Preliminary recommendations developed by the Task Force for Faculty Compensation to address faculty concerns around salary and compensation were shared at a Tuesday faculty meeting by co-chairs Francis Doyle, university provost, and Kenneth Wong, professor of international and public affairs, political science and education policy.
The TFFC, created by the Faculty Executive Committee in spring 2023, is charged to “recognize and get faculty input on compensation issues,” according to Wong. The TFFC met 15 times since July, organized two listening sessions and conducted a survey with around 500 responses, Wong shared at the meeting. Since last spring, the task force has worked with outside consultants, including Henry Farber, professor emerita at Princeton, to compare Brown to similar Ivy-plus institutions.
Farber’s analysis of 20 elite universities found that Brown ranked near the bottom for faculty compensation without adjustments made for institutional differences. But the analysis ranked Brown 11th after adjusting for Brown’s lack of a business or law school and local pricing.
“We’re in the middle of a very competitive and elite pack,” Doyle said in an interview with The Herald after the meeting.
“One measure that we didn’t look at was the resourcing of the institutions,” he added. “We have smaller endowments than nearly all the schools that were in this pool, so our ability to resource has constraints. But despite that, we landed in the middle, which was encouraging.”
The TFFC drafted five preliminary recommendations and shared them at the faculty meeting before finalizing a report to be shared with President Christina Paxson P’19 P’MD’20 and the FEC in the coming weeks.
In the meeting, Wong shared that the task force proposed ways to restructure faculty salary increases, which includes faculty salary pools. Currently, the faculty salary pool is split between a dean’s salary pool and a merit pool: Dean’s “allocation of funds are used for special circumstances such as promotion, retention (and) equity,” according to Wong.
Since the pool criteria do not apply to all departments and faculty members, the task force recommended taking “these allocations out as a separate budget item and then keep a faculty salary pool that will be applied to all academic units.”
Doyle noted in an interview with The Herald that these changes are important for maintaining transparency around compensation.
In addition, the TFFC is now suggesting “two subpools within the faculty merit pool” — with one based on “scholarship, teaching and service” and another based on “cost of living index,” which Wong suggested was in line with faculty concerns.
The task force has also suggested that there should be a “one time catch up in light of the inflationary index in recent years,” Wong said.
The TFFC preliminary also recommends that the University consider additional investments “to improve the position of Brown relative to its peer institutions,” according to Wong.
The task force additionally suggested that professional schools, including the School of Public Health and Warren Alpert Medical School, create working groups to address salary and compensation concerns of research faculty.
Kristina Mendicino, professor chair of German studies and vice chair of the FEC, noted that the draft report did not include discussions about retirement contributions, which were withheld during COVID-19. While the TFFC considered the retirement contributions, they opted to “prioritize the one-time catch-up on the gap between the salary rate and the inflationary rate,” Wong said.
Faculty have expressed their concerns regarding the current pooling system for some time. In spring 2023, 218 faculty members signed a petition in support of automatic cost-of-living adjustments and repayment of withheld retirement contributions, The Herald previously reported.
The petition read that these changes would “reaffirm the commitment of the administration to the mission of our university.”
In its findings, the TFFC found that “only about 25 to 30% of the faculty members … felt that they really understand what the annual process and criteria is about and that they would like to see greater transparency and stronger communication,” Wong said. He also added that based on TFFC analysis, about 70 to 80% of faculty “express concern” that there is no cost of living adjustment.
The University’s policy is to “determine salaries on the basis of rank, merit and performance while endeavoring to maintain a fair balance within departments and … the University,” according to the Handbook of Academic Administration. “Salary levels are meant to be competitive with those offered at peer institutions in the United States and these levels may also be influenced by factors such as the availability of faculty in certain disciplines.”
There is an annual review process to ensure that all salaries are in line with this policy, the handbook adds.
In April 2023, the Task Force on the Status of Women Faculty released its report finding “statistically significant” differences in salary between men and women faculty at Brown.
While compensation was a topic of both the TFFC and the TFSWF, both groups hired different consultants, according to Doyle. Additionally, the TFFC is focused on Brown compared to peers while the TFSWF is focused on “comparisons within Brown, and notably across gender lines,” he added.
The TFFC was charged to complete its analysis in Spring 2024, according to Doyle. Wong added that the recommendations will most likely be finalized within the coming weeks and the report will be compiled. The final report will be delivered to both Paxson and the FEC.
Doyle also stated that he will be reconsidering the Associate Provost for Faculty Affairs position — a position he introduced and drew criticism for at December’s faculty meeting. “I’ve learned very clearly we need to slow down and think this through more carefully with better consultation,” he said.
Ryan Doherty is a Section Editor covering faculty, higher education and science & research. He is a sophomore concentrating in chemistry and economics who likes to partially complete crosswords in his free time.
Cate Latimer is a senior staff writer covering faculty and higher education. She is from Portland, OR, and studies English and Urban Studies. In her free time, you can find her playing ultimate frisbee or rewatching episodes of Parks and Rec.