Opinions

Salary Gaps and the Role of Faculty

     Most college students can think of at least one professor who has significantly impacted their college experience, perhaps by asking challenging questions, introducing engaging new concepts or offering personal or academic support. The professors I’ve encountered at Eastern are one of the defining points of my college experience–perhaps the most defining, with the only exception being my fellow students. I’ve encountered many faculty who have proven to be genuinely concerned with my intellectual, spiritual and personal well-being and growth. In talking with friends of mine from other colleges, many are shocked to hear that several of my professors have even invited my class or some other group of students into their homes.

     We need to remember that the kind of care we are receiving is, indeed, astounding. I think this is especially noteworthy when considered in the light of the financial sacrifice attached to teaching at a small, Christian school such as Eastern. The accompanying graph shows the average salary for full-time professors for a variety of schools from 2007 to 2014. Also included in the graph is the national average salary for full-time professors at four-year private schools. (Data was not available for 2015 to 2016. Additionally, the graph does not include the salaries of associate professors and adjuncts who make significantly less than full-time professors.) As the graph shows, Christian schools like Messiah, Wheaton, Gordon and Cairn simply are not able to pay professors on the same level as other private schools. Even Wheaton, which has one of the highest full-time faculty salary rates of Christian universities, still lags behind the national average for four-year private schools by over $20,000. It is also important to note that this graph is not adjusted for inflation. If it were, we would see the national average for four-year private schools remaining relatively flat and Eastern’s faculty salary rate declining more noticeably.

     I would venture to guess that this situation might be discouraging to some faculty. I would think that it could be hard to feel valued by one’s institution when the numbers seem to suggest otherwise. The situation is complicated by the fact that the salaries for the top administrative positions run so much higher than faculty salaries. Eastern’s eight highest-paid administrators all received six-figure compensation packages in 2012, 2013 and 2014–as is the case at most private four-year universities. (This information can be found on tax forms which are publicly available online.) Let me be clear: I most certainly do not pretend to understand the complexities of university finances, and I recognize that there are valid reasons why administrative salaries are what they are. However, that does not necessarily make the salary gap any more palatable when faculty are such a vital part of any university, and especially this one. The faculty are the heartbeat of a university, and when we are unable to recognize this financially, we must find other ways to do so. So let me say it here and now: faculty, you are a vital and valued part of this university. This place would be nothing without you, and I wish that your paycheck better reflected that. On a daily basis, you engage with us in meaningful conversation resulting in real personal growth, help us make sense of the world and ourselves and support us as we explore our callings. Regardless of what the numbers indicate, I hope you know that none of this is taken for granted.

     Sources: data.chronicle.com, foundationcenter.org

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