My Mountaineer roots run deep. I came to App State as a freshman in 1973, graduated with a B.A. in 1977, an M.A. in 1979. After earning a Ph.D., I became a member of the History Department in 1984. I’m a long-time member of the Yosef Club and count our victory over Michigan as one of the three or four best days of my life. With a new book coming out in April and my student evaluations at an all-time high, I should be anticipating a pay raise and celebrating a successful career.

Instead, I’m getting out. I’m bothered by many university policies, including rapid growth with no regard for the consequences (what environmentalist Edward Abbey once called “the ideology of the cancer cell”). What troubles me most, though, is the administration’s blatant neglect of university faculty, especially when it comes to salaries.

A decade ago, the university aspired to raise faculty pay to the 80th percentile of our peer universities, meaning that only 20% of similar institutions would pay faculty more. If current figures are accurate, we are now slightly above the 50th percentile, meaning that roughly half our peer institutions pay their faculty more. In other words, we’re losing ground. In my department, 22 faculty have been here since 2008. Fifty-five percent of them make less today than if they had received basic inflation rate raises averaging a mere 1.5% at the end of each year. Thirty-two percent make less than if they had forfeited all university raises in favor of the Cost of Living Adjustment the government provides to Social Security recipients! Two faculty have gotten larger adjustments due to tenure, promotion or negotiation and have improved their salaries by a whopping 3% per year. These are statistics of which the Board of Trustees and senior administrators — not to mention every Appalachian student and alumnus — should be deeply ashamed.

We often hear that state appropriations make raises “complicated” or “complex.” Perhaps. What I can say for sure — after spending well over half my life at Appalachian State — is that when administrators want something, they find money for it. During the last decade, while faculty compensation stagnated, administrative salaries have increased exponentially. The university has also poured tens of millions of dollars into athletics, especially football. Apparently, those matters are not “complicated” or “complex.”

I am not a crazed campus radical who is reflexively anti-administration. This is not a letter I wanted to write, especially as I end 36 years of service to my alma mater. But if Appalachian wants to keep good faculty and its good name, things must change. And they must change now.

Timothy Silver

I.G. Greer Distinguished Professor of History

(3) comments

Look, faculty are going to have to come to terms with the fact that this Chancellor simply does not like them, ASU, Boone, or seemingly humans in general. She’s a BOG-aligned political agent here for the sweet, easy, admin money. It really is that simple. Once you understand this, her backwards decisions and off-the-charts cronyism make perfect sense. We fallen far since the Peacock days but please keep your heads high, faculty. Know that a) you’re worth far, far more than she has ever indicated and b) she won’t be around forever. The ripples from her failed leadership will be felt for a loooong time and we may never regain what we once had. But things will get better. If, AND ONLY IF, we have the will to exorcise her from our campus.

Well trained professors with multiple advanced degrees and innovative research to their name - the ones who build the visionary programs that benefit the institution, and who keep the administration on track through the system of shared governance - are leaving or retiring early because of App's bad priorities. The sad part is that the App administration, governing board members, and taxpayers don't even seem to care. They pay top dollar for a football coach (even though the football team loses money and adds little to the academic mission of the institution) and they coughed up an enormous raise for the Athletic Director. However, they appear to be happy to watch top scholars (who are equally or even far more accomplished in academics as the AD is among peer athletics programs) walk away and substitute those scholars with low paid adjunct instructors who do not have terminal degrees, who do not do scholarship (either because they are not qualified to or because they are not paid to do any scholarship) and who, in some cases, want to teach online because their income is so low that they live far away from campus and/or work others jobs on top of their university jobs. In just a few more years, Appalachian will have experienced a "brain drain" and even those excellent people who remain at App will be so thoroughly resentful, demoralized and exhausted from fighting to save the university that it will be a sad place to go to college and work. But by then many of the classes will be online anyway. Students will no longer sit among scholars who talk to them about their dreams, show them how to conduct research, teach them how to write, and inspire them to think creatively. But, when they finish their online class from their dorm room taught by an adjunct instructor who has a masters degree in "college student development" they can go to an electrifying football game. Miller Hill is being regraded and that's going to make the stadium even louder than ever!

Prof Silver’s letter is a powerful indicator of the significant problems at Appalachian. Prof Silver represents the hundreds and hundreds of faculty members that are simply disgusted by Appalachian's incompetent leadership. As a retired faculty member and administrator, I share in their disgust. It is truly sad to watch the decline of Appalachian.

Five years ago, this leadership inherited a university that was highly-regarded and well-respected among students, faculty and employers. Since then, the leadership has overseen a steady decline in instructional quality, academic reputation, faculty morale, and reputation among high school students and potential employers.

This is a result of backward priorities and incompetent leadership. In short, it is due to the leadership not caring about academics. This is clear from looking at where the administration puts the money.

• The administration increased university funding (subsidy) for athletics 120% over five years while increasing funding for academic 10%.

• The administration gave the athletic director an 80% raise last year while deciding to the previous year to give the faculty no raise (0%).

• The administration chose to increase the football coach’s salary by 150% since 2010 while deciding to allow faculty salaries to fall behind the cost of living.

• The chancellor has accepted raises that increased her salary more than 30% over four years while she decided to give faculty zero raises the past two years.

• The administration decides to spend $55 million on an endzone building that we don't need while students are taking online classes in the dorms because there are not enough classrooms and faculty can’t hold office hours because there are not enough offices.

• The administration decides to spend tens of millions of dollars on replacing athletic facilities that are less than 15 years old (and are still being paid off) while students and faculty are working in old, dilapidated buildings with elevators that get stuck, roofs that leak, bathrooms that are condemned, and classrooms that don't have needed technology or space.

They have a lot of money. They increase enrollment to get more money despite it harming the quality of learning on campus and quality of life in town. They just choose to spend it on the explosion of upper administration positions and upper administration salaries, as well as spending enormous amounts to cover the skyrocketing financial losses in athletics. They choose to not spend it on academics, students and faculty.

The administration does not care about academics, which means it doesn’t care about the purpose of the university. The faculty has expressed concern, but stunningly, this administration just doubles down on investing in the ever-expanding numbers of overpaid administrators and the bottomless pit of financial losses incurred by athletics. Academics is an afterthought. Students, parents, faculty, taxpayers and elected officials should be as outraged as well.

Let it be known that Prof Silver represents a broad discontent with the leadership and direction of Appalachian. As he says, there must be significant changes NOW.

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.