BOONE — In a packed I.G. Greer conference room on Nov. 12, the Appalachian State University Faculty Senate voted overwhelmingly to demand answers from the administration on why there won’t be merit-based raises for faculty this year.
“I have never ever been so concerned as this fact of zero salary increase,” said senator and Department of Finance, Banking and Insurance instructor Leigh Dunston, who proposed the Faculty Senate resolution. “I profoundly disagree with the choices the administration made.”
The resolution states that faculty were first notified of the decision on Sept. 26 at the end of a memorandum from the ASU Human Resources department — with no reasons given and no financial analysis, Dunston claimed.
“Unfortunately, for the first time in five years, we will not be able to provide an annual raise process for EHRA faculty and non-faculty employees this year,” the Sept. 26 HR memo stated.
Dunston said that App administration at no time advised the faculty that on Aug. 6, the University of North Carolina system Board of Governors had given all universities, including ASU, the discretion to award up to 4.99 percent merit-based raises.
“Specifically, decisions were made by the App State administration about allocation of available discretionary funds in excess of three or four million dollars without any input from faculty with regard to the decision to provide zero salary raises,” the resolution stated.
The resolution “requires ... that the faculty of App State receive a merit-based salary increase in the 2018-19 fiscal year” and asks that the ASU administration respond by Nov. 30.
ASU spokesperson Megan Hayes said that although universities received authorization to award merit-based increases, UNC system-mandated tuition caps and limited state appropriations meant that Provost Darrell Kruger “made the hard choice to allocate limited funding to support other academic needs.”
“Tuition revenue has been a funding source for salary increases for the past four years,” Hayes said. “For the past four years, Chancellor (Sheri) Everts has ensured merit-based pay increases averaging about 2 percent for eligible employees, in addition to faculty promotional increases. Each year, this has required either partial or full funding from internal sources, rather than from state appropriations.”
“Without a tuition increase, the recurring funding for salary increases has to come from other sources that also support the academic learning environment,” Hayes said.
State appropriations to ASU include enrollment growth funds, which is based on the number of students enrolled.
“Academic Affairs received 75 percent of the (enrollment growth) allocation, which was used to fund new, full-time faculty positions, promotion and tenure increases, library collections and research initiatives, among other priorities,” Hayes said. “The remaining 25 percent was allocated to support growth-related and strategic operational and facilities priorities across the divisions of Business Affairs, University Advancement and the Chancellor’s division, which includes arts engagement, key diversity initiatives, external and government relations, funding for academic buildings and University Communications.”
The Academic Affairs funding included $283,000 allocated to support 58 faculty promotions this year, including 30 to full professor and 28 to associate professor, Hayes said.
Hayes also noted that all full-time, full-year permanent SHRA staff (covered by the State Human Resources Act) received 2 percent raises across the board, “and those making less than $31,200 received a salary increase to that minimum.”
“Those paid with state funds were compensated with legislative funding, and the university provided the funding for those not paid with state funds,” Hayes added.
Providing competitive compensation for all ASU employees “continues to be a strong priority,” she emphasized.
“When Chancellor Everts arrived at ASU in 2014, she made improving compensation for faculty and staff a priority and she has kept that strong commitment,” Hayes said. “Over the past four years, she has allocated more than $10 million in salary increases and incremental benefits for faculty.”
Dunston acknowledged the limitations placed on ASU by the board of governors, but said that ASU faculty salaries are falling behind those at peer institutions — even amid a strong national economy — while the disparity between faculty and administrator salaries continues to grow.
“The BOG is squeezing the UNC system financially, we get it, we understand that,” Dunston said. “We understand our administrations are under great pressure. But for the decision they made, I would sympathize with them, but I can’t since I found the decision inappropriate.”
History professor Michael C. Behrent spoke passionately on his personal experiences as a 10-year professor. Behrent said that at his current salary of $65,540, he doesn’t see himself making in the “high $80,000s,” as the senior faculty in his department make, by the time he retires, and that several of his colleagues make less than $40,000.
“I have been a part of the generation that has gotten very small pay raises, and it has a direct impact on how I live my life,” Behrent said, adding that he has taken on additional work as a translator for French publications in order to make his household budget work.
“Faculty retention and faculty recruitment is becoming more difficult,” Dunston said. “I hear that searches are failing because we cannot be competitive. Make no mistake, faculty morale is in decline.”
The senate also heard from non-senate member and history professor Ralph Lentz on the insistence on Behrent. Lentz said he has worked at ASU for 20 years, makes $39,000 and recently had to sell his house, as he couldn’t afford it.
The speeches were met with applause from fellow senators as well as faculty visitors who lined the walls of the conference room.
The Faculty Senate meeting came after the BOG voted on Nov. 9 to increase the salaries of several system chancellors, including Everts, who received the maximum-allowed raise of 4.99 percent – a total of $17,828 – to $375,098.
In December 2017, Everts’ base salary was increased from $345,313 to $357,270, a 3.46 percent increase. In August 2016, Everts was bumped up from $335,000 to $345,313 — 3.1 percent. October 2015 saw a $50,000 bump from her original base salary of $285,000 to $335,000, a 17.54 percent increase.
All combined, Everts’ salary has gone up $90,098 in four years, a 31.6 percent increase.
“It’s not directly Chancellor Everts’ fault, but I think she could hand them back,” Behrent said.
Behrent named salaries of several ASU administrators, including several who were present. The salaries ranged from Kruger ($271,093), Forte ($246,250), Vice Chancellor for University Advancement Randy Edwards ($251,250), Vice Chancellor and Chief of Staff Hank Foreman ($192,132), Reich College of Education Dean Melba Spooner ($171,990), Vice Provost Mark Ginn ($158,645) and Director of Human Resources Mark Bachmeier ($149,086). Several of the administrators listed were in attendance.
“I completely recognize ... what our administrators do, but the disparities between salaries are increasingly unconscionable,” Behrent said. “There is a problem in the institution when there’s such widening disparity.”
Hayes directed comment on Everts’ salary increase to the UNC system office in Chapel Hill.