Letter to the editor

Discussing administrator and professor pay

I am writing in response to the Hatchet articles, “Faculty earn less than national counterparts” (Sept. 1, page 1) and “Top admin paychecks trump peer average,” (Sept. 8, page 1).

Since President Knapp arrived at GW, faculty salaries have increased significantly despite extremely turbulent economic times. Salaries have risen nearly 14 percent for professors, more than 8 percent for associate professors and more than 9 percent for assistant professors. The University’s goal is for faculty salaries to be at or above the 80th percentile for doctoral institutions, as published by the American Association of University Professors. This benchmark, as well as our own averages, are reported annually to the Appointment, Salary, and Promotion Policies Committee of the Faculty Senate, the entire Faculty Senate and the Board of Trustees.

In the case of administrative salaries, it is hard to make apples-to-apples comparisons among universities, because positions with similar titles often have very different responsibilities. For example, at GW we have one position with the dual title of senior vice provost and senior vice president for student and academic support services. At other universities, two or three different administrators may perform these roles.

Additionally, evaluating average salaries at the national level does not serve as an appropriate benchmark for the University. National averages blend schools that are large and small, public and private, rural and urban and located in low-cost and high-cost geographies.

In fact, when compared to a total of 14 other market-basket schools we regularly use as our benchmarks, GW falls right in the middle for faculty and administrative salaries. In order to remain fair and objective, the University employs a consulting firm that specializes in executive compensation for top academic administrators to provide independent advice to the Board of Trustees regarding best compensation practices. From there, the board sets salaries based on market comparisons and evaluations of individuals’ performance.

The Hatchet articles used two very different data sets to analyze faculty and administrator salaries. The faculty salary story used data that was based solely on private doctoral institutions, while the story on administrator salaries used data on all doctoral institutions, blending private and public universities and thereby skewing compensation averages downward. As always, the University philosophy regarding compensation is to be fair and competitive in order to attract and retain the talent necessary for the success of our community.

Steven R. Lerman is the provost and executive vice president for academic affairs.

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