Last Friday the [University Grievance Code Committee rejected an administrative policy that made Medical Center faculty salaries partially dependent on the procurement of outside research grants](http://www.thehoya.com/news/committee-rules-on-med-center-case/). Considering that the university already implemented the plan July 1, one question hangs in the minds of Medical Center professors: What will happen next? The impact of the decision will depend largely on whether the university chooses to appeal. It is still unknown whether the administration will appeal, and it has until the close of business on Oct. 23 to do so. A further appeal would usually go to University President Leo J. O’Donovan, S.J., but, because he is named as a respondent, he would have to name a proxy. If the university does rescind the policy, which it has promised to do if it does not appeal, that event will be hailed as a victory for faculty and the principles of tenure. If it does not, the university could face an unprecedented crisis in its Medical Center ranks. The policy, which went into effect July 1 despite a lower panel’s May 15 decision against it, calls for all basic science, or non-practicing, professors in the Medical Center to raise up to 70 percent of their salaries through outside grants, with salary floors of $100,000 for full professors, $71,000 for associate professors and $57,000 for assistant professors. If they do not raise the money, professors have been told, their salaries will be cut. The policy, called the Compensation Plan for Tenured Faculty, has already had a drastic impact on Medical Center faculty morale. A number of professors, fearing the compensation policy would lower their salaries, took a university-offered buyout in late spring. Those who are left have said they feel that the university has chosen profit and productivity over scholarship and teaching. Gary Pearson, one of the original grievants, said that the current atmosphere at the Medical Center is one where “what’s important in terms of advancement is how much money one brings in. Academic performance means very little.” The confidential decision, a copy of which was obtained by The Hoya, reaffirms this attitude. One major faculty complaint was that the policy threatened the fundamentals of tenure by making compensation partially contingent on fundraising. Though the administration has maintained that tenure is not economically-based, the decision states that the university “unacceptably sacrifices tenure protections at the altar of fiscal need” and that “the financial pressure created by the new criterion threatens the essential tenure requirement of financial security and inevitably must have a detrimental effect on academic freedom, teaching and scholarship.” While the administration has remained silent on the issue of the decision itself, a university spokesman defended the compensation policy on Monday, saying that “the university is committed to achieving the financial turnaround of the Medical Center and believes that reforming faculty compensation at the Medical Center while protecting tenure is necessary for ensuring a stable financial future for the Medical Center.” The university’s main argument in its appeal of the May 15 ruling was that the Medical Center faculty received compensation in fundamentally different ways than the rest of the university, in that it received a number of outside grants. But last Friday’s decision found that not only was such a direct correlation of grants and salaries unprecedented, but that it shifted the focus of the university-faculty relationship from one based on “teaching, scholarship and service” to one based on financial success. The decision also found that even though the university promised to maintain the salary floors in the appeal, it had said in a 1997 statement that “economic stringency” would justify a change in the floors. Another issue of contention in the grievance is the lack of faculty involvement in the planning process. The university argued in its appeal of the May 15 ruling that the faculty had a large amount of input on the policy, and said in a press release in Sept. 1997 that “faculty leadership was influential at every stage of the process.” However, last Friday’s decision found that real faculty input on the plan was largely absent. “Although there might have been `extensive . consultation,'” it says, “the faculty had not been informed of the more fundamental details of the proposed policy prior to that consultation. Indeed, the `Faculty Compensation Guidelines’ were not issued until . nine days after the [May] panel hearing” in which the plan was originally overturned. For many faculty, this lack of input on the compensation policy indicates a larger attitude on the part of the university. “The faculty does not appear to be involved in any meaningful decision-making, and I’m not optimistic that will change,” Pearson said. For now, however, the question remains whether the administration will appeal or agree to rescind the policy. According to a letter from the administration to the Committee on July 21, 1998, “If the grievants ultimately prevail and the compensation policy is modified or rescinded, the Medical Center obviously recognizes its obligation to make affected faculty members whole for any salary they would otherwise be owed.” This, however, would bring up a host of problems, according to one faculty member who asked to remain anonymous for fear of retribution. If the university admits it was wrong in the policy, it could give ground to those professors who left the university in light of the policy’s implementation to seek restitution. According to the faculty member, there is no real plan on the part of ex-faculty for such a situation, and the general attitude on the part of faculty is that there will be some sort of further legal action. Pearson, who left the university earlier this year for non-financial reasons but who, as a former grievant, has kept up with the issue, said that the response of the faculty to the decision is optimistic, but that the overall attitude is still negative. “I think [the decision] is terrific,” he said. “The Medical Center has put the administration ahead of the faculty, and this says that the faculty still has some voice.” However, Pearson added, “The general morale is still very low, because of the financial situation, and the lack of faculty involvement.

Have a reaction to this article? Write a letter to the editor.

Comments are closed.