Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Florida Colleges Wary of Losing Talented Faculty; Research Scientists May Be Tempted by Higher Salaries in Other States

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Florida Colleges Wary of Losing Talented Faculty; Research Scientists May Be Tempted by Higher Salaries in Other States

Article excerpt

Byline: ADAM AASEN

There's recent concern among some college leaders in Florida that the state's best faculty might be going elsewhere for more money.

Due to the state's budget crisis -- causing faculty to be laid off at schools such as the University of Florida -- these leaders worry public universities can't afford to match counteroffers from wealthy out-of-state schools.

Erskine Bowles, president of the University of North Carolina system and a former White House chief of staff to President Clinton, told Florida Chamber of Commerce President Mark Wilson that there's good reason to be worried.

"My office is flooded with resumes from your best [research] scientists and we are flat out going to hire them away from your universities if you don't get your act together in Florida," he said in April.

It wasn't specified what Bowles meant by "get your act together," but on average UNC-Chapel Hill paid its professors $138,500 last year, compared with $109,300 at UF.

Rumors started to fly that UNC had "a list" of professors it wanted to steal. No such list has been confirmed, but the University of North Florida's board of trustees still discussed it at a budget meeting this summer. Provost Mark Workman said he's concerned that UNF might lose its top researchers down the road because there is less money available to match other schools' offers.

Most of the concerns are for the future because UNF and UF representatives couldn't say exactly how many faculty members have been lost directly because of pay or if it's unusual compared with other years.

About 12 teachers left UNF last year, but it's unknown if it was because of salary concerns, said UNF spokeswoman Sharon Ashton. UNF averages five to 10 faculty departures a year for other jobs, she said.

NO MERIT PAY AT UNF

UNF offers increased research dollars to some top faculty, which could entice them to stay, but a faculty union agreement prevents UNF from giving raises to select professors to reward good work, otherwise known as merit pay. Raises must be made across the board or to match an offer from another school. Raises can't be made to prevent a professor from seeking outside opportunities.

Workman said if a professor receives a better opportunity at a larger school, UNF doesn't engage in a battle over salary.

"I'm not a proponent of counteroffers," he said. "I think it's unfair to our outstanding faculty who aren't searching for other opportunities."

UF President Bernie Machen was so concerned about losing top professors and researchers that he announced a proposed 3 percent faculty merit raise pool on July 25. …

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