Compensation bonuses offered to faculty
In accordance with the competitive nature of Tier One status, the administration is resolute on maintaining a Tier One faculty.
An announcement by Provost Paula Short to faculty and staff declared the administration’s consideration of additional faculty compensation in fiscal year 2015. In addition to faculty promotions, eligible faculty members may receive a one-time bonus. The funds for the additional compensations are budgeted from the University’s annual revenue.
“We believe that providing competitive compensation to our faculty and staff is critical to maintaining excellence in instruction, research, academic support and administrative effectiveness,” Short said.
Last year, the Board of Regents approved $4.7 million of the fiscal budget to be allocated to a merit-based pool for faculty. The $4.7 million added a 3% increase to a pool that already existed, but due to a decrease in revenue this year the administration has decided to take a different route.
“It was not projected there would be a large amount of revenue to fund merit raises, so it was decided that those earning $50,000 or less would benefit from additional compensation bonuses,” Short said.
“We believe that providing competitive compensation to our faculty and staff is critical to maintaining excellence in instruction, research, academic support and administrative effectiveness,”
Paula Short Provost and Senior Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs
Unlike merit raises that came into effect in fiscal year 2014, compensation bonuses will not be available to all faculty members — only to those who earn less than $50,000 a year. The bonuses will be offered to both tenured and non-tenured faculty and will be based on revenues that are subject to change with fall enrollment.
“They are not pay raises but compensation bonuses,” Short said.
Not every faculty member received a merit raise this year. Raises were given only to faculty members who earned them based on performance. Recommendations for faculty members were submitted to the administration by the presidents and department heads of each school. Those that were approved by the administration received a raise.
Faculty salaries at the University of Houston are on par with other public Tier One universities in the state. Median salaries at UH differ by about $1,000 compared to Texas A&M and the University of Texas at Austin. However, the highest salary offered at UT is $535,569, whereas the highest salary offered at the University of Houston is $317,754.
Chancellor and President Renu Khator earns well above the national average for her dual position as President and Chancellor of the UH System. Since the renewal of her contract in 2012, Khator has been earning an annual base salary of $700,000, a $200,000 increase from her previous contract. Additionally, Khator receives an annual deferred salary of $200,000 and a yearly retention bonus of $100,000. According to the Chronicle of Higher Education the median salary for public university presidents in 2011 was $421,395.
The Board of Regents had been considering Khator for a raise since as early as 2010, but Khator declined any salary increases at that time.
“In declining a salary increase, Khator indicated she did not want a raise until faculty and staff salaries are addressed,” said Welcome W. Wilson, Sr. Chairman of the UHS Board of Regents in a previously released announcement.
While most faculty salaries at UH fall within a comparable range to those offered by other institutions, there are certainly areas that have been lagging.
In April of last year nearly 70 teaching fellows from the creative writing program staged a sit-in outside of President Khator’s office. At the time, the teaching fellows had not received a raise in 20 years and were earning from $9,600 to $11,200 a year, an income that set them barely above the poverty line. Although it is forbidden in the program for the teaching fellows to take additional jobs outside of the University, many did so secretly in order to make ends meet.
Dickson Lam, a graduate student and one of the fellows who participated in the sit-in, said that he had to work an additional job just to get by.
“As a graduate student, we should have enough time to focus on our studies, but with teaching at the University and another job, it was very difficult to devote enough energy and time to my graduate work,” Lam said.
The creative writing program is one of the University’s most prestigious — it has been ranked top five in the country for several consecutive years. Despite the program’s high status, student stipends were being trumped by lower ranking programs across the country. Once prospective students took notice of protests being staged on campus and across social media, the administration took action.
“I think at first we felt like we weren’t being heard, but once we built up momentum with bringing awareness through organizing the teaching fellows and using social media, the administration finally began taking us seriously,” Lam said.
In response to the sit-in, President Khator awarded $1 million to improve graduate students’ working conditions and pay. This resulted in a 55 percent stipend increase for the creative writing students, and other programs benefited as well.