Compensation review finds faculty salary competitive, executive salary below market median

An analysis of the compensation in the UA system found that faculty and staff receive competitive salaries in comparison to the market median. Executives are being paid below the market median, according to the review.

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External analysts from the insurance brokerage firms Lockton and Gallagher, conducted the review. The Board of Regents presented their findings in the Board’s meeting on Sept. 13.

Christopher Fallen, professor for space physics at UAF and chair of the UA Faculty Alliance, observed some initial skeptical reactions among faculty.

“The presentation indicates preparation to raise executive compensation following several years of essentially no increases to compensation for all employee classes at UA,” Fallen said. “Of course, this raises a lot of challenging feelings because many faculty do not feel competitively compensated.”

Fallen names the high cost of living in the state as one of the primary reasons.

Faculty salary in the UA system is within a close range of the market median, according to the presentation; two-year faculty place about 3 percent above and four-year faculty are 1.5 percent below the market median salary.

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The market median salary and methodology were not specified in the presentation. They were not made available for faculty to assess the appropriateness of the study findings and techniques.

UA executives receive salaries about 13 percent below the median salary, the study found.

The report did not consider the cost of living for the analysis; instead, the consultants used a geographical metric called “cost of labor.” This metric, however, was not well defined in the presentation, Fallen said.

Nalinaksha Bhattacharyya, UAA professor for finance, said at parts of the study are “suspect” due to a lack of transparency.

“[The consultants] find that faculty is well-compensated, that staff is well-compensated and executives are not — on what basis?” Bhattacharyya said. “I need to see a report, not a Powerpoint presentation.”

Bhattacharyya thinks that an increase in salary would be important to attract and retain faculty to UAA.

“The natural consequences [of not increasing faculty salary] will be that people will look for other jobs,” Bhattacharyya said. “And faculty strength has been declining, which is what you would expect.”

Other faculty reactions showed more confidence in the findings of the presentation.

“Another less widely held view is that the presentation showed that UA is, when measured by average compensation alone, being fiscally responsible while striving to be as competitive as possible,” Fallen said. “This is consistent with Regent Davies’ observation during the meeting that it was essentially policy that UA executives be compensated at below market rates.”

The Board of Regents policy states that the “university’s total compensation package will facilitate staff recruitment and retention.” Faculty salary must be analyzed at least once every five years.

UA Human Resources is currently facilitating a comprehensive compensation review at the direction of President Johnsen. This larger effort also includes a pay equity review across the university system. The analysis is already underway and expected to be completed in December. It targets the effects of elements such as gender, age, ethnicity and tenure track on pay differentials.

“This objective appears very well received among faculty and, as Chair of the UA Faculty Alliance, I wish that this had been the focus of the compensation presentation,” Fallen said.

He is confident that the UA Board of Regents and the faculty union UNAC will collaborate to resolve occurring issues with compensation.

“I trust that UA will… transparently work with UNAC on addressing compensation inequity among faculty across the system and in ensuring that compensation is truly competitive,” Fallen said.

The presentation can be found in the Board of Regents agendas under alaska.edu/bor.

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