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Monday, September 18, 2000

University of Hawaii

Low pay has
UH faculty bailing

With mainland salaries
outpacing Hawaii's, the
university's ability to
compete has eroded

How salaries stack up
Key earth scientists leaving

By Helen Altonn

University of Hawaii-Manoa faculty salaries are lagging considerably behind national averages, causing serious recruitment and retention problems.

"The last I looked, it was a very depressing situation to see what senior faculty are paid, compared with the institutions we're competing with," said UH Senior Vice President Dean Smith.

Acknowledging "several big losses" of faculty members, he said: "In every case, individuals have gone to what is a recognizably better university.

"If there is any positive note to this, it illustrates the fact that this is a good place to build your career, and we do have people of this quality at Manoa sought after by big-name universities."

A lot of money is at stake, however.

"In my area, in research, our record of $179 million this past year is solely due to the faculty," said Alan Teramura, senior VP for research. "You have to have outstanding, competitive faculty in order to continue to do that research."

Architecture professor Barry John Baker, Faculty Senate chairman, pointed out that mainland university salaries have been bolstered by a good economy while those at UH have scarcely budged.

"The faculty is very concerned about it. We haven't had a debate as such on this, but it wouldn't surprise me if it looms large this academic year."

At a convocation on the Manoa campus on Sept. 7, UH President Kenneth Mortimer departed from a prepared talk to stress he is committed to pursuing faculty pay increases at the next meeting of the state Legislature.

"To compete in a global economy, faculty talent becomes absolutely crucial," he elaborated in an interview.

But with "very modest" salary adjustments in the past seven years, he said, "those doing a bang-up job don't see results in their paycheck, and the university's ability to compete has eroded."

Addressing these problems with the UH Professional Assembly (UHPA, the faculty union), the Board of Regents, governor and legislators will be a priority during his last year in office, he said.

When he became president in 1993, there was no provision to match competitive offers, Mortimer said. A memorandum of agreement was worked out in 1994 with UHPA that spells out procedures for awarding salary adjustments for those meeting criteria for merit (outstanding achievement), retention, market or equity.

'A bad policy'

With no money in the first years of the policy, he said, "We were interpreting the guidelines to be very strict." Pay raises were granted only for retention.

When Smith took office about 3 1/2 years ago, faculty members had to present letters from competing institutions to get a pay raise.

"That is a bad policy. We no longer adhere to that," he said. "There has to be bona fide recruitment, but to expect them to get a letter from a competing institution is unethical." Deans were informed in the past year that merit raises also will be considered, Smith said. They have been asked to develop merit award criteria, but some are reluctant because they must fund raises internally, he said.

UH 'out there on its own'

Others, such as the School of Ocean & Earth Science and Technology and the College of Business Administration, already have merit pay criteria, he said.

Charles Hayes, dean of the College of Natural Sciences and chairman of the Council of Deans and Directors, has sent members one idea from a dean for merit award criteria. He said they will talk to chairmen and the faculty and "try to come up with a reasonable document."

But, Hayes stressed, "It should be very clear that this does not mean we're about to give out a whole bunch of raises. ... We're getting the system together; we now need money to do something."

UH officials were concerned about paying for merit raises because of declining budgets the past 10 years, Teramura said.

But they realize it must be a priority because of global competition for faculty, he said. In the private sector, he said: "Some of the deals offer stock options, for example. If you're getting $100,000 to $150,000 a year, plus stock options, it's very attractive."

One of UH's advantages is that Hawaii is "a unique place, one of the nicest places in the world to live," Teramura said. And comparing living costs to the Bay area, San Diego or other hot high-tech areas, he said, "We come out pretty good."

Mortimer said 25 percent of a 4 percent salary increase last year was reallocated for bonuses for a merit system for the 212 UH executives. "We took it out of cost-of-living adjustments. ... It's not the way I would prefer to do it," and some people were not happy about it, he said. "But there has got to be some way to recognize performance in a pay adjustment."

Teramura senses more optimism at the university after tough economic times, but UHPA leaders are not as hopeful.

"The short-term future of the university is not very bright," said UHPA Executive Director J.N. Musto. "We do not exist in a place that shows ... any measure of appreciation for what the university can do in the long term, no willingness to invest in the university now for the future to come."

The faculty has worked without a contract since June 1999. UHPA is seeking across-the-board pay increases, which the state has rejected. The state also is trying to shift health benefits, liability insurance and other costs to the university "under the auspices of autonomy," meaning fewer state dollars and higher costs for UH, Musto said.

"They're (state budget and finance officials) saying no salary increases to the faculty will be funded by the state; they will have to be funded by the university.

"It's an extraordinary policy change," Musto said. "The university is out there on its own."

'We're behind everybody'

Only about 20 percent of faculty members across the country were getting higher pay than those at UH about 10 years ago, according to UHPA Associate Director John Radcliffe.

"Slowly but surely, we have sunk way down ever since, to the point where now only two states have the distinction of having reduced the amount of money spent on higher education. One is the great state of Texas, and the other is Hawaii.

"As a result, we're behind everybody, and there isn't any relief in sight at all," Radcliffe said. C. Barry Raleigh, dean of the School of Ocean & Earth Science and Technology (SOEST), which has lost some star researchers, said he has yet to see any merit raises for his faculty. But he is trying again to get them for people he does not want to lose.

SOEST has been evaluating faculty members every two years on research productivity, grants and teaching, he said. "So now when I say I want to give someone a merit raise in the top 97 percentile of faculty, we can show this is not a subjective assessment, but thought through very carefully."

Sharon Miyashiro, assistant vice president for academic affairs, said the administration has been working with the personnel subcommittee of the deans and directors to get information "so when we do award something, it is for meritorious service or for outstanding achievement.

"If that bar is high enough, at least morale will be such that anybody who reaches that bar should be able to have salaries adjusted accordingly" without grievances and discrimination complaints, she said.

'Hopeful for positive changes'

Case-by-case accommodations have been made where the market is much higher than what UH has been paying, Miyashiro said.

In economics, for example, higher salaries were offered to woo recruits because the private sector is paying more and the faculty "was feeling the burden of vacant positions," she said.

Business, engineering, computer sciences and medicine are other high-demand areas requiring more competitive salaries. While money is important, Faculty Senate President Baker points out: "One of the interesting things about the faculty that the larger community doesn't realize is how few are motivated by salary.

"They're motivated by the research they do, by teaching because that's a very exciting thing, and by where they live and the research they can do and what they can accomplish. But they do want to be competitive. It's only fair and reasonable that people want to be compensated fairly."

With a search beginning for a new UH president and possibly a Manoa chancellor, Baker added, "I think many of us on the faculty are hopeful for positive changes at the university."

 | | |

How UH, mainland
salaries match up

How University of Hawaii-Manoa faculty salaries compare with national averages:

Bullet Average annual salary nationally for new assistant professors: $50,148 to $84,095.
Bullet Assistant professors at Manoa: $34,644 to $51,264 for nine months.
Bullet Manoa assistant professors in high-demand disciplines: can be extended six steps to a maximum of $64,872.

Bullet Annual average salaries for new assistant professors in high-demand disciplines on the mainland:
Engineering: $65,174 to $79,970.
Computer information sciences: $62,287 to $76,500.
Business administration and management: $71,200 to $95,000.
Medicine: $88,185 to $180,000.
Nursing: $49,461 to $83,688.

Source: University of Hawaii, with data from a 1999-2000 faculty salary survey of institutions belonging to the National Association of State Universities and Land Grant Colleges published by Oklahoma State University.

UH loses key

By Helen Altonn

The University of Hawaii-Manoa is losing some of its leading scientists in geology-geophysics, including David Bercovici, winner of several prestigious awards.

Others are volcanologist Stephen Self; geophysicist Rodey Batiza; Batiza's wife, Jill Karsten, an associate researcher; and Cliff Todd, who operated a highly specialized electron microprobe laboratory.

Bercovici is going to Yale University, and Self to Open University in England. Both leave in January.

Batiza started work this month as a National Science Foundation program manager in the Division of Ocean Sciences in Washington, D.C. Karsten is still employed by UH, but hopes to work at the Office of Naval Research on loan from the university, while Todd has joined Dow Chemical Co. in Michigan.

The scientists cite different reasons for leaving and say pay is not the chief factor. But they agree there is a lack of faculty support at UH-Manoa and point to UH President Kenneth Mortimer's policy of granting raises only to those who get an offer elsewhere.

"It encourages the faculty to be disloyal," said C. Barry Raleigh, dean of the School of Ocean & Earth Science and Technology. He has tried unsuccessfully for years to get merit raises for outstanding faculty members.

UH could have matched Yale's salary offer to Bercovici, although Yale's package included other great benefits, Raleigh said. And Self took Open University's offer although UH "matched it quite well." But Bercovici and Self "are sort of demoralized," Raleigh said. "They don't see things really getting much better at the university. I keep telling them the worst is over."

Bercovici, geology-geophysics chairman, makes models to study what's happening inside the earth, called fluid mechanics.

He was recognized in 1995 as a National Science Foundation Young Investigator, and he won the American Geophysical Union's coveted Macelwane Medal in 1996 "in recognition of significant contributions to geophysical science by a young scientist of outstanding ability."

"Losing Bercovici is really a blow," Raleigh said. "He is absolutely one of the most outstanding scientists in the world in his field. The stuff he does brings tremendous recognition and fame to the university. That's what makes it possible to attract other good people."

Said Bercovici, "This department and this school are really top-notch -- nationally and internationally ranked." However, "It's time to do something new. ... It's a personal decision. But we are experiencing other people leaving.

"The retention (pay) increase is just an unbelievably destructive policy," Bercovici said. "It targets and weakens the strongest units, like the Institute for Astronomy and SOEST, where people can go out and get good offers.

"You make people mad and bitter and erode their morale. ... You've got to waste time looking for jobs anywhere else before they reward you, and it's backfiring."

Self had been approached for a senior position at the Open University and initially said no. "Then I was told in order to improve my situation at UH, I needed to get a job offer."

He was approached again and pressured by the people in England to take the job there, so he went for an interview. The offer was "extremely attractive," he said. "It's a prestigious position, a personal chair."

It's not only a money issue, but one of opportunities, said J.N. Musto, executive director of the UH Professional Assembly, pointing out it is a campuswide problem. "Despite everything, we have to recognize that university faculty members come from a national and international employment base."

Self said he will design courses that eventually will be Web-based at the Open University, a world leader in distance learning. He plans to keep research ties with his students and colleagues at UH under several grants.

"Although it's a very difficult decision, it doesn't reflect at all on my colleagues in geology and geophysics and SOEST," he emphasized.

"We've known something was wrong for a while. Instead of fixing it, they just leave it, and eventually they pay the price. This is a major research university with world-class research groups, and it seems they're letting it trickle away."

Karsten said she and Batiza moved to Virginia primarily for personal reasons. Certainly, they are "aggravated by the continued decline at the university, but it's not the major motivating factor."

She said they wanted to be close to aging parents and children in college, and "it was a good opportunity for Rodey."

Todd had just been promoted and given a salary increase, but Dow Chemical offered significantly more, plus a lower cost of living, said UH geophysicist Michael Garcia. Todd and his wife, a UH student, "were looking at never owning a house in Hawaii," he said.

An international search is under way to replace Todd at the electron microprobe lab, Garcia said. Meanwhile, a temporary hire is running it part time.

Garcia said the policy of making faculty members get offers from somewhere else for a salary increase "is just asking them to leave, because if they get an offer we can't match, they're gone." Even if UH can match it, the new offer may be more attractive, as in Self's case, Garcia said. "The big loser is not only the state, but the students, who don't have these people to inspire them."

Bercovici said the internationally recognized geology-geophysics department "is fertile ground for being scavenged.

"I've averted a few raids and tried to keep people. But it can't go on forever. The university is good about coughing up retention increases, but to have to let it go that far is just deadly."

The department will get good new young people, Bercovici said. "Hopefully, they will come in with optimism and won't have lived with seven or eight years of cynicism. That can't continue with our new administration."

University of Hawaii

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