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Another Faculty Meeting

Today’s faculty meeting at 3pm will address more completely the issue of revising the Non-Recording Option. If the proposed changes are approved, students will be obliged to meet a minimum standard of work in order to receive a grade of Satisfactory — or risk having a D or E listed on their transcript (with its GPA-busting consequences) — and they will only be able to do so three times in their academic career. That development is of real moment for students; why has The D not addressed its substance? After all, it was on the faculty agenda two weeks ago.

Other aspects of the meeting are equally interesting (here are the faculty’s complete materials). On April 26 we reported on the latest AAUP data concerning faculty salaries (our Associate and Assistant Professors and our Lecturers are paid considerably less than the faculty at the other other Ivy schools, though our Full Professors earn more than equivalent faculty at Brown and Cornell). Economics Professor Eric Zitzewitz reported similar figures at a faculty meeting last June, and the Committee on the Faculty (COF) will again observe today that the College is not keeping pace with its peers.

Note particularly that the gap in salaries opened up during the period of the Kim budget cuts (see the red arrows that I have added to the chart). Jim Kim was especially proud that his budget exercise did not involve layoffs of the impossibly bloated support staff (actually it did not involve any decreases in the budget either; spending rose each year under JYK). What a textbook example of cutting bone to save fat:

Faculty Salaries 2000-2016.jpg

The Committee on the Faculty did a calculation that I was preparing to do (I’m kicking myself for being scooped). After noting that at “Dartmouth compensation is currently 6.8% lower than the average level of compensation for the US News Top 20 schools (the group of institutions that COF regards as the most reasonable peer comparison),” the COF commented:

The Committee on the Faculty estimates that it would take $5.4 million in total compensation to close the gap between Dartmouth and the US News Top 20 schools (when we look at assistant, associate, and full professors separately and the resources it would take to close the gap in all three ranks). Faculty compensation is a relatively small part of Dartmouth’s overall budget: the $5.4 million needed to close the current compensation gap only constitutes 0.6% of Dartmouth’s current operating expenses ($891 million). Assuming that our standard raise pools will keep pace with our peers, if Dartmouth were to try to close this compensation gap over a five-year period, it would require adding an additional 1.2% to the raise pool each year (or adding 2% each year if we opted for a three-year plan for reducing the gap). [Emphasis added]

Such a request is circumspect, to say the least. Look at the College’s year-on-year total spending increases over the last five years: 2015: + $38.3 million; 2014: +$17.8 million; 2013: +$59.5 million; 2012: +37.5 million; 2011: +$21.2 million. In 2010 the College’s expenses totaled $717.1 million; in 2015 they were $891.4 million. Of that overall increase of $174.3 million over a five-year period, it is astounding that $5.4 million could not have been found to keep faculty compensation level with competing schools. But then, as the recent Class of 2016 petition noted, the College’s top priority still seems to be to feed the staff beast. During this same five-year period, the number of non-faculty staff members increased by 441 people — and the number of Arts and Sciences faculty grew by 46.

Of course, in keeping with this space’s promotion of quality, I agree that we should give raises so that our average pay is competitive with the other Ivies — but using the pitiless law of averages, we should allow a large gap between our top performers and mediocre faculty members, many of whom are professors favored by Jim Wright, scholars who never should have been given tenure in the first place.

Finally, the meeting materials reproduce a May 13, 2013 evaluation of the College’s popular and rigorous Jewish Studies Program. The review is included because Jewish Studies is up for a vote on its continuation. Read through the report with some care. The subtext is clear: Dartmouth has a program that is working extremely well for students and faculty; why is the administration starving it when a little more money would enable Jewish Studies to become one of the College’s top academic initiatives?

Jewish Studies. Faculty salaries. Kosher dining. Decrepit dorms. Need-blind admissions for international students. The refrain is always the same. The administration has no money, except to pay the ever-burgeoning non-faculty staff.

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