University News

Salary gap persists across divisions

By
Senior Staff Writer
Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Despite increases in faculty salaries across the University in recent years, there is still a salary gap between faculty in divisions such as humanities and those in other disciplines like engineering and economics, according to data from the Dean of the Faculty website.
A full professor in a humanities discipline was paid more than $30,000 less than a faculty member in the computer science, economics and engineering departments, according to data on the median salaries for the 2010-11 year published on the Dean of the Faculty website.
It has always been the case that not all faculty members make the same salaries, said Provost Mark Schlissel P’15, adding that the distinction is based on economic forces such as the academic market in which the University competes. Some faculty members – such as those who work in higher-paid disciplines – can also find work in the private sector, meaning that the University must make competitive offers to recruit them to Brown, he said.
The University exists in a national market, both academically and privately, said Dean of the Faculty Kevin McLaughlin P’12. When academics develop skills that are transferable and applicable to a higher-paying market, they receive a salary that is competitive with those markets, he said, adding that he “suspect(s) it’s always been the case.” Competitors for these scholars could include technology companies, research firms and banks.
The discrepancy does not mean that the humanities are less of a priority, Schlissel said. The University would like to pay everyone a salary “in reflection of their service to the University,” he added.
Humanities professors in the 2010-11 school year made a median of around $129,000, and professors in the engineering, economics and computer science departments made more than $160,000, the Dean of the Faculty website reported. Faculty members in the physical science and social science departments made around $139,000, according to the same data, and professors in the life sciences departments made around $5,000 more.
Economics department faculty members are paid higher salaries on average than other social sciences because their pay is not just measured against the salaries paid at other universities, but also against pay at business schools, Schlissel said.
Though the University does not view this discrepancy as a problem, Schlissel said “the goal overall is to increase faculty salaries across the board.” Under President Ruth Simmons, the University has made a lot of progress in raising salaries, McLaughlin said, adding that this was an objective Simmons emphasized.
This goal was driven by external forces, since the University must always keep pace with peers, McLaughlin said, adding that before Simmons implemented the Plan for Academic Enrichment, the University was behind its peers in average faculty salaries in most departments. Now, the University is on the very high end compared to its peers, he said.
In general, faculty members make a decent salary, though working in academia limits how much money they can earn, McLaughlin said. Choosing to work at a university is a “trade-off” in which professors exchange a higher salary for job security and the chance to work with students, he said.
“I can’t complain,” said Lawrence Stanley, senior lecturer in English, of his salary. “My sense is that salaries range all over the place and that Brown has to be competitive with the top schools,” he said.
Salaries at the University will be higher in places where they “interplay with industry,” and the Plan for Academic Enrichment made salaries much more competitive with the market, said Andrew Foster, professor of economics and community health. “Brown works hard to keep the best faculty,” he added.
Janet Blume, associate dean of the faculty and former associate professor of engineering, said she has not heard complaints from faculty members about their salaries.
Compensation aside, faculty members come to Brown for the high-caliber student body, she said.
“We are here for students,” she said. “They make it a pleasure.”