Collaborative Decision Making regarding Salary Policy: A CASE STUDY

Article excerpt

As part of this year's report we include a case study of compensation discussions on one specific campus. Like all feature articles in Academe, this case study represents the views of the authors and not necessarily the formal policies of the AAUP. It is presented here not to serve as a model but to stimulate discussion around shared governance in faculty compensation. We had initially commissioned a second case study, but it was not available at press time. We invite further case studies from AAUP chapters with or without collective bargaining for inclusion in a future edition of this report.

The AAUP has long held that collaborative decision making by administrators and elected faculty representatives should undergird institutional decisions about resources. Unfortunately, the times when resources are scarce and institutions most need a functioning system of shared governance also tend to be the times when governance processes are most likely to break down. Abstract disagreements about the definition and purpose of shared governance are magnified when institutions move from theory to practice, especially when institutions face difficult choices about budgetary and salary matters.

This essay presents a case study in addressing salary policy through shared governance. We first describe the work of the Faculty Salary Task Force we convened at Illinois Wesleyan University. While the focus of the task force was on revising the salary policy, aspects of the collaborative effort of the faculty and administration are applicable to other areas of institutional decision making. Second, we describe the reforms that resulted from salary-policy recommendations proposed by the task force and subsequently adopted by the faculty and the administration.


Illinois Wesleyan University is a small, highly selective liberal arts institution that enrolls approximately two thousand students. The institutional mission of IWU, which combines traditional liberal arts curricula with professional and preprofessional majors, presents specific challenges for salary policy: how can salary equity be balanced with the market demands of recruiting faculty members in disciplines that are prone to market pressures? In addition to economics and business administration, IWU has a number of market-driven fields not typical for its kind of institution, including nursing, risk management, accounting, and finance.

When the 2010-11 academic year began, salary policy was already a carryover from the previous academic year's agenda. IWU's governing faculty body, the Council on University Programs and Policy (CUPP), had identified faculty salaries as an issue of concern after the financial downturn of 2008. Salary increases had been modest through the early 2000s, and as at many institutions, continuing faculty members received no increases during the 2008-09 and 2009-10 academic years. By that time, the university had already fallen behind the institutional benchmark of faculty salaries at the eightieth percentile of baccalaureate institutions (category IIB) in the AAUP's Annual Report on the Economic Status of the Profession. Moreover, as the faculty and administration began discussing salary policy, members of the faculty raised specific concerns regarding starting salaries, salary compression, and salary inversion. Faculty members criticized the lack of a clear policy for starting salaries, particularly in market-driven disciplines, and highlighted how larger starting salaries in those disciplines seemed to be at odds with institutional norms.

The formal discussion of salary policy that began in a November 1, 2010, meeting of the faculty led to informal conversations among faculty members and administrators in the weeks that followed. It soon became clear that various salarypolicy issues were interrelated and that a focused discussion was needed to shape overall salary policy. Ultimately, the task force was created to address these issues. …