Fate of faculty and staff pay raises rests with board

In the wake of a contentious emergency Faculty Senate meeting last week, GW’s Board of Trustees will meet Friday to determine if faculty and staff pay raises will be put off six months until January 2006.

At last Monday’s meeting in the Marvin Center, University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg led a discussion concerning the proposed salary increase. He urged faculty to support a 6 percent pay raise in January instead of another option that would give the raise in June. If the Board of Trustees decides to give earlier increases, then faculty and staff pay will go up by an average of 3 percent.

Louis Katz, executive vice president and treasurer, and Donald Lehman, executive vice president for Academic Affairs, also spoke in favor of the delayed pay raise option when they addressed about 125 mostly distraught professors.

“Compensations would be higher and it would make it easier to recruit faculty in the future,” Trachtenberg said about the plan to raise salaries in January.

Many professors and staff are fighting for the pay raise to go into effect this June, because delaying it until January would mean going 18 months without a salary increase. Such a scenario played out two years ago.

The Board of Trustees has the final say in the pay raise issue and will make a decision at their spring meeting, set to take place this Friday. Board members have not publicly expressed their opinion on the issue, but they usually act on the recommendations of senior GW officials.

Faculty packed a Marvin Center conference room, which was so full that some were forced to listen from the hallways. Faculty Senate meetings do not usually draw such large crowds. The University’s staff members, most of whom would be affected by the pay raise put-off, have not held a similar public airing of concerns.

While the Senate, which was just holding a discussion, had no real decision-making power on the issue, faculty members showed up last Monday to voice their displeasure with the plan to delay raises until January.

“Recent incidents, including a surprise announcement that the administration may freeze faculty and staff salaries for the second time in two years, raise obvious questions of process,” said a document compiled by the Faculty Senate’s Ad-Hoc Committee of Concerned Faculty.

Administrators said the reason for the delay of the pay raise is partly due to the relatively small size of the University’s endowment compared to other schools’. Delaying pay raises would also allow administrators to allocate more money to academic programs and other types of initiatives.

“GW’s endowment is not that large,” said Gerald Kauvar, special assistant to the president, in an interview late last week. “We are under resource constraints. For example, the city put a limit on student enrollment and will not let us build higher on our land.”

But critics of the administration-endorsed plan to delay the pay raises said Trachtenberg’s desire to expand GW is the cause for the salary increase debate, and not the endowment.

“President Trachtenberg is an advocate of rapid expansion; he wants a larger place no matter what its’ quality,” said Donald Parsons, chair of the economics departments and leader of the “ad-hoc” committee that compiled the report.

“Three percent against 6 percent is not the major issue. Tuition dollars are being put toward the construction of new buildings when it should be given back to faculty and put into academic projects that will benefit students,” Parsons added. “The president needs to change his priorities, and until he does, we will be in a battle between quality and size.”

David Ribar, also a professor of economics, said no benefits would accrue to professors if they take a later raise.

“It this were the only issue faculty were concerned about we wouldn’t have a whole committee devoted to it,” he said. “This was really the straw that broke the camels back.”

-Michael Barnett and Brandon Butler contributed to this report.

The Hatchet has disabled comments on our website. Learn more.