A simple Google search on wages can turn up comparable salaries between a fast food manager and a full-time professor at ETSU.

In the State of the Faculty memorandum sent out in March by ETSU Faculty Senate President Thomas Schacht, an ETSU lecturer is identified as earning $31,579 annually while an online examination of the salary of a restaurant manager identifies an annual income of $34,667. ETSU faculty salaries being comparable to that of fast food management is one thing. ETSU faculty salaries being dead last in a survey of comparable universities is another.

During the last year, faculty salaries at ETSU have been a subject of discussion amongst the faculty and administration. As the search for ETSU’s new president comes to a close, equity pay for faculty members is at the forefront of issues to be addressed by the new president.

“This all got started for us last fall when the chairman of the biology department, Dr. Mike Zavada, came to a Faculty Senate meeting and put a request before us,” said Schact, who in addition to serving as president of the faculty senate is a psychiatry professor at ETSU. “Zavada told us, ‘You have to do something about faculty salaries.’ His point was that he was having difficulty doing his job as the chairman of the biology department because he could not attract or attain faculty under the current faculty structure. He said, ‘I can’t do my job because I don’t have the financial resources to compete with other institutions.'”

Zavada’s concern for the future of his department brought the issue of comparable faculty salaries to Schacht and the faculty senate. The summer before, another faculty member had also inadvertently highlighted ETSU’s lower pay scales.

“A university faculty member had left under allegations of misconduct,” said Schacht. “If they hadn’t left they might have been fired. Within three weeks they had found a job that paid them 30 percent more than they had received at ETSU.”

The anecdote of the faculty member’s success in finding higher pay elsewhere, coupled with Zavada’s presentation to the Faculty Senate, put the issue of equity pay at ETSU at the top of the senate’s to-do list. Schacht immediately started doing research on university salaries comparable to ETSU’s and took a closer look at the American Association of University Professors annual national salary survey.

“I actually found that ETSU wasn’t even listed,” said Schacht. “We haven’t been reporting our salary data. I found us listed in previous years but not with the correct comparison group. We are a doctoral research instituion. Before we stopped being reported, we were being reported as a master’s institution.”

Comparing the AAUP data with that of ETSU’s salary reports, Schacht found that ETSU was not only low on the list but would have been dead last in the nation had our data been reported.

The discovery of these statistics urged Schacht to conduct a faculty survey last spring.

“I wanted to find out what kinds of things might be causing people to stay or leave,” said Schacht. “Through the survey I found that an awful lot of people are saying they are in some stage of continuously being interested in or actively looking for another job and salary is the primary reason. This is not the condition you want your university to be in.”

From this survey, Schacht compiled the State of the Faculty memorandum, which addressed salary issues at ETSU, sending it to President Stanton and other senior administrators to be fact checked for errors.

“No one challenged it,” said Schacht.

Schacht’s research shows us that ETSU’s salaries are significantly lower than peer institutions:

•    Full Professor: $97,429 for doctoral peers vs. $72,311 for ETSU. Peer average is 34.7 percent higher than ETSU.

•    Associate Professor: $74,476 for doctoral peers vs. $59,244 for ETSU. Peer average is 25.7 percent higher than ETSU’s average.

•    Assistant Professor: $63,888 for doctoral peers vs. $52,846 for ETSU. Peer average is 20.8 percent higher than ETSU.

•    Lecturer: $47,645 for doctoral peers vs. $31,579 for ETSU. Peer average is 50.8 percent higher than ETSU.

Upon Schacht’s State of the Faculty document coming across Stanton’s desk, Stanton immediately announced the formation of the Salary Equity Task Force, a committee that’s sole purpose would be to look into the issue of equity pay at ETSU.

“Under the old plan faculty salaries were being compared to four-year colleges and we’re a doctoral institution,” said Schacht. “We now have put together a system that is much more fair in determining what a person’s salaries should be. We have a better plan but the implementation of the plan remains to be accomplished.”

President Stanton has now delegated the implementation of the equity pay plan to the budget committee headed by Dr. Wilsie Bishop, vice president for health affairs and university chief operating officer.

“Dr. Stanton charged the Strategic Budget Management Committee, which I chair, to identify how a pool of dollars could be established to address the identified salary equity issues for faculty and staff,” said Bishop. “We will begin those discussions at our next meeting on Nov. 11.”

Despite the university moving forward in a plan for equity pay, university finances are not controlled at the university level.

“There are multiple levels at which all of this gets controlled,” said Schacht. “Even if we were to do a fabulous job figuring out how much money we’d need to make our university more efficient and squeeze more money out of the budget that could be applied to faculty salaries, we can’t use that money for that purpose unless the Board of Regents gives us permission. There’s no local control.”

A local Tennessee university recently found this out.

“Austin Peay’s president had done an excellent job with finances and had enough money in the budget to give the faculty a 3 percent raise,” said Schacht. “The Board of Regents refused to allow him to spent the money. We can do everything we can locally in terms of making a plan and how we can fund it but we still have to get the permission of the state. The Board of Regents could just say no.”

Regardless of who has the final stamp of approval on the university’s budget, the Strategic Budget Management Committee will continue to address university financial concerns including equity pay for faculty.

“We will be addressing how to deal with continued reduced appropriations while identifying dollars for an equity adjustment,” said Bishop. “Without new monies for salary adjustments, we will need to continue to find ways to reduce spending and increase revenue to have funds for an equity adjustment.”