Skip to Content, Navigation, or Footer.

Independent analyst claims Brown can afford to pay professors more at event

Professors voice frustration with administration at AAUP-hosted presentation, Brown disputes claims

<p>University Spokesperson Brian Clark disputed Bunsis’s characterization, stating in an email to The Herald that the presentation included “inaccuracies, misrepresentations of data and additional issues that lacked full context.”</p>

University Spokesperson Brian Clark disputed Bunsis’s characterization, stating in an email to The Herald that the presentation included “inaccuracies, misrepresentations of data and additional issues that lacked full context.”

Howard Bunsis, professor of accounting at Eastern Michigan University and former chair of the American Association of University Professors’ Collective Bargaining Congress, presented an independent analysis of Brown’s finances in a Zoom presentation hosted by Brown’s AAUP chapter Monday. 

Speaking to nearly 100 faculty attendees, Bunsis claimed that the University is in a strong financial position to increase professors’ pay and benefits, despite alleged communications from administrators to faculty members suggesting otherwise.

The AAUP seeks to promote academic freedom and “shared governance” in addition to organizing the higher education community, according to its website.

The presentation included a broad overview of the University’s finances — including a breakdown of its total assets, investments and investment performance, reserves, bond rating, changes in faculty composition and faculty salaries in comparison to peer institutions — followed by a question-and-answer session in which multiple faculty members expressed discontent with their compensation.


Months into the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, the University announced a 12-month reduction in retirement contributions for non-unionized employees, including faculty, to help offset the pandemic’s economic impacts, though it halted the reduction after four months. The University’s financial outlook improved in 2021, when the Investment Office announced 51.5% endowment returns on the fiscal year. Operating cash flows were also positive in four out of the last five years, according to the presentation. But faculty wages have increased below the rate of inflation in the last two years, and tuition and auxiliary revenue in 2022 were higher than pre-COVID-19 levels, Bunsis said, citing AAUP statistics.

University Spokesperson Brian Clark disputed Bunsis’s characterizations in an email to The Herald. 

“The AAUP presentation to faculty on University finances included inaccuracies, misrepresentations of data and additional issues that lacked full context,” Clark wrote. “While the presenter used publicly available data through fiscal year 2022 to illustrate significant growth in year-over-year revenues at Brown, he did not properly contextualize why revenues and expenses changed so dramatically.”

Clark noted that some revenue from fiscal year 2021 was recorded in fiscal year 2022 due to the three-semester model used in the 2020-21 academic year as the third semester crossed between fiscal years.

Bunsis also discussed a 42.8% increase in faculty hired as lecturers and senior lecturers between 2018 and 2023. “A lecturer does not have the same academic freedom, rights and security as someone who’s a full-time faculty member.” 

Non-tenure-track faculty now teach more than half of the classes at Brown, according to the presentation.

Clark wrote that the University has added non-tenure-track faculty for the “important role (they play) in Brown’s teaching and learning, including, as just one example, helping tenured and tenure-track faculty maintain appropriate teaching loads.”

The University has seen a steady increase in the number of “tenured and tenure-track faculty” every year for more than 10 years, Clark wrote.

In 2023, full professors made more than $51,600 less than the mean salary of full professors at peer institutions, Bunsis said in the presentation. Associate professors made more than $24,700 less and assistant professors made more than $26,000 less than their respective mean salaries. Those gaps have expanded compared to mean faculty salaries in 2018, according to Bunsis — by more than $14,500 for full professors and by $4,800 and $3,083 for associate and assistant professors, respectively.

“I think it’s clear that you’ve lost ground versus peers during this time period,” Bunsis said, “and you’ve lost ground versus inflation.”


The Herald could not independently verify the numbers Bunsis presented.

Bunsis claimed that University administrators frequently present gloomy budget projections to justify low raises. “They exclude whatever they feel like excluding from the revenue base, they count capital costs and contingencies as expenses and they get overly pessimistic when predicting future revenues and expenses,” Bunsis said. “I would take their budget predictions with a grain of salt the size of the state of Rhode Island.”Clark did not directly respond to claims about the University’s budget projections.

Bunsis also claimed that salaries for top administrators increased by 5.5% between 2018 and 2019, the last year for which data is publicly available. In comparison, faculty received a 2% raise over the same time frame.

Clark denied that raises for administrators outpaced those of faculty. “Faculty and staff salary pools are aligned through the University’s budget process to ensure parity and have been consistently applied since (fiscal year 2016),” Clark wrote.

Get The Herald delivered to your inbox daily.

The University has reported a budget deficit for at least the last 10 years, a claim that Bunsis said “flabbergasted” him. “The tuition revenue growth, and the growth of the other revenue sources, suggests they are going to have more than sufficient resources to deal with any issue they have,” he said. “They should be very happy with where things are now.”

The University currently has $1.06 billion in reserves, not counting property, according to Bunsis’s analysis. That sum, he said, would support the University for nearly 11 months. In 2020, the University had 10.3 months’ worth of reserves. 

Reserves that can sustain a university for more than 10 months are “very high, significant and solid,” according to Bunsis’s presentation. 

“Any suggestion that they needed to reduce the retirement contribution to employees, which saves them a small fraction of those reserves, is without merit. And they certainly have the resources to pay back every penny they did not put into retirement accounts.”

At the Q&A session, professors and administrators said they were frustrated to have received neither compensation for the four months of retirement reduction nor raises that matched the rate of inflation.

“It’s quite unsettling and alarming,” Professor of German Studies and Comparative Literature Gerhard Richter said at the event. “I think the fact that so many concerned faculty members are here this afternoon also speaks to the seriousness of the situation.”

Associate Professor of German Studies and Chair of German Studies Kristina Mendicino, who also serves as the president of Brown’s AAUP chapter, reiterated the sense of disillusionment among faculty. “There is a growing impression among members of the AAUP that major decisions regarding the future of our institution are being made not on the basis of financial necessity, but on the basis of priorities that are not in alignment with achieving the mission of an educational institution,” she said.

Clark noted that faculty play a role in designing the budget. “Brown’s budget process is led by the University Resources Committee, a representative group that includes faculty, staff and students in addition to administrative leaders,” Clark wrote. “That group conducts substantial analysis throughout the year — informed by external data from multiple sources — to develop appropriate benchmarks for faculty compensation levels. Based on recommendations from the URC, for Fiscal Years 2022 and 2023, Brown implemented the largest salary increases in more than 10 years, and we remain highly competitive in our ability to attract world-class faculty.”

“In addition to posting the full URC report, we publicly post data with details on faculty counts (and) average salaries and trends over time, to keep our community informed,” he added. “We’re committed to continuing to invest in our faculty and the important teaching, learning and research efforts they lead.”

Bunsis concluded by encouraging faculty to take collective action in securing better pay. “You should act like a union, even if you’re not a union,” he said. “Whether it be statements, whether it be meetings, whether it be motions, whether it be rallies, it has to be done as a collective. I think all of those things should be on the table — you have to change the conversation.”

“Pardon my language,” Bunsis said. “The word budgets starts with a B and ends with an S."

Charlie Clynes

Charlie Clynes is the managing editor of digital content and technology on The Herald's 134th Editorial Board. Previously, he covered University Hall and the graduate labor organization as a University News editor. A concentrator in history and applied math, he loves geography quizzes and has strong opinions about chalk.

Powered by SNworks Solutions by The State News
All Content © 2024 The Brown Daily Herald, Inc.