17 January 2011

UC faculty

At their January 19 meeting, the Regents will receive (and hopefully discuss) the biennial Report on Faculty Competitiveness.  It makes for very interesting reading, at a time when the University faces perhaps the most daunting challenges in its history, with the new Democratic Governor bent on disestablishing UC as a State-supported educational institution.

It's clear that the University stands or falls with the quality of its faculty. It's the faculty that teach the classes, carry out research, obtain the grants, perform public service, push innovation, etc. The document to be presented to the Regents has some telling data about UC faculty. Here are honors and awards earned by UC faculty
  • 56 Nobel Prizes
  • 7 Fields Medal (Mathematics) 
  • 60 National Medal of Science 16 
  • Pulitzer Prize 
  • 71 MacArthur Fellowship (“Genius Grant”)
 Even looking only at current faculty the record is equally impressive:
  • 377 members of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences
  • 650 members of the American Assoc. for the Advancement of Science 
  • 125 members of the Institute of Medicine 
  • 117 members of the  National Academy of Engineering 
  • 245 members of the National Academy of Sciences 
  • 56 faculty members of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI)
Here is a breakdown of the composition of the UC faculty:
UC faculty have been getting older, reflecting the end of mandatory retirement in the 1990's, as well as continuing difficulties in recruitment:

At the same time, the increasingly old faculty are teaching more students, with less resources:

It is then not surprising that UC is feeling the heat of competition from the privates, who uniformly look to raid UC's most  prominent faculty. As the report puts it,
These fairly static demographics provide the context for present challenges in the recruitment and retention of UC faculty.  [...] At a time of reduced State support, growing enrollments, and a steady stream of faculty separating from the university, however, campuses are increasingly concerned about maintaining faculty quality.
And of course, faculty salaries continue to lag far behind (about 11.2%) those at peer institutions:

The report comments that "current lags are very likely higher because some of the comparators have continued annual pay increases. In addition, beginning April 2011, UC employees will have a portion of their salary redirected into the UC Retirement Program," yielding projected "lags  of six percent for Full Professors, nine percent for Associate Professors, and seven percent for Assistant Professors" (with 5% UCRP contrbutions).

UC has long prided itself for the faculty salary scales, which are supposed to encourage productivity; the scale are now meaningless as a full 65% of general campus faculty are now off-scale. The data on the salary lag above reflect actual salary; the official scales lag even further behind the comparison group (interesting tidbit for those of us receiving on-scale salary and suffering the effects of the "loyalty penalty").

It's no surprise that tenured faculty tend to leave UC, even if salary and benefits are structured to disincentivize such moves. And faculty move pretty much to the same set of high-quality institutions where they initially hired from: Stanford, NYU, USC, Columbia, Michigan etc. (see the document for a list, 640 in the last 10 years).

The report concludes that
To remain leaders in faculty recruitment and retention, UC will need to enhance salary and continue innovative approaches to designing faculty careers for the future.  There are clear warning signs that the University must be nimble in this work. [...] The University should plan to address both the needs of its long-serving, productive faculty and the expectations of its future faculty.  There are budgetary implications for improving faculty salaries and benefits, and for hiring new faculty at a rate that keeps pace with past and future enrollment growth and increasing faculty retirements, but these must be weighed against the costs of losing current faculty and of not being competitive for top recruits.


  1. I agree with all the points about our excellent faculty. And I see they lag behind 11% in pay compared to comparable institutions. But the UC system is facing its greatest financial crisis in history. Another $500M in cuts atop all the other cuts. If Brown's tax increases don't pass, maybe a $1B cut. And in the midst of this the faculty demand more money? WHERE is this money supposed to come from? You can fire every non-academic in the UC system and probably not have the bucks to meet all the faculty salary demands. Weren't the "Gilded 36" roundly denounced for their compensation demands? Seems to me faculty are showing a similar insensitivity to both the tax payer and UC students.

  2. There is no demand for more money, although the problem of lagging salaries needs to be addressed when (if?) the University's finances recover.

    This was meant more as a reminder that the real strength of the University is the faculty who teach the classes, and the constituents are the students who take them. Anything else is ancillary to that purpose.

  3. I think the "ancillaries" realize they will soon be unemployed. In the meantime enjoy your lifetime guarantee of employment, with "merit" increases. Seems like a sweet deal to the working stiffs.

  4. I think you got your target wrong. This blog has always been on the side of the "working stiffs," much less though on the side of the administration higher-ups.