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The 0.1% Solution (Cont’d)

Hanlon Dever.jpgThe fact that the administration has trimmed the endowment draw to 4.9% in the coming year at the expense of its commitment to the faculty tells us a great deal about Phil Hanlon’s and Carolyn Dever’s priorities. After all, as the Committee on the Faculty (Stephen Brooks, Udi Greenberg, Mary Lou Guerinot, Jodie Mack, Glenn Micalizio, Adina Roskies) laid out at the faculty meeting on May 23, it is not as if the Trustees and the administration had not made two formal commitments in the past regarding salary to the College’s professors:

In the mid-1990s, Dartmouth recognized that a large compensation gap between the College and its peer institutions was generating adverse effects on the college’s core missions. These concerns led the Board of Trustees to pass a directive on February 3, 1995, that noted: “In order for Dartmouth to recruit and maintain the very best faculty, it is essential that the College maintain a compensation level that is competitive. Obviously many factors, both personal and professional, come into play as individuals consider professional appointment opportunities… [but] we need to recognize that it is compensation that oftentimes is the major determinant in our ability to appoint and retain faculty.” To ensure that adequate progress was made to close this compensation gap, the Board passed another directive on April 16, 1999, instituting a compensation “strategy termed ‘migration toward the mean’ [that] would attempt to move each rank (i.e., assistant professor, associate professor, full professor) at Dartmouth closer to the mean of the comparison schools.”

To present a budget — as we saw yesterday — that drew 4.9% (vs. a stated 5.0% target) from the endowment, and that continues to underpay the faculty, shows that the issue of faculty salaries is just not on the Hanlon/Dever radar. How sad for them, and for Dartmouth. Cultivating workplace happiness on the part of the College’s essential employees should be a top priority; after all, professors will give more to the school and to students if they feel that their work is valued. Phil and Carolyn, who have never met most of Dartmouth’s faculty face to face, continuously send the opposite message: not only do they not care about our professors, they hardly value outstanding teaching and scholarship.

The duo’s real goal seems to be prestige. Like other unimaginative leaders at institutions all over the country, they want to hire clusters of faculty from outside their school (people who have no familiarity with the College’s special culture of research and teaching) and set them to solving the world’s problems. That strategy, so they think, will win Dartmouth respect out in the wide, wide world. But, if we don’t achieve breakthroughs in the same areas where everyone else is working, where does that leave us?

As for compensation overall, the message seems to have gone out from the academic deans to professors that simple achievement won’t get you a beyond-inflation raise; only a competing offer from another school will. Now there’s a skewed incentive that is a recipe for disaster: faculty members will have to waste time shopping themselves around in order to earn more money. But what if they find other climes more attractive?

The administration should adopt a different tack: take the time to rigorously review the performance of all professors each year and give grand raises to the best performers and nothing at all to people who are coasting along on their tenured status. Such a policy will allow our average faculty pay to rise, it will amply reward our top people, and it will give a goose to the laggards (you know who you are).

Needless to say, picking winners and losers will generate anger among the losers, but a strategy of underpaying everyone is already having the effect of making the entire faculty unhappy. Do Phil and Carolyn realize how sour the mood is out there?

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