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.
I.G. Greer Distinguished Professor of History