Board approves merit pool decrease

The Board of Trustees approved a 3 percent increase for the faculty merit pool, down 1 percent from last year’s increase. Money from the merit pool funds faculty raises.

The news comes after University administrators repeatedly stated that GW’s ability to fund merit pools was a testament to the University’s fiscal strength amid a massive recession, as well as its commitment to attracting and retaining top faculty.

Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs Donald Lehman said the decision to reduce the merit pool increase was done “in connection with the overall priorities of the budget.”

“Quite frankly a 3 percent pay raise in today’s financial environment is a great thing,” Lehman said. “We are trying to be cautious and conservative and a 3 percent pay pool is pretty impressive.”

In March, Lehman said it was good news “The George Washington University can actually talk about merit pay increases.”

“We’ve been working very hard to keep the salaries in each of the ranks above the 80th percentile [as listed by the American Association of University Presidents],” Lehman also said. “The only way you get really top faculty is if you have salaries that are competitive nationally.”

The 1 percent reduction in the merit pool will result in a loss of $1,940 over a four-year period in bonus salary for employees that earn $60,000, according to a Faculty Senate report.

Over four years, compensation expenses for the University would grow from about $390 million to about $439 million under a 4 percent increase. But under the 3 percent increase, the compensation expenses will instead go from about $390 million to $426 million, according to the Faculty Senate.

Professor Diana Lipscomb, a member of the Faculty Senate, said she understands the University has an obligation to be prudent during hard economic times, but believes the amount of money available for deans to use for merit raises should not be decreased.

“Merit raises are only used to reward the best and most productive faculty, and to make counter-offers when faculty are offered jobs at other universities,” Lipscomb said. “If the amount available is reduced, it might prevent some of the deans from being able to do this.”

In 2009, GW professors received an average pay raise of 4.9 percent, beating the national average by almost 4 percent, The Hatchet previously reported. University professors still earn less than their counterparts at Georgetown and American, according to 2009-2010 data from the American Association of University Professors.

Professor Don Parsons called the 3 percent raise “a question of priorities,” and questioned the decision to decrease raises while going through with plans to build the proposed Science and Engineering Complex.

“I see the decision to cut it to 3 percent as part of [GW’s] commitment to building,” Parsons said. “Seems we’re back in the buildings-are-everything world” rather than catching up to Georgetown or American in professor salaries.

“This 1 percent isn’t a big number, it only becomes a big number over time,” Parsons said, adding that it was another way to “nickel and dime the faculty.”

According to a study by the AAUP, two-thirds of universities across the country did not increase pay at the rate of inflation, or 2.7 percent. At Georgetown, salaries declined by 0.1 percent, and other schools in the District increased pay by less than 3 percent. American’s full-time professors saw a 2.9 percent average increase; Howard professors saw a 1.7 percent average increase; and Maryland instructors received a 0.7 percent average boost, the Washington Post reported in March.

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