Instructors question equality in pay across departments

Allison Rosewicz

The discovery of a mistake in Dr. David Locher’s salary has caused many to question the equality in pay among departments.

“His case might make a hell of a good case for more equality across this campus,” said Dr. Conrad Gubera, professor of sociology.

Locher, associate professor or sociology, himself agreed that a problem exists with the way the Missouri Southern calculates pay raises.

Upon promotion, employees at the College receive a pay raise based on a survey average of national salaries. This survey is conducted by the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources.

Southern employees receive 85 percent of the national average based on the previous year’s survey, plus 3 more percent to cover inflation. That promotion must amount to at least $2,000. If not, the faculty member receives the $2,000 instead. These figures are relative to the lower cost of living in the Joplin area.

When Locher, for example, received a promotion from assistant to associate professor before the 2000-2001 school year, he should have received a $7,000 raise based on 85 percent of the national average.

At a salary of $48,648, Locher is being paid just above the average for Southern associate professors — $48,200, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education.

“I am not the highest paid associate professor in my department, and my salary is the average for an associate professor on our campus,” Locher said.

With the $5,000 bonus, Locher still makes less than two other associate professors in the social science department. The average pay for that rank in that department is $46,691.

That average is much less than other departments. The average pay for an associate professor in the School of Business is $65,675, and $60,086 in the computer information science department. The highest paid associate professor works for the School of Business and earns $79,598. The lowest paid professor works in the communications department for $39,620.

“You accept the fact that everybody’s kind of in the same boat until you begin to realize there’s tremendous inequality across this campus in the different schools,” Gubera said.

Many instructors think these figures are unfair, but Dr. Larry Martin, vice president for academic affairs, said the salaries are fairly based on supply and demand and competition.

Martin said, as an example, a large demand exists for accountants in industry. The College must compete with not only other colleges, but also industries for workers like these in the business field.

“We don’t pay as much, but we at least need to pay as much as our competitors,” he said.

Dr. Terri Agee, vice president for business affairs, also said demand in different departments affects pay.

“It’s all market-driven,” she said. “Different degrees, different areas, the market pays more.”

Martin said some departments, such as business, have a higher demand; therefore, the College must pay instructors in the School of Business more to gain and keep them.

Even within departments, however, large gaps in salaries can occur. Martin said this is because different branches within the department can have higher demand. Rank also makes a difference.

“A person’s salary is not determined by how long they’ve been here, but rather by their rank and how long they’ve been at that rank,” he said.

Martin did admit, however, that the formula used to calculate salaries can lead to some problems.

One problem, called “leapfrogging,” occurs because of inflation in salaries each year. Due to inflation, someone receiving a promotion could end up making much more money than another person who received that same promotion a few years earlier.

Martin said even if the College could figure out a way to prevent leapfrogging in the future, it would be difficult to compensate those that were “jumped” in the past.

“You can correct the problem for the future, but how do you address the past?” he said.

Southern currently does not have enough money to correct the problem, but Martin said the faculty welfare committee will soon look for solutions.

“Everyone would like to make more than where they are, and frankly, they deserve it,” Martin said. “But this is what our budget will allow, and this is what we’re able to do. I think most people realize the difference in disciplines and the cost to hire somebody.”