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Faculty Negotiator: Administration’s Newest Salary Offer Not Enough To Keep UF Competitive

Negotiations between the University of Florida Board of Trustees and faculty representatives moved forward Thursday after a half-percent increase to the pay-raise offer, although additional progress has been deferred until later this month.

The University's current offer stands at 2.5 percent. Faculty representatives, however, are not yet satisfied.

Lead negotiator John Biro said the collective bargaining unit, which represents about 1,600 faculty members, will not settle until the university’s counter-offer is closer to the initial request of a 6.5-percent raise. This figure, Biro explained, comprises a 2-percent merit-based raise and a 4-percent general salary increase.

Biro, a UF philosophy professor, said the unit is particularly adamant about reaching a deal they consider fair because faculty went without raises between 2011 and 2013.

Bill Connellan, head of labor relations for the university, attributes this pay-raise freeze to the economic downturn during that period, colloquially known as the Great Recession.

“Whether it was a result of the recession or not, I won’t speculate. In any event, we went without raises for a number of years,” Biro said. “And it can no longer be justified.”

Connellan maintains that the university’s current offer of 2.5 percent is competitive, but Biro disagrees.

“Historically, Florida has not funded higher education the way it should be, especially not in comparison to other states,” he said. “But at least when you're making intrastate comparisons, with the likes of FSU, you shouldn't be lagging behind.”

The UFF body at FSU has reached an agreement to be ratified in August calling for a 1.75 percent cost-of-living adjustment for faculty, a pool of money that will give an average $3,600 "market equity adjustment" to 550 faculty members and promotion increases of 12 percent to associate professor level and 15 percent to full professor level.

Currently UF's 2013-2016 collective bargaining agreement has 9 percent increases at each stage of faculty promotion.

Connellan said the university must consider various factors when debating pay raises. Faculty salaries at other institutions are just one factor. Cost of living and inflation are part of the equation, too.

Connellan said UF faculty salaries have kept pace with inflation.

Behind Peers

The UF chapter of the faculty union has posted salary comparisons on its website looking at faculty salaries at UF and 10 peer institutions, as designated by the Office of Institutional Planning and Research.

In each level of tenure/tenure-track faculty, UF is at the bottom of faculty compensation—coming in last for assistant/associate professors and third from last for full professors.

And in most cases even factoring in cost-of-living adjustments, UF remains at the bottom. For example, an assistant professor making the average salary at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor ($89,600) would need to make about $10,000 more than UF's average $76,200 salary to maintain her quality of living, based on the cost-of-living calculator provided online by CNN Money.

The call for salary increases is not motivated solely by self-interest but by a necessity to retain talented faculty, as well, Biro said.

“Other institutions offer our best faculty more than UF does. Unless there is some personal reason why somebody can't move, those attractive offers obviously lead to our best faculty going elsewhere."

Former UF philosophy professor David Copp is one example.

In 2009, Copp left for University of California, Davis, because he felt dissatisfied at the lack of transparency in UF’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

“I found the administration to be very untrustworthy,” he said.

According to Copp, he was recruited to UF by the then-dean of the UF College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Copp said, the dean promised in writing that, among other things, the philosophy department would have the resources to hire faculty and host conferences.

Copp said those promises were never kept, adding that he believed during his years at UF the university prioritized its athletic program over academic values.

WUFT News could not obtain a comprehensive list of faculty departures to verify reasons for leaving the university.

Biro said he hopes that both sides will come to an agreement when they meet again on July 30.

Debora is a reporter for WUFT News and can be contacted by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.