MU faculty hiring restricted for ’07-’08

Tuesday, July 10, 2007 | 2:00 a.m. CDT; updated 9:50 a.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008
Chancellor Brady Deaton clarifies details of Compete Missouri at a press conference Monday in Jesse Hall. From left are Deaton, Provost Brian Foster, News Bureau Associate Director Christian Basi and Director of Budget Tim Rooney.

If MU faculty want higher salaries, the university will have to forgo filling 20 to 30 faculty positions for the 2007-08 school year, and possibly beyond, under a three-year financial plan announced Monday.

Chancellor Brady Deaton said the plan, called Compete Missouri, aims to secure $7 million by next July to make faculty salaries competitive with MU’s institutional peers.

“It has become increasingly difficult to acquire high-quality faculty,” Deaton said. “You can always hire somebody, but we want to hire the best.”

Each year, MU has about 60 to 70 teaching positions to fill. Under the new plan, all current faculty openings are on “hold” and cannot be filled without being reviewed at “the Provost/Vice Chancellor level.” Deaton said about half of the current openings could be filled within the next year, but new hires would be limited to “critical positions.”

Michael O’Brien, dean of the College of Arts and Science, said hiring faculty has become “an arms race,” with American universities having to offer higher and higher salaries to attract qualified instructors. Current faculty could bear some of the burden, he said.

“We know what the market is,” O’Brien said. “We pay incoming faculty market value (now). The problem is, you’ll have incoming faculty making more here than associate professors.”

According to the Association of American Universities, the salaries paid to MU faculty are among the lowest offered at public research universities. MU ranks 33 on the AAU’s list of salaries at 34 public universities, above only the University of Oregon.

Deaton said his goal is to move MU closer to the middle of the AAU listings to become more competitive.

“That’s why we emphasize ‘compete’ in the title,” he said.

About $4 million of the $7 million needed to balance MU’s operating budget by July 2008 is expected to come from the salaries currently allotted to the unfilled positions.

Another $2 million is projected to come from the reorganization and consolidation of academic programs and centers, which Deaton

adamantly stressed would not lead to layoffs.

“There will be no jobs lost in this process,” he said. “Current faculty and staff will not lose their jobs. We are looking at some reassignment of responsibilities in order to save resources that will then be reallocated to increasing current faculty salaries.”

The final $1 million of the $7 million is supposed to come from new revenue sources, including new summer school, evening and distance learning courses.

Deaton said current faculty will “not necessarily” have to teach larger classes. Many classes, such as statistics, he said, are interdisciplinary in their scope and content and could potentially be taught across several departments.

John Curtis, director of research and public policy for the American Association of University Professors, said that MU’s hiring hold is part of a larger, nationwide trend by public universities to deal with budget crises.

“There are similar programs in other states,” Curtis said. “Just last week, Florida just announced a hiring freeze. Maryland just announced a cut or freeze. In any case, I’m pretty sure this is not unique.”

Deaton said he expected Compete Missouri to be a “very challenging” initiative. He acknowledged that not everyone would agree with it. “It will involve a great deal of discussion,” he said. “The faculty here have to support this plan. It’s not a top-down planning process.”

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