The MU Faculty Council approved a resolution 26-2 Thursday that would ask University of Missouri President Mun Choi to wait at least one fiscal year before enacting any policies that would reduce tenured faculty salaries or the length of contracts based on productivity reviews.
The resolution to be sent to Choi asks that faculty be involved before any policy decisions are made governing salary adjustments and contract length.
Members of the council were addressing an ongoing controversy that arose in April after 20 tenured faculty in the School of Medicine received cuts in pay based on productivity reviews. Their salaries will be reduced by as much as 25% starting Sept. 1.
The UM System adopted a temporary emergency policy during the pandemic that allowed chancellors to reduce the salaries of tenured faculty by up to 25%.
In May 2021, the system’s collected rules and regulations were amended to make this policy permanent.
At its Thursday meeting, the Faculty Council voted on the resolution from the Fiscal Affairs Committee after suspending the rules to allow members to resolve the matter before a new council is appointed this fall.
In their discussion, council members who backed the resolution said faculty in jeopardy should be able to address their performance before being disciplined.
“I think we can all agree that we should be looking to build equitable workload policies, we should be held accountable, but we need to be involved in how that’s done,” said Rabia Gregory, who represents the Department of Classics, Archaeology, and Religion on Faculty Council.
“We need to be informed about what standards and expectations are before we are subject to punishment for not meeting them.”
David Singh said making arbitrary decisions without faculty involvement is an assault on tenured faculty.
“Essentially allowing administration to vet performance metrics without input and then adjust salaries based on that is an attack on tenure, although they say it’s not,” he said.
“I regret that this motion is asking for a one-year delay instead of simply saying that the policy should be withdrawn,” said Singh, a curators’ professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy.
MU schools and colleges have been in the process of establishing workload policies, but not all of the policies have been introduced and implemented, Gregory said. Faculty in two or three schools or colleges have been told retroactively that their salaries will be reduced in the first cuts.
The two colleges or schools with the first cuts are the ones that have the largest number of faculty on 12-month appointments, said Pete Wilden, associate professor in the School of Medicine.
“That was the focus of the initial round, as the provost stated in an earlier Faculty Council meeting,” he said, “as well as a meeting with the dean of the School of Medicine that the chancellor and provost both attended.”
That was the first step, and additional steps would be taken progressively, he said.
“It’s worth noting that these policies are also being implemented on the UM System campuses,” Gregory said.
MU spokesperson Christian Basi said in an earlier Missourian report that the productivity reviews started in early spring and were conducted over several weeks.
Productivity reviews are a common method of measuring the performance of tenured faculty, Basi said, but salary adjustment is a relatively new tool in that process. He said the reviews and cuts are ways MU holds itself accountable.
Basi said the evaluations used in the reviews depend on the role of the person being reviewed. Research professors, for example, might be reviewed based on the number and worth of grants they bring in, the research they publish, the awareness gained by their laboratories and their success with their teaching responsibilities and interaction with students.
Included in the resolution passed Thursday by the faculty are these provisions:
• That the groups reviewing these policies be formed in conjunction with the appropriate faculty governance groups.
• That the groups reviewing these policies have a substantial number of faculty members who do not hold administrative appointments.
• That the criteria developed by these policy review groups take into account all disciplines in which faculty work.
• That the criteria should be data-driven, equitable across colleges while compatible with the unit’s mission and take into account factors beyond the control of the faculty member.
• That these criteria be disseminated to all potentially affected faculty well in advance of implementation.