YSU Debate over faculty salaries reignites
Salaries for YSU's full professors fall slightly below the national average.
By RON COLE
VINDICATOR EDUCATION WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- A national survey of faculty salaries has sparked renewed debate and opened some old wounds at Youngstown State University.
All of this on the eve of what many observers say could be rugged negotiations for a new YSU faculty contract. The current pact expires in August.
"If we're going to continue to maintain and enhance the quality of our programs, we have to have a competitively paid work force, and particularly a competitively paid faculty," YSU President David Sweet said.
Defining competitive is the snag.
The American Association of University Professors' annual survey of 1,433 universities and colleges nationwide, released this month, says full professors at YSU earn an average of $71,300 annually for nine months' work.
That's slightly below the $72,770 national average for similar public universities. It's the first time in at least six years that YSU has slipped below the national benchmark.
Associate professors at YSU earn $54,700 on average, while the average salary is $45,500 for assistant professors and $33,900 for instructors, the AAUP survey says.
Forty-six percent of YSU's 350 faculty members are at the top, full professor level, the highest proportion among public universities in Ohio.
John Russo, president of YSU's faculty union, points out that YSU's average full professor salary ranks last among Ohio's 11 major public, four-year universities.
Full professors at the University of Akron, for instance, earn on average $2,000 more annually, according to the AAUP survey. At Kent State University, the average professor earns $12,600 more a year.
Russo said that puts YSU at a competitive disadvantage. "We compete for faculty all over the state and all over the country," he said.
YSU administrators, however, say comparisons within Ohio give only a partial picture of where YSU stands.
The Carnegie Foundation has developed a nationally recognized classification system for universities, based on the types of programs offered.
The foundation classifies YSU as a master's comprehensive I university, meaning it offers mostly bachelor-level programs with some master's degrees.
YSU is the only public university in Ohio with that classification; the other 10 major, four-year public universities in the state are designated as doctoral/research schools.
So, Sweet said, it's difficult comparing YSU's faculty pay fairly with other universities in the state.
"I don't think we can ignore Ohio" when comparing salaries, he said. "But, on the other hand, I don't think we can exclusively compare ourselves to Ohio because our mission and the type of institution that we are ... is different."
An alternative comparison
Instead, Sweet suggested measuring YSU against similar universities in bordering states.
Of the 26 public, master's comprehensive I universities in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Kentucky, West Virginia and Michigan included in the AAUP report, YSU's average professor salary in the middle, at 13th.
YSU ranks just under the University of Michigan-Flint and just above Eastern Michigan University, according to data compiled from the AAUP report.
The top average professor salary among the 26 schools is $85,100 at Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania; the lowest is $61,000 at Marshall University in West Virginia.
Russo said such comparisons aren't fair because of differences in funding from state to state, as well as disparities in workload and faculty expectations among universities.
Instead, Russo said YSU should use Cleveland State University as a comparison. Professor salaries average $78,200 at Cleveland State, $6,900 more than YSU.
During faculty contract negotiations in 1996, Russo said, the union and then-YSU President Leslie Cochran agreed to use Cleveland State in faculty comparisons. At that time, Cleveland State had the same Carnegie classification as YSU.
The contract that year included provisions to boost faculty expectations to levels similar to Cleveland State's, including more faculty research and increased requirements for promotions and tenure, Russo said.
In turn, the agreement contained pay raises aimed at lifting YSU salaries closer to Cleveland State's level, he said.
Russo said that all came to a screeching halt in the 1999 contract negotiations, when the administration backed away from its commitment to reach Cleveland State's salary level, he said.
"The university raised the bar and lowered the wages," he said.
The contract included salary increases of up to 12 percent over three years and "equity raises" as high as $1,500 a year.
The contract split the faculty, and it was approved by the narrowest margin in the union's history. Russo said YSU's salaries have slipped further behind Cleveland State since, and morale problems caused by the last contract negotiations linger.
More programs at CSU
Complicating the matter even more, Cleveland State's Carnegie classification jumped one level above YSU in the past three years, mainly because it now offers four doctoral programs as well as a law degree. YSU offers one doctoral program.
Russo, however, said the comparison remains just because YSU faculty have workloads and responsibilities similar to Cleveland State.
Sweet, who came to YSU in July 2000 from Cleveland State, wouldn't say if he thinks Cleveland State is a fair match to YSU. He did say, however, that Cleveland State has many more students in master's and doctoral programs for which it receives higher levels of state funding.
"When we compare ourselves with like institutions, we should follow the guidance of organizations like the Carnegie classification system," he said.
As for commitments previous YSU administrations may have made to faculty, Sweet said: "I am dealing in the context of what I believe is the reality in which this institution operates."
Other data in report
Other highlights of the AAUP report:
U Highest average annual salary for professors -- $144,700 at Harvard University, followed by Rockefeller University in New York at $139,500, Princeton University at $131,700 and Yale University at $131,200.
U Highest average pay for professors in Ohio -- $96,700 at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, followed by Ohio State University at $93,700.
U Highest average pay for professors in Pennsylvania -- $128,000 at the University of Pennsylvania, followed by Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh at $108,800.
U Average professor pay at private schools in the greater Youngstown region: Mount Union College, $63,200; Hiram College, $60,800; Westminster College (Pa.), $63,200; Thiel College (Pa.), $51,100.