Thursday, November 30, 2006

Can SIU win by being paying the professors the least?

One of the interesting differences between hiring with professors and hiring in a company is a public universities salaries are public knowledge. What we know about SIUC is that they pay the least of any university in their current rankings, pay way less then universities they would like aspire to be equal to. You know the Southern at 150 deal about being top 75? In salaries for professors, SIU is something like 250th. At a private company, there is much more deception possible, so the employees never really know what anyone else is making (this is a good thing BTW).

A little more management theory for you from Peopleware (a seminal text about managing people in my business), the best people do 10 times more work then the average people and the average people do 10 times more work then the bad people (or words to that effect). This is the kind of thinking that drives Southern at 150's "super hires" initiative (I'll get into what a stupid management move it was calling out this obvious hiring practice another time). Basically, you want to hire all superstars and not hire losers. Of course, once you get the superstars, you want to keep them and get rid of the losers.

If you were a superstar, would you come to SIU today? In the Morris years, they could and did hire superstars. Today, SIU hires only people who don't get a job offer from a different research university. To say it a different way, every research university is a better place to be a professor then SIU.

How do you fix this? My three step plan would be
  • Hire earlier then everyone else and make the good people accept when they have no other offers.
  • Improve management.
  • Pay competitive salaries.
The worst thing is that some professors develop into superstars at SIU, but many of they leave for greener pastures soon after. After all making $25,000 less each year, forever is a very bad thing.

SIU can't pay the worst salaries in the industry and win. They can afford to pay industry average and they should. It is both ethically right and the right decision if they want to improve the university.

Your comments are welcome.


Anonymous said...

same can be said for support staff also.

Anonymous said...

OK, here's another comment. How to pay us more?

(1) Pay everyone more - regardless of performance. (This is what the FA wants.)


(2) Pay more for merit? (This is what W wanted.)

or, (3) what the admin has been doing: Paying more for new hires and more for promotion. The promotion boost was 0%, then became 10%, and now the admin wants it to become %20 (roughly). Note: the FA tries to take credit for this, but these promotion boosts were proposed by the admin, not the FA.

The disadvantage of (1) is obvious. But, measuring merit is hard and can be political. But, we have strong mechanisms for accessing performance in the hiring and promotion processes. The downside of (3) is for previous full profs. The only way they can get a pay boost is by getting an outside offer. Equity can help - especially for fulls. But, this fails to take merit into account so the deadwood gets the same benefit. So, we need a better way to boost high performing fulls.

Here is some data [FA Newsletter, Oct 12]:

Assistant professors (276 of us), on average, are 5.5% below our IBHE peers.

Associate professors (238 of us), on average, are 8.2% below our IBHE peers.

Full professors (170 of us), on average, are 15.5% below our IBHE peers.

Overall, on average, faculty on this campus are 9.5% below our IBHE peers.