Sunday, September 01, 2013

University and Law School Finances, Faculty Salaries, and Golden Bears

I was rummaging through my old papers when I found the following churlish memo from a colleague who teaches at a law school somewhere in the U.S.:

Thursday, October 3, 2002

To:      Tenured Faculty
From:  Prof. XXXXXX (Room [...])
Re:    Salary Increases (Decreases)

We are now more than more than three months into the fiscal year, and salary increases (decreases) have not yet been announced or implemented. Given these uncertain times, I would like to make several modest proposals:

1. The current practice of not discussing possible salary increases (decreases) with individual faculty members before individual salary increases (decreases) are determined should continue. Faculty members plainly cannot give disinterested opinions about their own salary increases (decreases).

2. The policy of not announcing salary increases (decreases) a significant amount of time before they are implemented should continue. Faculty members will be more content with their present salaries - unless, of course, decreases are awarded - if they do not know in advance the salaries they will later receive.

3. The policy of making decisions about salaries after all other budgetary decisions have been made should continue. It is clear that faculty members can be given only the money that is left over after matters such as heat, electricity, photocopying expenses, building renovations, painting, floor waxing, computers, journal subscriptions, and the like have been taken care of. (If there's no money, there's no money.)
  • Indeed, the law school and the university have been too timid in their treatment of the date of the implementation of salary increases. Salary increases should be made effective no earlier than ten months after the start of the fiscal year. This would give the university and the law school substantial new interest income - without adversely affecting [my law school]'s status in the U.S. News & World Report rankings. The amount of interest foregone by individual faculty members is relatively minuscule and most of faculty members won't notice the difference between the present value and the future value of their salary increases, and they may even appreciate the opportunity to defer payment of taxes on the delayed salary increases.

4. Youth is good. And the youth movement should continue. In particular: the law school and the university ought to continue the present policy of granting younger faculty members (relatively) substantial salary increases while granting the "golden bears" very small salary increases. (I put aside here the phenomenon of aggressive golden bears; these are people who know how to lobby for themselves. Passive golden tears deserve what they get, which is very little.) The older folks aren't going anywhere. Besides, they don't need the money. To avoid problems with legislation prohibiting discriminatory treatment on the basis of age, the unproductivity of the "golden bears" and their inadequate performance, or both, should be meticulously documented.

5. It seems likely that the law school and the university will continue to use the number of articles published in American law journals as the primary benchmark of faculty productivity. This is clearly the right thing to do. The U.S. News & World Report rankings are all that count (unless, of course, the question is the appropriate student-faculty ratio). Fluff - publication of books, online publishing, publishing in foreign journals, standing in one's field, and similar matters - should count much less, if at all. We have to take the world of rankings as we find it.

Well, that's about it for now.

But remember: ABC University [our university] cares for you. If you don't get what you want, there is always an open door somewhere where you can hash things out and perhaps achieve satisfaction. And I don't need to tell you that our law school is a community in which all watch out for the interest of all.

Now let's get on with faculty recruitment. We have a great story to tell!


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