May 10-16, 2002
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Quality of life keeps faculty at U.Va.
U.Va. study reveals suburbs more dangerous than cities
Library acquires historic Cabell family papers, creates Web site highlighting the collection
Vendor fair set for May 22
Lyons named Guggenheim Fellow

Off the Shelf -- recently published books by U.Va. faculty and staff

Book puts architect’s work in focus
McGann receives first national award for digital humanities
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Milken Institute recognizes Turner
In Memoriam
Hot Links -- Summer Language Institute
Graduation weekend May 18-19
After Hours -- Edith Boateng-Conti
Quality of life keeps faculty at U.Va.

quality of life at U.Va.

Salaries an issue in faculty retention

By Anne Bromley

They say money isn’t everything, but it is part of the package of a good faculty
post. Although U.Va. Faculty count living in Charlottesville on the plus side, the lack of raises for two years is a growing concern.

Despite state budget cuts, the University is pushing projects that are of concern to faculty. Important building projects are proceeding, and collaborative work is being encouraged. Fund-raising efforts to boost support for graduate students, as well as faculty, are a high priority.

Although a recent American Association of University Professors report, “Quite Good News — for Now,” found that nationally, faculty salaries rose higher last year than they have since 1990, by an average of 3.8 percent, indications are that things are about to change. Many states are facing budget deficits, and higher education is one of the areas that can be cut.

Virginia gave no increases to faculty at public colleges and universities or to its state workers last year. An average 2.5 percent bonus is earmarked instead of raises this year. The financial picture doesn’t look good for the next fiscal year, either.

There are hopeful signs. The legislature’s approval of a bond referendum for new buildings, which will be on the ballot this fall, is one way the University could move ahead with its plans.

In his annual State of the University address, President John T. Casteen III announced that the University will give an average 5 percent raise to faculty who are promoted, a customary gesture that is also partly designed to prevent raiding by other schools.

Rita Dove, Commonwealth Professor of English and former U.S. Poet Laureate, recently made headlines in the Chronicle of Higher Education when she decided to stay at U.Va. after being courted by the University of Illinois-Chicago. After considering the generous offer, she said it “could not overcome the simple fact that my husband and I love living in Charlottesville.”

Replacing someone — especially if that person has an expensive laboratory, for example — can be difficult. A more costly, less visible problem is the damage an academic department or project could suffer as a result, said Faculty Senate chair Robert Grainger, a biology professor.

“Building intellectual groups of colleagues is important for collaboration,” said Grainger, who suggests that the University should consider tapping into the endowment to support faculty salaries. “It’s an investment. It may be harder to counter-offer successfully if colleagues are an issue,” he said. Even just a few selective hires or losses can make a difference, he noted.

Deans are expressing cautious optimism that non-monetary factors and very selective spending will be enough to maintain academic community.

“Our office is working to build an environment of innovation, activity and support for everyone,” said Edward L. Ayers, dean of Arts & Sciences. “We are working to raise private and foundation support, to create new opportunities for the interdisciplinary work people have told us they want, to establish alliances with other schools at the University, to improve conditions for graduate students and to improve physical facilities in the arts, sciences, humanities and social sciences.”

Academic leaders say they have been impressed by the faculty’s loyalty and how few have considered leaving. Part of that stems from an understanding that administrators involved with management and finances are “doing what they can,” Grainger said.

U.Va. Provost Gene Block has seen the same quality. “We’ve had relatively few people who’ve taken competitive offers,” he said. “We have been able to retain almost everyone. I think faculty know the administration is on their side, and so is the governor.”

Another factor that influences faculty, besides salary, is quality of life. “Charlottesville offers a spectacular place to live,” Ayers said, a sentiment that was echoed by many. “That is our ace in the hole. Our community is most attractive for those with families, it seems to me, and less attractive for single people, but in general it is beautiful, pleasant, interesting and dynamic.

“The quality of students and colleagues is the other most important factor, I think, and here, too, U.Va. can hold its own with just about anyone,” Ayers said.

David Breneman, dean of U.Va.’s Curry School of Education and an expert in higher education funding, said he worries most about junior faculty, who may have young families and more insecurity about planning for expenses, such as their children’s college tuitions. Plus, they’re less rooted than older, established faculty.

Ayers and Richard Miksad, dean of the School of Engineering and Applied Science, say competition in the hiring market can be a problem for junior or senior faculty. They are especially concerned about attracting and retaining women and minorities, they said.

“The hiring freeze really hurts because it reduces the chances of making our faculty as diverse as our student body. I’m committed to that goal and hope we can hire new colleagues in the fall,” Ayers said.

English department chair Michael Levenson sounds more of an alarm. Salary is assuming more importance, he said.

“I’m seriously worried about faculty retention. … There have been several serious retention emergencies in the last few months. By good chance, these have been resolved, but it’s clear to me that we are sailing through treacherous waters.”
“We’ve had to make some aggressive counter-actions” to keep some faculty members, Miksad said.

Breneman’s strategy has been to maintain the work environment the Curry school faculty enjoys. Travel budgets have not been cut as they have in other schools, and several grants are yielding “a nice infusion of funds.”

Still, money is tight. Departments — many of them operating short-handed — have put in requests to hire 10 to 15 people, but the most slots he could foresee filling are one or two, he said.

“Our first responsibility is to current people. I don’t sense insecurity among them. After all, academic positions are still better off than some other jobs in the public sector,” said Breneman.


© Copyright 2002 by the Rector and Visitors
of the University of Virginia

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