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Good years during bad economic times

April 11, 2011

Michael Bugeja, director,
Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication,
Iowa State University of Science and Technology


Today I am preparing for annual reviews with each of our 25 faculty members, professionals in residence and lecturers in back-to-back meetings for one week or more. I’ve read through all of their dossiers containing article and book publication, grants, awards and stellar service.

The staff has been exceptionally productive, a fact that usually energizes me for these meetings, but not so much this year, because of anticipated budget cuts by the state. Advance word concerns a small University-generated raise pool of about ½ to 1 ½ percent.

The 2008-10 recession hit Iowa hard as it must have in several other states facing budget cuts, furloughs, program terminations and more. As I am sure is the case at your department or school, many professors have good years during bad economic times.

For instance, I have assistant professors who have gone without raises for two- and three-years, despite award-winning papers and publications. Our associate professors, in particular, have served at all levels of School, College and University committees with several on trajectory to earn promotion to full professor. They, too, have gone without raises in years of stellar performance. And our senior professors have dedicated much of their efforts to administration, mentoring, consulting and researching.

I’ve been a professor at other institutions when raises as low as a half percent were given under the theory that a little money is better than none at all.

In that recessionary year long ago, one professor filed a grievance because his raise was $50 lower than a colleague’s when his peer evaluation was about the same. How to avoid similar hard feelings in the Greenlee School?

I sought answers to that question today in Dean’s Cabinet, sharing worries about small raises. Colleagues echoed the concern, noting that professors who were highly productive in 2010 would waste their achievements in a year of token increases.

At this point I do not know what our raise pool will be or whether central administration will enforce guidelines for distribution. The pool, however, will come from Iowa State’s current budget, expected to be cut by the Legislature as much as 6-10%.

Because there is no legislative salary bill, that provides an occasion to give everyone who performed satisfactorily the same small bump, call it a cost of living adjustment and carry over accomplishments cited in annual reviews for better economic times.

What is happening at your department, school, college or institution?

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