With Georgetown offering salaries below those at most peer institutions and situated in one of the most expensive cities in the country, some faculty and administrators said the university may be at a disadvantage for attracting and retaining faculty members.

University Provost James O’Donnell said faculty salaries at Georgetown are somewhat lower than those of competing institutions – private, top-tier universities.

“If you compare us to all colleges in the nation, Georgetown faculty members are quite reasonably well-paid,” O’Donnell said. “If you look at peer institutions, then it becomes a more complicated story.”

Robert Cumby, an economics professor and member of the Faculty Senate and the Faculty Salary Committee, said full-time professors at Georgetown’s main campus make approximately 14 percent less than the average for private universities nationwide, and assistant professors make four percent less than average.

Matthew Canzoneri, also an economics professor and member of the Faculty Senate and the Faculty Salary Committee, said he has seen Georgetown’s salaries put the school at a competitive disadvantage to retain faculty members within the economics department.

“We in the economics department, for example, are constantly fighting off attempts to raid our faculty, and with limited success,” he said.

O’Donnell said that some faculty members have been offered higher salaries at other universities in recent years.

“We certainly have had cases where faculty members have approached us because they had been offered a greater salary at a competing university,” O’Donnell said.

O’Donnell said that faculty salary data is kept confidential.

Several university department chairs agreed that salaries are an unattractive factor in the university’s attempts to recruit the nation’s premier scholars in various fields of academia for full-time faculty membership.

“While our full-time professional faculty members do receive a salary that is nationally significant, our salaries do not match those offered at schools like Princeton, Harvard, Yale and Stanford,” English Department Chair Penn Szittya said.

Biology Department Chair Douglas Eagles said that in some instances, the department has asked the university to increase its average salary offer to new professors, particularly if they are highly sought after by competing universities.

“In very compelling cases, the department has had to ask the university to go above what we generally offer to incoming professors,” Eagles said.

Eagles said such occasional salary raises occur on an individual, case-by-case basis.

According to the online information provider CityTownInfo, using raw data available from the U.S. Department of Education, the average salary for a male full-time faculty member at Georgetown in the 2004-2005 academic year was $97,928, while the average salary for female full-time faculty was $80,149.

By comparison, the average salary for male full-time faculty at the University of Chicago for 2004-2005 was $119,775 and the average for full-time female faculty is $85,625. At Duke University, the average salary for male full-time faculty was $105,410 while the average for full-time female faculty was $75,561.

Rising housing prices in the D.C. area provide another threat to the university’s overall appeal to high-quality professors.

Based on the current salaries that professors at the university receive, many cannot afford to live in the Georgetown vicinity and must commute to the university from outside areas, Classics Department Chair Catherine Keesling said.

“We in the classics department cannot afford to live in Georgetown,” Keesling said. “Our full-time professors generally live in places such as Silver Spring, Md., or Arlington, Va.”

Eagles said that while faculty salaries have increased in accordance with inflation in recent years, they have not kept pace with the soaring District housing market.

“Georgetown University has been good in its goal of increasing its yearly salary pool by one percent more than the published national rate of inflation. Of course, this is the average rate and does not take into account the housing market here at Georgetown,” he said.

But Eagles, Szittya, Keesling and O’Donnell said they remained positive about the university’s ability to attract premier scholars to full faculty membership positions, citing factors such a vibrant student body, better research and teaching opportunities, and proximity to the D.C. area as some of the appealing aspects of the university.

“We have three new professors in the biology department this year – [assistant] professor Maria Donoghue from Yale University, [assistant] professor Christine Elsik from Texas A&M [University], and [assistant] professor Gina Wimp from the University of Maryland. In each case, they were our first choices, and they wanted to come here. We’ve been extremely lucky in this respect,” Eagles said.

O’Donnell said there is still room to improve in the field of faculty prestige.

“Georgetown competes for the best faculty against the best universities in the world. As you can tell from the distinguished scholars and scientists here, we do pretty well in that competition, but we’d love to be able to do better,” he said.

O’Donnell said a larger endowment can help attract and maintain an accomplished faculty.

“Endowment funding for faculty salaries will be a big part of a fundraising campaign that’s currently in the planning stages,” O’Donnell said. “It’s premature to say how much we’ll try to raise, but we’re really going to focus in this campaign on financial aid, faculty and the sciences – all of them key pieces in strengthening the muscle and bone of the university.”

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