Faculty Salary Struggles
Andy Davis

University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point faculty members are paid, on average, less than their peers at other universities across the nation.

According to the salary initiatives Web page—located on the university website—out of 338 UWSP faculty members, about 90 percent are paid less than the national average salary for their position. In addition, half of those professors are paid around $10,000 below the national average; in some cases that amount is doubled.

Amidst the problem of salary gaps lies the issue of merit-based salary raises.

Summers said that pay increases for faculty come from a couple of different sources. There are percentage increases that are given when a professor is promoted from assistant professor to associate professor, and then again when they are promoted to a full-time position.

“Those moments come exactly twice in a faculty member’s career. Apart from that, the only other time we tend to offer pay increases is when the state provides us with a pay plan,” Summers said.

At the state level money is given to the University of Wisconsin System as part of a pay plan. The UW System will then give UWSP permission to raise faculty salaries by a small percentage across the board. After that percentage is dispersed, it is required that the remaining amount must be dispersed through merit.

“That’s what’s been lacking here. Last year there was no pay plan, and we’re going through the process this year in the hope that there will be one,” Summers said.

Summers said the criteria for merit pay are described as a three-legged stool of retention and tenure. The criteria for merit are teaching, scholarship, and service.

“Each department has its own criteria for what quality teaching, scholarship, and service look like,” Summers said.

Committees within the university departments are responsible for evaluating the work of faculty within that department. Assistant Professor of Philosophy Dona Warren briefly explained some aspects of the evaluation process within the College of Letters and Sciences.

“We look at the teaching evaluation numbers at the end of each semester when the evaluations are given. If they seem low, the faculty member has the opportunity to submit some other work for consideration,” Warren said.

There is a certain amount of mixed emotions regarding merit pay according to Warren. She said that the system of assigning points could potentially lead to unhealthy competition, but that it might also spark creativity.

“It’s never a fun time of year for faculty when we go through this merit process,” Warren said. “You hope you get lucky and have a good year when there is a pay increase from the state.”

Summers and Warren both said that the process of merit-based pay is useful when trying to find those faculty members who might not be meeting the necessary criteria.

“It is important to hold each other accountable for academic quality at UWSP,” Warren said. “It is absolutely appropriate to have a system that allows us to flag the individuals who are not participating at a level we might like them to.”

“It works intuitively in that regard. If a faculty member is not doing their job effectively, there’s a way of making sure they don’t get extra pay,” Summers said.

Due to the legal obligations of UWSP, there is no way to work on leveling salary rates for all faculty members. Summers said the current system has existed since well before his employment at the university.

Under the “Investing in our future” headline on the salary initiatives Web page, it is stated that UWSP would need almost $3 million to close the salary gap.