds available for salary increases and the CPI growth percentage—with the larger the positive difference, the greater the feasibility of providing salary increases of at least the CPI growth percentage.

At a time when the funds available for salary increases is not much larger than the CPI growth percentage, it is very difficult to provide salary increases of at least the CPI growth percentage to all faculty members regardless of their performance. The Provost is aware that in such a situation there may be instances where faculty members who are performing at a satisfactory level may receive salary increases less than the growth in the CPI.  The Provost does review all salary increases submitted by the deans, and will continue to question the basis for giving low increases to individual faculty members.  

3. A request that arose in the SCESF report for last year is to include in Tables 6, 7, and 8 quartiles for schools by rank where the sample size is 10 or less (as quartiles would be based on two people) by providing a two or three year average. Last year the Provost seemed to support this request, but so far there has not been implementation.

SCESF Recommendations

a. The procedure for providing information for small cells in Tables 6, 7 and 8 by averaging over two or three years be implemented in 2004-05.

The Provost's Office has already begun discussions on the ways in which the Office of Institutional Research can work more efficiently with the SCESF so that data requests can be met in a timely fashion. 

4. The SCESF appreciates the provision by the administration of a new table on gender differences in percentage salary increases by rank (Table 11). To further illuminate possible gender differences, perhaps reflecting the cumulative effects of past gender differences in salary increases, the SCESF would like to have provided in future years also a table parallel to Table 11 with faculty salary levels by rank and by gender. It may be desirable to limit this table to individuals who have been five years or less in rank if there are substantial gender differences years in rank, as might be the case particularly for professors in some areas.

SCESF Recommendations

a. Information be provided to the SCESF on salary levels by gender and rank starting in 2004-05 (perhaps limited to those five years or less in rank).

The Provost agrees that this would be a useful table and will direct that data be supplied to the SCESF to enable it to engage in this analysis.

5. The SCESF lauds the partial participation of the School of Medicine in providing information for the basic sciences, for the second year. However the SCESF remains concerned about the broader participation of the health and medical-related areas in the report. 

SCESF Recommendations

a. The Provost's Office take responsibility (rather than the SCESF) for obtaining faculty salary information for comparisons with other comparable universities from the Schools of Dental Medicine, Veterinary Medicine and Nursing.

b. Information be provided to the SCESF for the School of Medicine, basic sciences for Tables 9 and 10, in addition to the tables that report percentage changes in salaries.

c. Information be provided to the SCESF for the School of Medicine, basic sciences for external comparisons so that the SCESF can provide these faculty members the same information that the SCESF provides to most other schools and departments.

The Provost will engage in discussions with the deans of the Schools of Dental Medicine, Veterinary Medicine, and Nursing to identify ways in which better faculty salary information for comparable schools can be obtained.  While recognizing that the method of compensating faculty in the School of Medicine is complex, even for those faculty in the basic sciences, and that labor market conditions for faculty in the School of Medicine differ from those in other schools of the University, the Provost will explore with the dean of the School of Medicine whether it is possible to supply meaningful salary data on compensation in the basic sciences.

6. One further request that came out of the last year's SCESF meeting, was the possibility of having the Provost meet with the SCESF prior to setting salary guidelines for the next fiscal year. As we understand, such decisions usually take place in mid-late spring semester. We would hope that such a meeting could take place early in the spring semester. Our belief is that this would add to the comfort level that the SCESF had about the decisions that were made regarding salary setting policy. While the Provost indicated willingness to meet with the SCESF for such purposes, this procedure was not implemented in 2003-04.

SCESF Recommendations

a. The Provost's Office meet with the SCESF early in the spring semester prior to setting salary guidelines starting in 2004-05.

The Provost accepts the recommendation of the SCESF with a view to scheduling a meeting at a time when it can be most fruitful.

7. As it has been five years since the 1998-99 report in which faculty benefits were examined in comparison to our peer institutions, we request that the Provost's Office provide this information to the SCESF for next year in accordance with what was done in 1998-99. Furthermore, going forward, we believe that this should be looked at roughly every five years if not more frequently. While the Provost agreed that this was a timely request in response to questions raised in last year's SCESF report, as far as we know this process has not been initiated.

SCESF Recommendations

a. The report on faculty benefits be undertaken in 2004-05.

Because employee benefits continue to be a very dynamic area, the Provost agrees that a review every five years is a sensible planning horizon.  The Provost's Office will initiate a benefits review during 2004-05.


8. The SCESF expressed in last year's report concern about low relative spread in salaries at the full professor level which may indicate a problem in attracting faculty at the upper end of the scale. This is evidenced in Table 10, in which the spread in full professor salaries as a ratio to median salary is lower than that for assistant and associate professor. Last year the SCESF requested that the Provost continue monitoring this situation and advise the committee as to what efforts are being made to allow Penn's "top end" to stay competitive. We note that this spread has declined compared to the data from the past two years. But in any case we emphasize that ongoing monitoring of the competitiveness of "top end" salaries is important and should be continued.

9. Issue Concerning Data on the Competitiveness of Faculty Salaries not Included in the MIT Survey. Last year's SCESF report emphasized the need to seek, or compile, evidence about the competitiveness of faculty salaries at schools not included in the MIT survey. The Provost agreed.  Such information, however, has not been provided for this year's SCESF report.

SCESF Recommendations

a. Further efforts be undertaken to provide this information to the SCESF in 2004-05.

At the present time there is an initiative to modify the way in which the MIT survey is conducted, and to have it done under other auspices. It appears that a larger group of universities may be included in the survey. The Provost wishes to ascertain the outcome of this process before deciding whether it is necessary for Penn to seek alternative methods of gathering additional data. 

10. Further Information about Salary Increases for Continuing Penn Faculty and Penn Faculty Continuing in Rank. As noted in VII.A.1, there has been some confusion about whether the data provided to the SCESF has referred to continuing Penn faculty or to Penn faculty continuing in rank.  We believe that this year's report has correctly identified which concept is used for different tables and comparisons (i.e., Penn faculty continuing in rank for Tables 3, 9 and 10; continuing Penn faculty elsewhere). If some schools have substantial salary increments for promotion, this difference may affect how the tables are interpreted. Both concepts have value for understanding various aspects of Penn's faculty salary structure and how it is evolving. 

SCESF Recommendations

a. For the SCESF 2004-05 report, one set of Tables be provided to the SCESF based on continuing faculty and another set (excluding Tables 4 and 5) be provided based on faculty continuing in rank. The SCESF then can examine the two sets of tables, decide whether the difference is important, and decide in consultation with the Provost how best to present the data in the report itself.

b. Further efforts be undertaken to provide this information to the SCESF in 2004-05.

The Provost agrees that the data should be presented in a way where there is no confusion on this point. The Office of Institutional Research will supply the data in such a way as to make this clear.

11. Providing More Information Directly to Faculty Members about How to Put Their Own Salary Increases into Perspective. An important objective of the SCESF is to improve information to faculty members about salary levels and changes. Indeed, this report is devoted to attempting to provide such information. However, when faculty members receive notification of their salaries for the next academic year, they generally do not have at their fingertips information to help them put their salary increases into some broader perspective, and the next SCESF report will not be available to help with that perspective for almost a year. Therefore the question arises whether more information could be provided at the time of notification of the salary for the next academic year that would help the individual faculty members have better perspective at that time. Because of lags in information processing, it would not be possible to provide information about how their salary changes fit into the broader distribution of salary changes at the University or even school level. But at a minimum it would seem desirable to provide not only the new salary level, but the percentage change in salary that that level implies.

SCESF Recommendations

a. The Provost's Office consider implementing a procedure in which all faculty salary letters include the percentage change as well as the level of the new salary.

The Provost will discuss with the Deans the way in which salary increase information is communicated to faculty members. Where the Dean's office sends a letter or suggests a format to department chairs, the Provost will recommend that the letter include the percentage change as well as the level of the new salary.

12. Improving the Timeliness of Information Provided to the SCESF.  Historically, information for the SCESF report has been provided by the administration some time in the middle of the spring semester, and occasionally fairly late in the spring semester. This has squeezed considerably the time that the SCESF has had to analyze this information, and runs the risk of creating an environment of irritation, if not distrust. It would appear, moreover, that much of the information that is provided is available in raw form much earlier.

SCESF Recommendations

a.  The possibility be explored of providing some or all of the tables for the SCESF 2004-05 report earlier in the academic year by consultation with the Office of Institutional Research early in the academic year.

The Provost has already embarked on discussions with the SCESF regarding the setting of a timeframe for data requests and for the supply of data, such that this annual process can be handled in a more efficient and expeditious manner.

Members of the 2003-04 Senate Committee on the Economic Status of the Faculty

Jere Behrman, Chair (School of Arts and Sciences)

Eric T. Bradlow (Wharton)

Linda Brown (School of Nursing)

Lance Donaldson-Evans, ex officio (School of Arts and Sciences)

Mitchell Marcus (School of Engineering and Applied Science)

Charles Mooney, ex officio (School of Law)

Pheobe Leboy (School of Dental Medicine)

Richard E. Khilstrom (Wharton)

Amita Sehgal (School of Medicine)


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  Almanac, Vol. 51, No. 11, November 9, 2004


November 9, 2004
Volume 51 Number 11


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