Einstein (brings in grant money!) vs Aristotle (what, no grant money?): which one would you hire (or fire)?

 by Ivan Evans, President, UCSD Faculty Association 

Faculty at UC have long been painfully aware that their salaries lag behind pay scales at “comparable universities” across the country. And so UCOP came up with a remedy: the off-scale salary, which more than 2/3 of UC faculty now earn. The off-scale solution aims to retain faculty by bumping up salaries in a strategic and selective manner, sparing UCs from granting periodic across-the-board increases to all faculty. One aspect of the off-scale solution is that it is available to all faculty: either a faculty member can ask for it, or a department can make the case to CAP.

A somewhat different model prevails in the Health Sciences (HS). Here, it is common practice to renumerate faculty according to the “Health Sciences Compensation Plan” (HSCP). The argument goes as follows: because HS faculty bring in sizable revenues for the University, the HSCP appropriately ensures that some of that money returns to them in what the UC officially describes as a “salary augmentation”. Hence the basic model:  the more you bring in, the more you can get back, and so the higher your salary.

APM 668, UCOP’s recently announced Negotiated Salary Plan (NSP), now proposes to extend this model across all departments. APM 668 proposes that any faculty member who brings in external revenue would be entitled to request some of it back to “augment” their official salary. The plan also stipulates that “salary augmentations” may not be derived from “state-appropriated” funds. In practice, this means that augmentations may currently only be creamed off from “gifts and endowments, professional fees and fees in self-supporting programs, and contracts and grants”. More about this below.

The NSP is nominally available to all faculty. In practice, of course, it addresses the situation of certain faculty–those who have access to and successfully obtain external funds, most of whom are in the HS and STEM fields. It is therefore more precise to say that only some departments, or a small group within a department, might be eligible to benefit from the NSP, depending on their success in generating “non-state-appropriated” revenue. Little wonder that, to the concern of UCOP, faculty from the general campus are reported to be eyeing appointments in HS schools, where the lure of augmented salaries beckons.

The NSP is linked in at least two ways to the mania for “privatizing” the UC. One is obvious: increases in external funds address the reality of plummeting state financial support. The other is insidious and hinges around the question: is student tuition “private revenue”? If it is, then it may be used to fund the NSP and make up for shortfalls in external funds.

The prevailing view is that while student tuition is not the same as, say, grant money, it nevertheless is “non-state appropriated [private] revenue”. Thus, the 3% “salary increase” that only “eligible faculty” will receive beginning 1 October was indeed “allocated centrally”, according to EVC Subramani–artful language that reminds us that different revenue streams all blend into one money pot at the end of the day. It is therefore not unreasonable to view the 3% increase as an experiment in transitioning from the current salary model to the full-throated implementation of the NSP. Is the selective increase a testing-of the-waters, as move to determine whether the funding sources for the NSP can be re-defined to include the gold mine that is student tuition–a revenue source that UCOP is determined to increase dramatically in the next few years?

The NSP has aroused enormous concern and anxiety in departments where external grants are either not essential to academic production or are generally much more modest than in the HS and STEM fields. Einstein might be on Easy Street … but what would Aristotle do?

There is much more that one could say about the NSP and I invite responses from SDFA members. Meanwhile, Joe Kiskis (President of the Davis FA), has raised several concerns about the Plan. His comments follow below.


— Ivan Evans






In recent years, there have been many calls to decrease the use of off
scale salaries and to adjust the salary scales so that the traditional
merit and promotion process, long a great asset of the University, is
strengthened. Regrettably the proposed APM 668 goes in the opposite
direction. It would further undermine the merit and promotion system and
institutionalize a “system” for determining salaries that would be
non-transparent, arbitrary, inequitable, open to abuse, and decoupled
from peer evaluation of accomplishment in teaching, research, and

Detailed Points:

1) Decisions on implementation could be very fine-grained, with wide
variation between campuses and possibly even between academic units.

2) Although it is often assumed and it is the case in the examples
accompanying the draft APM that the money used to pay a faculty
member a higher salary will be very closely associated with non-state
funds generated by that faculty member, in fact, there is nothing in the
draft APM that makes that association.

3) It is now widely accepted that tuition is non-state money. Thus some
tuition revenue or other UC general funds could be diverted to create a
pool of non-state funds that could be used to fund NSPs to individual
faculty members at the discretion of administrators.

4) Given 2 and 3 and the fact that almost all faculty would be “in good
standing,” essentially anyone would be free to constantly petition their
department chair and dean for an NSP salary increase. This will use up a
huge amount to faculty, chair, and dean time.

5) The policy is rather vague on the role of the Senate in the process.
It seems that is something that could vary by campus or perhaps even at
a finer level of college or school. Over time this is likely to further
undermine the merit and promotion process and make salary increasingly
unrelated to academic accomplishment as evaluated by faculty peers. This
would severely undermine the research excellence of the university.

6) The proposed APM includes a provision for a “contingency fund.” This is
poorly described. I think that the purpose of the contingency fund is to
serve as an insurance policy. There would be a tax on the base salary
(state money) of participating faculty members (3% in the examples). All
the combined money thus collected would make a campus fund that would be
used to continue a faculty member’s negotiated salary for the duration of
the NSP agreement even if the external fund source disappears for some
reason. There are two issues related to this. First why should it exist at
all? It seems to me that if the external funds disappear, the NSP salary
should too. Second, the money in the fund will be _state_ money. So that
if the external funds disappear, the NSP salary will be paid with state
funds. In my opinion, this is unacceptable.