For the Record

Back in mid-December, the Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO) produced a report saying all was well with UC faculty compensation, despite concerns about pay lags.  No one seems to have paid much attention to the LAO report so far, which is a Good Thing, since the report was poorly done. It is unclear what suddenly motivated the LAO to issue the report just when UC was entering intersession and the ability to respond was limited. In any event, the University Committee on Faculty Welfare (UCFW) prepared a response which was recently posted on the Academic Senate website.  For the record – because you never know when someone might haul the LAO report out – here are some excerpts from UCFW’s rebuttal to LAO report: [Links to the full UCFW report and the LAO report are below.]

The UC Systemwide Committee on Faculty Welfare (UCFW) carefully studied the recent report on faculty salaries, recruitment, and retention released by the Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO). The LAO’s major conclusions are the following: 1) total UC compensation is competitive with top universities; 2) few faculty members leave, and reasons other than salary are responsible for most faculty leaving; 3) the small number of tenured associate professors who leave shortly after receiving tenure is not a concern; and 4) UC continues to hire its top-choice candidates. UCFW questions the accuracy of these conclusions…

(P)rior to 2000, UC salaries closely matched the Comparison Eight average but started to lag behind the Comparison Eight universities shortly after 2000… The lag continues to grow. UC salaries now lag the Comparison Eight by more than 11%…

The LAO makes (an) error by relying upon UC’s most recent, but outdated, analysis of total remuneration from 2009. At that time, although faculty salaries lagged the Comparison Eight by about 10%, the value of UC’s retirement benefit partially compensated for the salary lag. This was entirely because employees were not required to make contributions to their retirement plan and not because the retirement benefits themselves were overly generous.  The LAO overlooked the predictions in this study, as well as and the update to examine the competitiveness of the “New Tier” retirement plan, that the UC retirement plan would become uncompetitive when faculty made a 5% contribution to retirement, as they are doing in 2012-13… If employee contribution rates rise even higher (6.5% for current employees in July, 2013 and higher thereafter), then UC benefits will not compensate for below-market UC faculty salaries whatsoever…

The LAO concluded that “most faculty do not leave UC or reject UC job offers due to compensation” on the basis of some exit surveys performed in the mid-2000’s and summarized in … the LAO report. The LAO noted that several reasons were given. “Salary” was cited by 33% of those who rejected UC offers and by 37% of those who left UC.  UCFW notes, first, that “salary” was the most prevalent reason for both categories. Secondly, an increase in salary could certainly mitigate concerns about “housing problems” (cited by 22% of those who rejected UC offers and by 13% of faculty who left) and “cost of living [besides housing]” (cited by 11% of those who rejected UC offers and by 7% of those who left). Taking into account not only the issue of “salary” but also the separately enumerated issues that an increase in salary could mitigate, then salary-related issues could account for up to 66% of the reasons for rejecting UC offers and up to 57% of the reasons that faculty leave UC. This is quite the opposite conclusion of the LAO…

UCFW is uncertain what point the LAO attempts to make with the data on the fate of Assistant Professors hired in 2000-01. These data have no reference point, either from when UC was in a more favorable economic environment than in 2000-01, or from other universities when the UC data were collected. In contrast to the LAO, UCFW believes that a 10% rate of departure of young professors after receiving tenure is of great concern. UC heavily invests in assistant professors, especially in science and engineering, by providing them with start-up packages worth several hundred thousand dollars each…

UCFW members, based on their experiences on search committees in their home departments, question whether the data provided to LAO by the UC administration concerning the top choices in faculty searches is truly representative of the current competitive job market.  …(T)he data are almost 10 years old and do not reflect the current economic conditions in which UC competes for new assistant professors…
The December LAO report is at: http://www.lao.ca.gov/laoapp/PubDetails.aspx?id=2675

And – for the record – we’ll try to maintain a sunny attitude and be optimistic that the LAO will do better next time:

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