Provost Darrell Kruger

Provost Darrell Kruger addresses the Faculty Senate at the group’s Dec. 3 meeting. Also photographed: Anindita Das, Dave Spiceland and Mira Waits.

BOONE — Appalachian State University Faculty Senate heard from Provost Darrell Kruger on Dec. 3 after challenging the decision made by university administration not to fund merit-based raises for faculty this year.

The Faculty Senate passed a resolution at its Nov. 12 meeting requesting administration fund the raises as well as answers as to why the administration made this decision. Kruger first addressed the faculty by saying he was speaking on behalf of Chancellor Sheri Everts and university vice chancellors. He went on to explain to the group that as the university is midway through its fiscal year, there would be no merit-based raises for faculty for 2018-19.

Kruger said he made the “hard choice” to allocate the funds granted to the university that could have been used for these raises to other items in the Academic Affairs budget. He said this limited funding was appropriated to support academic needs due to university enrollment growth.

According to Kruger, 76 percent of the university’s overall general budget is allocated to the Office of Academic Affairs. Of the state-allocated funds categorized as enrollment growth funds, 75 percent is allotted to Academic Affairs.

“It’s expected, and rightfully so, that faculty salary funds come from the Academic Affairs budget,” Kruger said.

As a result of enrollment growth, Kruger said he made the decision to invest funds in approximately three new faculty positions. These positions will aid in sustaining the growth in enrollment the university is experiencing and “provide some relief in terms of work load,” Kruger said.

Paul Orkiszewski, senator and lead librarian for acquisitions at Belk Library, asked if the university is caught in a vicious cycle of gaining more funding via enrollment growth but having to use the funding to hire new faculty instead of awarding faculty raises.

Kruger responded by saying the university isn’t looking to grow recklessly, but rather maintain its growth and provide the resources to support the institution.

Kruger went on to say that Everts has prioritized improving compensation for faculty and staff since her arrival at Appalachian — with more than $10 million in salary increases and incremental benefits for faculty allocated.

“I’m not implying that the work that has been done is going to be the end,” Kruger said. “We have more work to be done, but we’re on the right trajectory.”

Several Faculty Senate members spoke of their concerns of what is perceived as a “salary crisis,” a term coined by Leigh Dunston, senator and instructor in the Department of Finance, Banking and Insurance. Dunston — who proposed the Faculty Senate resolution — said the faculty salary issue is a dire situation that’s existed over the past decade.

Kruger said he wouldn’t characterize faculty salaries as a crisis, but that administrators are aware the university lags behind its peers in employee compensation.

“We agree that we must increase compensation for faculty,” Kruger said. “Increasing compensation is not only vital to the welfare of the faculty, as you noted, it is also critical that Appalachian offer salaries that are competitive across the higher education industry in order to recruit and retain talented faculty.”

Michael Behrent, senator and history professor, stated that faculty in his department do see the issue as a crisis, and even as a long-term salary decline. Randy Reed, senator and philosophy/religion professor, added that he thinks the faculty have seen a salary cut, as faculty have seen an increase in parking fees and heath care costs.

While the university isn’t able to award these raises this year, Kruger encouraged Faculty Senate members to be proactive in budget conversations for next year as “university budgeting is a collaborative process.” He said each year all faculty and staff are invited to budget presentations in the spring — where vice chancellors, deans and special project directors present funding priorities. These presentations inform final decisions made by Everts and vice chancellors.

“While invitations are sent to the entire campus given their importance, they are not representationally attended by Faculty Senate members,” Kruger said.

The budget presentations for FY 2019-20 are scheduled to be made April 12, Kruger said.

Faculty Senate members are hoping to get the ball rolling on conversations for raises sooner than this, however. Conversations took place about a second resolution proposed by Dunston suggesting a meeting be held in February to address “how to achieve faculty raises in a time of prosperity after a decade of austerity.” This resolution was postponed to the Faculty Senate’s next meeting in January.

Senator Ben Powell, a management professor, suggested that the faculty should work with the university administration instead of against them. Rather than fighting the administration, Powell said faculty should be appealing to the N.C. General Assembly. As Senate Chair Barbara Howard stated, legislators “specifically denied raises to faculty.”

Howard said an ad hoc group has been formed with intentions of approaching the Board of Governors and legislators about the issue.

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