Policymakers must pay more attention to faculty needs


The Appalachian Online

Kevin Griffin

Higher education has been embodying multiple negative trends lately, and unfortunately, the UNC system is no exception. Administrative bloat, attacks on academic freedom and the undermining of public higher education have been evident in the system for some time.

One of the latest examples of these bad trends is the decision of a UNC Board of Governors committee to approve higher salary ranges for the UNC president and university chancellors. The measure must go before the full board to be finally approved, something that is likely to happen, according to The News & Observer.

Ostensibly, the justification of this is competition, the need to offer a high enough level of pay to attract quality people to top executive positions.

These executive positions are important to universities and the individuals who fill them should be properly compensated. However, we do not see the same corresponding efforts to meet faculty needs.

As important as executive positions are, the faculty is the group whose work defines the mission of the university. And for the last several years, faculty have been placed under unacceptable pressures.

Pay freezes have been a reality for UNC-system faculty members over the last five years. There have been some small changes to this over the last year, including the tuition hike approved in February which was intended in part to help raise faculty pay and fund faculty retention efforts.

Beyond just the financial stagnation, professors must contend with an increasing amount of disrespect from the board and state lawmakers.

The bill filed several weeks ago, which forces professors to teach eight classes or have their salaries decreased, manages to combine both financial consequences and disrespect for the profession.

All of these factors have an impact. Citing UNC data, the non-partisan advocacy group Higher Education Works found that 75 percent of professors who had received outside job offers left the system.

Observers, including Appalachian State University AAUP chapter president Michael Behrent in a recent News & Observer article, have predicted more professors will leave should the eight-class teaching bill become law.

To change this situation, the board and state lawmakers must make an effort to improve not just the financial problems, but this atmosphere of denigration for the work that faculty does.

Looking to increase the salaries of executives without meaningfully addressing the situation with faculty does no good for the system as a whole.

Griffin, a junior journalism major from Madison, is an opinion writer.

COLUMN: Kevin Griffin, Opinion Writer