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Faculty: Eating the Seed Corn

The fact that the College’s faculty is underpaid relative to other Top 20 schools is a bitterly understood fact in Hanover. The administration makes noise about rectifying the situation, but given Phil Hanlon’s poor fundraising performance and the plethora of other spending priorities out there (dorms, classrooms, DDS, and so on), it’s hard to believe that the situation will improve — and faculty morale will rise — any time soon.

That said, it is worth looking more closely at the faculty payroll penury because a specific aspect of it is having an ongoing impact on Dartmouth’s future as an institution of the first order: the salaries paid to assistant professors — young, tenure-track scholar/teachers who could be tomorrow’s stars.

As we have noted, assistant professors in Hanover are paid far less today than their counterparts at other Ivy schools (all data come from the Chronicle of Higher Education (CHE) and were adjusted for inflation by the Chronicle).

And it has long been so:

Assistant Professor Salaries 2003.jpg

However the pay gap has worsened over the last twelve years:

Assistant Professor Salaries 2015.jpg

Look at the crunched numbers; we’ve lagged behind in providing junior faculty with raises. Adjusted for inflation, we’ve hardly given out any raises at all in real terms since 2003, unlike our Ivy competitors:

Assistant Professor Salaries 2003-2015 (Inflation adjusted).jpg

In contrast to Dartmouth, Penn has pushed hard to attract top-flight young professors. A junior scholar would really have to love New Hampshire to accept an average offer from the College of $78,390, when Penn is proposing average salaries for tenure-track assistant profs of $123,039.

Phil Hanlon likes to talk about making the College a “magnet for talent,” but to do so, he is going to have to pony up. Young faculty members won’t come to Hanover simply to bask in his charisma and enjoy his intellectual pyrotechnics.

Addendum: See CHE data for each Ivy school at the following links: Dartmouth, Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Penn, Columbia, Cornell and Brown.

Addendum: Do you sense that all is not right in Hanover when an eighteen-year-old Dartmouth Dining Services cook helper with a high school degree earns almost $40,000/year for washing pots and pans, and a young faculty member with a Ph.D. from a top graduate school earns $78,390 for working endless hours in the hope of obtaining tenure. That’s a slim rate of return for a young professor after four years of undergraduate study and five years in a demanding doctoral program.

Addendum: A Hanover friend writes in:

Although I can’t crunch the numbers the way you can, I believe the gap between the assistant professor and the pot washer is smaller than what you describe. My understanding is that there are substantial overtime opportunities and that the fringe benefits - especially vacation/personal time — are far more generous in DDS union-land than they are in the professor-seeking-tenure zone.


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