UI may increase pay to retain faculty

By Matt Spartz

The University may be losing the battle for top-notch faculty because it cannot offer competitive salaries.

But University President B. Joseph White will be organizing a team that will look at ways to get more money to professors, the school’s most valuable resource.

At the Sept. 6 meeting of the Board of Trustees, White conceded that the University may be operating outside its means in some areas.

White plans to convene what he termed a “resource summit” to examine these fiscal problems, putting professor salary competitiveness at the forefront of the summit’s goals.

The University of Illinois needs to take a hard look at its core cost structure.

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This may involve cutting back funding for programs and putting it toward paying faculty higher salaries. Though these may be hard decisions to make, they may be necessary, White said.

“We’re through the really bad times of the first half of this decade,” White said in a Sept. 6 interview. “Our revenue growth is pretty strong. But at the same time there are still a lot of parts of the University that are feeling extremely underresourced.”

White said he will bring together around 100 people for this summit: a composite of chancellors, provosts, deans and members of the faculty senates from all three campuses.

Cutting faculty and redistributing their salaries is not one of the ways White plans on reorganizing costs to get money to the academic front lines.

“Our trustees reminded us correctly today that faculty are the key resource of the university,” White said in the interview. He said natural faculty turnover and attrition should be enough of a way to trim some costs, if necessary.

No plans are finalized right now. White said the summit will take place close to the first of December. But University spokesman Tom Hardy said the details are still being worked out.

“I think the president and the (chief financial officer) and some other folks are putting together some sort of plan on how they want to put together this summit,” Hardy said.

Figuring out how the summit will work and putting the budget issues together are at the front of the president’s mind, Hardy said.

“I think what he would look to do is what has been done in the past here,” Hardy said, referring to the “Strategic Plan” White kicked off in 2000.

Though White believes the University can be successful with the money and resources it has, there will come a time when more money will be needed.

“I’ve always said you don’t have to be the richest institution to be the best,” White said. “But you do have to have adequate resources in order to be successful and achieve your aspirations.”