Board delays faculty and staff pay raises

GW’s Board of Trustees approved a six-month delay in faculty and staff pay raises Friday, making it the second time in three years that employees must wait 18 months for a salary increase that used to come every year. Some professors’ concerns about the raise delay were not assuaged by an administration plan to allocate funds freed up by the deferment to other initiatives.

The board voted in favor of a 6 percent pay raise to take effect January 2006, despite vocal faculty support in favor of a 3 percent increase this June. Trustees also approved the use of an additional $1 million to go toward the average salaries of the University’s assistant and full-time faculty members.

University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg said a 6 percent increase in January will boost salaries and allow professors’ pay to stay competitive with other institutions’ faculty members. He added that the greater amount of funds to be allocated in January will also help department chairs give raises to more professors.

“From a salary management point of view, if you’re a department chair and you’re trying to work with a pool of 3 percent to give raises to people, you don’t have a lot of flexibility because 3 percent doesn’t give you a lot of money to work with,” he said.

At an emergency meeting of the Faculty Senate two weeks ago, some professors said the University was just trying to save money by delaying the raises.

“The University is well-versed in saving money in terms of employment, especially as it relates to faculty,” said Kip Lornell, professor of Africana studies and a lead organizer of the adjunct faculty unionization movement.

In another development that will impact administration-faculty relations, the University’s thousands of part-time professors will unionize, following a Tuesday verdict from the National Labor Relations Board (see “Union to go forward,” p. 1). The decision brings an end to seven months of deliberations over disputed ballots from a unionization vote that took place in October.

In a statement released Friday evening after the board meeting, Trachtenberg attributed the delay to a decrease in government financial support, the University’s relatively small endowment fund and GW’s active desire to improve “academic and research, and undergraduate residence halls.”

Trachtenberg added that the University does not plan on implementing a permanent 18-month raise cycle, and said he hopes to pass a 4 percent salary increase for faculty and staff in January 2007.

“They want more, and you may be in shock, but we want to give them more,” he said, proposing that increased faculty pay raises come from the University’s endowment, which was valued at $773 million in December.

After a two-hour session of closed-door debating, Trachtenberg said the board decided to draw January’s increased pay-raise funds from the University’s operating budget. In its most recent meetings before Friday’s, the board’s closed-door meetings lasted less than an hour, suggesting that the pay raise issue was heavily debated among GW’s senior officials and trustees.

Despite an increase in wages next January, faculty said they were more concerned about the University’s efforts to communicate with their own staff. Professors and staff first found out about the proposed pay raise delay from an April 7 Hatchet article.

At Friday’s meeting, Trachtenberg claimed that “the faculty doesn’t feel sufficiently concerned about the budget process,” but that the administrators try to deal with these concerns “through leadership rather then through patronization.”

-Michael Barnett and Gabriel Okolski contributed to this report.

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