University News

Most faculty committee posts to remain uncompensated

A rejected proposal sought to combat faculty committees’ struggle to attract members

By
Senior Staff Writer

Provost Mark Schlissel P’15 has rejected a proposal from the Faculty Exeuctive Committee to compensate faculty members for service in University governance, according to minutes from a Feb. 12 FEC meeting. The proposal was drafted to address the chronic shortage of candidates for faculty governance positions.

“All I can say is that we’ve discussed the proposal at length with the FEC leadership and then amongst the deans … and decided that service is part of a faculty member’s regular job — teaching, research and service,” Schlissel wrote in an email to The Herald.

Of all the faculty committees, only one — the Tenure, Promotions and Appointments Committee — offers financial compensation. Members of TPAC are entitled to compensation because of the importance of their work and the large time commitment it demands, Schlissel wrote.

Faculty members who serve on TPAC get a $2,000 research stipend after one year on the committee, $3,000 after two years and $4,000 after three years, Professor of Religious Studies and FEC member Harold Roth wrote in an email to The Herald. Alternatively, they can replace the second and third year stipends with the chance to receive a full salary while on sabbatical, as opposed to the usual 75 percent.

“TPAC will never have a problem getting people to serve,” said Roth, who served on TPAC before compensation was offered.

Roth said the proposal’s authors “approximated the amount of effort and hours that went into the different committees” and organized them into four groups, with TPAC in the category of most time-consuming. The next most time-consuming committees would receive compensation equal to half of TPAC’s and the third group would receive a quarter. Members of committees that only met once a year would not be compensated.

Schlissel told The Herald in January that though he was initially open to the idea of compensating faculty governance, he was unlikely to approve the FEC’s proposal.

“The more I thought about it, the more I realized that service is part of what we’re already paying faculty for,” he said. “So it seemed to be like a very slippery slope, to start paying faculty for serving on some committees. There was no way to stop and determine what you should be extra compensated for and what’s already part of your job.”

Roth said one reason why faculty members are reluctant to devote their time to service is that it does not weigh as heavily as teaching or research when they are being considered for tenure.

“Service doesn’t count as much for tenure,” he said. “It’s research and teaching that are primary. Service is secondary.”

He added that University committees like the FEC have a harder time attracting candidates than department committees because departments “make their own rules” about compensation. If you run for a departmental position, he said, “the department is going to think very highly of your public-mindedness.” Departmental support is particularly desirable for tenure candidates, he said.

While Schlissel acknowledged service is less of a priority for faculty members, he said failure to fulfil their service obligations to the University is reflected in their salaries.

The University has historically struggled to fill faculty governance positions. In fall 2011, the FEC went six months without a vice chair before Professor of Philosophy Mary Louise Gill filled the post in the spring.

Schlissel said he was still willing to consider compensating junior faculty members for their service.

“In instances where we call upon untenured faculty to do more than the usual amount of service, we are thinking of giving them some course relief — so instead of teaching four courses, you might teach three courses — to mitigate the early career consequences of devoting extra work, more than they really should, to service,” he said.

Both he and Roth stressed that while a few governance positions must be reserved for untenured faculty members to ensure their fair representation, the junior faculty as a whole is shielded from the increased service obligations of senior faculty members.

“We need them to serve, but we don’t want to hurt them,” Schlissel said. “We’re very protective of the time and effort of the untenured faculty to make sure that everyone has their best chance to become tenured.”

But Assistant Professor of Engineering Petia Vlahovska, the only untenured member of the FEC, said she has no difficulty balancing service with her other commitments.

From the amount of work she has done for the committee, she said, “I don’t think I need compensation.” She also said she thinks “only the most senior members, like the executive officers, should be compensated” for completing a large number of “administrative tasks” in addition to their other responsibilities.

The time commitment was not a concern for Vlahovska when she ran for the FEC, she said.

“I felt that only teaching and doing research is not enough to be part of the Brown community,” she said. She described her term on the FEC, which ends in June, as an enjoyable “learning experience” she hopes to repeat.

“I will try to get involved again because I really liked it,” she said.

Despite its rejection, Roth has not given up on the proposal.

“I think it’s the right thing to do if you want faculty to generally participate in the stewardship of this University,” he said. But ultimately, “the buck stops with the provost.”

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