Faculty Advisory Council recommends better salaries, benefits

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    By ANDREA LAYCOCK

    BYU faculty compensation has made significant strides in the last several years, but recommendations continue as some faculty feel that adjustments still need to be made.

    The Faculty Advisory Council recommended that continued efforts be made to bring all salaries “up to a standard of being at least equal to the average for ‘peer institutions’ for the same period.”

    The council also recommended that improvements be made in the BYU benefit and retirement packages. BYU faculty was informed of these recommendations in the most recent faculty council report.

    Significant progress has been made during the past two years with respect to salary, according to Don Abel, BYU faculty personnel specialist. Abel explained that current data (1999-2000 academic year) from the Oklahoma State Faculty Compensation Study of 52 doctoral institutions with 20,000 or more students shows that BYU is at or slightly above average for associate and assistant professors, and about six per cent below average for full professors.

    Abel said, however, there is a problem using this data as a base of comparison with BYU faculty salaries, since it doesn’t accurately reflect BYU contract periods.

    BYU uses eight and ten-month contracts for its faculty, while other institutions in the study use a nine-month contract period, Abel said. The contract comparisons in the OSU study are with BYU’s eight-month contracts.

    “When we compare BYU’s faculty salaries on a nine-month equivalent basis,” Abel said, “we are above the average at every level.”

    Full professors are the BYU employees of longest record, and were generally hired at a time when salaries throughout the economy were low.

    “Salary compensation is important to us. That is why we monitor salaries and do a detailed analysis in every year,” said James Gordon, associate academic vice president.

    Gordon said the BYU Board of Trustees approved the equity adjustments, and the adjustments were spread over the last two years.

    “The university has a unique situation because we are not only trying to recruit and retain faculty who are the most qualified in their fields, but who are also worthy members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” said Val Jo Anderson, chair of the faculty compensation and benefits committee, and professor in the botany and range science department.

    Anderson said average salaries are not good enough.

    “If you want to have all the stars, you can’t pay benchwarmer salaries,” he said.

    Gordon, however, said faculty come to BYU for reasons other than money. “They come because of the religious environment, the university mission, the quality of students, and the opportunity to contribute to the mission of the church,” he said.

    The recommendations made by Anderson and the Faculty Advisory Council on benefits and retirement changes will be more difficult to achieve. He said change in this area is difficult because changes approved for BYU would likely have to be applied to all LDS church employees.

    “Laws are such that groups (of employees) under control of a single entity, such as the church, need to be treated the same for benefit packages,” Anderson said.

    One provision Anderson would like changed is the university’s retirement vesting policy.

    He said BYU employees have two parts to their retirement plan.

    “One portion, the employee is allowed to take with him should he leave BYU, and the other is frozen,” he said.

    While the employee eventually receives this portion upon reaching retirement age, the amount does not appreciate in value once the employee leaves the institution. Anderson said he believes faculty with salary or philosophical differences would look for employment elsewhere if all BYU retirement benefits were portable.

    “Faculty are held hostage by the retirement benefits,” Anderson said.

    This practice, typical of most company benefit packages, is often referred to as a “golden handcuff.” Its purpose is to encourage employees to stay with an employer.

    The recommendation section of the FAC Web site says President Bateman told the FAC that the first priority of his administration this year would be to address the need for an additional increase in faculty salaries, which would also improve some benefits. The president is also quoted as having said once the salary adjustments have been made the benefits issue would be addressed again.

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