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Faculty Salaries Beat Average

By Leon Neyfakh, Crimson Staff Writer

A recent report by the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) lists Harvard as the highest paying University in the country, but concluded that the year has been difficult for other institutions.

Ronald F. Ehrenberg, a labor economics professor at Cornell University and author of the study, found that salaries of full-time faculty across the country just barely kept pace with the rate of inflation for the 2003-2004 school year.

This year’s 2.1 percent average increase marks the lowest salary raise in 30 years.

Harvard’s average increase, meanwhile, was about 3.5 percent—a figure which has been steadily decreasing over the last few years.

But University President Lawrence H. Summers said that the “modest increase is in line with the fact that America has a modest increase in inflation.”

Major new projects at the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS) such as the Allston campus and the expansion of the sciences have led some professors to predict an even smaller increase in faculty pay for next year.

“My understanding is that we’re going to see salary increases at about 2 percent next year, in part because they’re squeezing hard on the faculty to build Allston,” said Professor of the History of Science Everett I. Mendelsohn. “The big issue at a place like Harvard, which has money, is to what extent is the rate of growth of projects like Allston going to partially stall other areas?”

Mendelsohn said that departmental budgets across campus have been squeezed to curb spending, limiting growth by keeping yearly expenditure increases below 2 percent.

Senior officials involved with FAS finances would not comment on the AAUP’s findings yesterday because the statistics are not specific to the college, but instead consider salaries of all of Harvard’s faculty except those employed at the Medical School.

Meanwhile, Harvard’s average pay for full professors was $157,000 dollars last year, while the national average was only about $100,000.

The data show that Harvard’s professors are paid an average of $30,000 dollars more than their colleagues at University of California-Berkeley, which tops the AAUP’s list of highest paid public institutions.

The AAUP’s annual report, which is based on surveys taken by 1,343 American colleges and universities, stressed that tuition increases could not be fully attributed to expensive faculty salaries.

“Institutions of higher education—both public and private—often claim that rising faculty salaries are among the major causes of persistent increases in tuition,” the report said. “Increases in faculty salary, however, fell far below average rises in tuition and fees, calling this assertion into question.”

The report noted that while tuition and fees rose by an average of 6 percent at private universities and four-year colleges between 2002-03 and 2003-04, this year’s survey revealed that the average salaries of professors at those same schools rose by significantly less than that.

According to the report, private institutions were hit the hardest with financial aid obligations, which have become increasingly costly as the national unemployment rate continues to climb.

“Higher unemployment rates reduce the ability of families to afford college and lead to increased demand for financial aid. Colleges that base their financial-aid decisions partly, or solely, on need faced growing pressure on their financial aid budgets, which usually compete for resources with faculty salaries in institutional budgets,” the report said.

The strain is consistent with Dean of the Faculty William C. Kirby’s cautioning about the College budget. In his 2003 Annual Letter, Kirby warned of impending belt-tightening.

“I must tell you frankly that we aim to do all this, and more, as we enter a period of greater financial constraint than any of us would have predicted a year ago,” he wrote. “We are not immune from the vicissitudes of the national and international economies.”

The small salary increase is consistent with this year’s uncharacteristically low endowment payout, and the ongoing staffing reductions across the University. Given this grim context, salary negotiations for faculty may operate under the shadow of financial strain for the next several years, according to Mendelsohn.

“It’s a fairly flexible process, and it’s sort of understood to be so,” said Niko Kolodny, a first-year assistant professor of philosophy. “Given that you’re negotiating with people you’re working with in the future, you’re somewhat restrained—you don’t want to be too mercenary.”

Kolodny said that he would be finding out his salary increase in July, when his second year officially begins.

—Staff writer Leon Neyfakh can be reached at neyfakh@fas.harvard.edu.

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