THE WEEKLY BLAB
Volume 7, Issue 31 – May 6, 2013
Last week was the craziest yet, with meetings basically back-to-back the whole time. It’s always like that the week that finals begin—everyone is getting in their last meeting, all the paperwork at the University converges on my office, and most of the remaining faculty searches come to completion.
To recuperate, I did very little this weekend, and the crappy weather was helpful in demotivating me. We did the usual shopping, but didn’t find anything really interesting. I did have a chance to listen to some of the CD’s that showed up this past week. I ran into some stunning bargains with Bear Family (a high-end, high quality German label that specializes in country, rockabilly, and early rock) box sets and was able to pick up three sets at $20 each instead of the usual $130-$250 they cost. The best find was an eight disc Wanda Jackson set that is just great. Also obtained were sets by Skeets McDonald and by Jim Reeves. Lovely wife Jill was saying “Since when do you like country music?” until she heard them, and found she really liked the Wanda Jackson set.
Sunday was the big match between Chelsea and the evil empire Manchester United and Chelsea triumphed 1-0. The game was hard fought, with the one goal winding up being ruled an own goal on ManU, since it deflected off of one of their players into the goal and arguably wouldn’t have if it hadn’t hit him. This pretty much guarantees Chelsea will finish in the top four, which puts them automatically into the Champions League next year. They play for the Europa League championship on May 15 against Benfica, a team from Lisbon, Portugal. Two more games and the Premiere League season will be finished as well.
Alpha and Omega
There were a number of interesting events last week. On Monday afternoon, President Rossbacher and I met with two consultants that the Business Administration Department has engaged to help us in preparing to apply for AACSB accreditation. AACSB is the highest level of business accreditation available (we currently are accredited by ACBSP, and my previous campus business program was accredited by IACBE), and getting it is a long and difficult process—if all goes well, we will achieve it by 2020. The consultants were quite helpful, telling us about some challenges we face and some pitfalls we need to avoid. The good news is that our business faculty are solidly behind this effort and our polytechnic identity will serve us well here.
Monday night at 11:00 PM brought the end of semester Midnight Breakfast. About 25 volunteers went to the X and served about 350 students who came by to eat. It was a lot of fun and the best line of the night came from Rich Cole, who after putting on his apron, asked: “Does this make my butt look big?” The breakfast ended at a little past 1:00 AM. Thanks go to Sarah Holliday (Math) and many others for pulling this together.
Morning came quickly with a Senior Staff meeting at 9:00 on Tuesday, where we debriefed about the Town Hall meeting the previous week, and talked about future plans regarding parking on campus (the good news: no plans to charge faculty and staff). I had to leave early to un-suit up to play with the band at the annual Faculty-Staff Picnic. The highlight of the event was the electric slide dance, with at least some pronouncing Bill Prigge to be the coolest VP because of his dance-floor moves. Hmm…I want a recount! Later in the afternoon was the Honors Graduation Celebration. The event was wonderful as always, and gave me the opportunity to thank Nancy Reichert for the many years of fine work she has done as Honors Program Director. The Honors Program has grown from some 25 students to over 200 and this year marks its 10th anniversary. Nancy is stepping down as director at the end of the year. Iraj Omidvar has been selected as the new director, and I know he’ll do a great job.
Wednesday’s ALC meeting dealt with a number of routine matters, but the conversation took an interesting turn during the Workload Policy discussion. Steve Hamrick had prepared a document summarizing our current practices (no new policies were in it), and various chairs took the opportunity to raise questions about why we only count labs and studios at half-time (i.e., a three-hour lab counts as 1.5 hours against workload), and why we don’t award any extra workload credit for extra-large courses. Both of these policies predate my coming to SPSU in 2005, and have come up from time to time at Deans Council meetings over the past seven years. Part of the problem is that the old funding formula underfunded lab and studio courses (since a standard lab course gets four credits worth of tuition payments and formula funding but generates 4.5 hours of workload; and an architectural studio gets four credits worth of tuition and formula funding but generates 6.0 hours of workload), and these days, the fraction of the formula that gets funded is smaller each year. Thus, doing something about this would cost a significant amount of money, and there’s no obvious source to get that money unless formula funding were to rise (unlikely).
The larger course issue is one that’s complicated to deal with since a large course in one subject is often a normal course in another—just look at the variety of different course caps we have. We’ll probably take the large course issue up again and see if we can find some reasonable and equitable way of dealing with it. If anyone has any suggestions, I’d be interested in hearing about them.
Thursday morning at 7:00 AM brought the annual Cobb Prayer Breakfast at the Cobb Galleria, part of the national day of prayer. This is a huge event—maybe 1000 or more people there. The event is billed as being for the entire faith community, but it really wasn’t very broad-based. Still, the company, food, music, and intentions were all good, and I was glad I went.
Friday afternoon brought the University Institutional Effectiveness Council meeting, where we adopted the current draft of the Strategic Plan as a working document, while remanding it to a subcommittee to work toward aligning it with the Complete College Georgia plan and the students’ lifecycle at SPSU.
Misunderstandings about Equity
It has come to my attention that there are some serious misunderstandings about the old salary equity plan that was used in 2007, 2008, and 2009, if my memory is correct. These misunderstandings may have played a part in the Faculty Senate’s recent motion to change the way that equity is applied, if we ever are allowed to make equity adjustments again.
Apparently, at least some people think that the salary equity plan means that if the USG provides for a 3% raise (for example), the 1.4 multiplier that some departments get means that those departments would get 1.4 times the 3% as a raise, in other words, would get a 4.2% raise. That was never true, was never part of the salary equity plan, and in fact, would make no sense whatsoever. In fact, there is no relationship between the salary equity plan and any raise that might occur. Apparently, some other people believed that the last time we did an equity adjustment, we multiplied the adjustments by 1.4 factor for those in some departments. That was never true either.
Here’s how the salary equity plan actually worked. As we are all aware, different academic fields draw different faculty salaries. On average across the nation, faculty in business, computer science, and engineering are paid more (by a factor of 1.4 last time we looked at it) than faculty in English. This difference starts at the point when the faculty member is hired and in most places, continues proportionately as they progress through the ranks and over the years. Professor Smith, a faculty member in one field might have a starting salary of $50,000 a year, while professor Jones, a faculty member in another field might have a starting salary of $70,000 a year, 1.4 times as much. In normal times, after a number of years, Smith will have been promoted to associate professor and gotten some raises along the way, and so will Jones. If Smith’s salary has gone up to $75,000 over time for example (a 50% increase), all things being equal one would expect Jones’ salary to have gone up by the same percentage, to $105,000. Assuming that the starting salaries were accurate and that the accumulated raises match the national average, both faculty would still have equitable salaries.
The problem arises if the starting salary was below average for the field, or if accumulated raises were below the national average. In that case, the salary for Smith and Jones will be below what they should be. The “should be” number is called parity. The salary equity model calculates what the salary for every faculty member “should be”, based on average salaries in their field in the Southeast for universities like us. Since, on average, the SREB data tells us that faculty in business, computer science, and engineering get a salary 1.4 times that of faculty in English at any point in their careers, we say in shorthand that those three fields have a multiplier of 1.4 relative to English. The only place the multiplier is used is in calculating this parity salary.
The salary equity model then calculates the difference between the parity salary the faculty member should be getting and what they’re actually getting. This is the so-called “delta”. The delta is calculated as a percentage, since if professor Smith’s actual salary is $63,000 instead of $70,000, Smith has a 10% delta and is 10% below parity. To be in a similar situation, Jones would also have to be 10% under the target of $105,000, i.e., making $94,500. Both Smith and Jones would therefore be at 90% of parity—one is exactly as far behind as the other—and they are therefore being treated equivalently.
The actual result was, when we calculated the deltas for all faculty members, that some had larger deltas (as a percentage) than others. This is because some were hired at lower relative salaries than others, and some had other things happen to screw things up. What the salary equity plan did, therefore, was to give some extra equity money to the faculty with the largest percentage deltas—the faculty who were being treated the least fairly. This equity adjustment helped move those faculty who were the highest percentage away from parity a bit closer to where everyone else already was.
In the years that we had equity adjustments, as best I remember, one year we took the 20 faculty with the largest deltas and gave them a $2,000 adjustment, and the 30 with the next largest and gave them a $1,000 adjustment. Another year, we gave the top 40 or 50 a $1,000 adjustment. Notice that these equity adjustments WERE NOT multiplied by the multiplier. As I said above, the multiplier is only used to calculate the parity salary, and never used anywhere else.
These equity adjustments made the deltas for all faculty closer to being the same percentage—which is the definition of equity. Note that completing an equity program doesn’t get the salaries to where they should be (that’s parity, and it would require larger than national average raises to accomplish)—it just means all faculty are being treated equivalently—they’re all off from parity by the same percentage.
I’d be happy to meet with the committee to explain this in greater detail, or to hear the committee say what they mean by their motion (“that any future equity adjustments awarded to faculty be divided equally into two pools, one pool using the discipline-specific multiplier under the previous procedures and the second pool using no multiplier”). As it stands, their recommendation can’t be implemented since the multiplier isn’t actually used in calculating the equity adjustment.
Last Week’s Trivia Challenge
Last week’s trivia challenge focused on words related to “April”. The winner was Kelli Tracy, who got all five in just a few minutes. Here are the correct answers:
- A good day for playing practical jokes. April Fool’s Day
- Answer to the old children’s joke, “If April showers bring May flowers, what do May flowers bring?” Pilgrims.
- Canadian singer whose #1 albums include “Let Go” and “Under My Skin”. Avril Lavigne.
- Doris Day movie from 1952—she plays a chorus girl named Ethel ‘Dynamite’ Jackson. There’s also a popular song by that name, recorded by Count Basie among many others. April in Paris.
- Female friend to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, she has been played by Renae Jacobs and Megan Fox. April O’Neill.
This Week’s Trivia Challenge
In honor of the new month, this week’s trivia challenge focuses on words related to “May”. No looking up the answers now! SEND ALL ENTRIES BY EMAIL TO firstname.lastname@example.org, since if you put them as a response on the BLOG, everyone will be able to see them!
- You dance around it.
- Spider-man’s aunt’s name.
- She plays Sheldon’s girlfriend on the Big Bang Theory.
- Famous clinic located in Rochester, Minnesota.
- It was supposed to happen on December 21, 2012, but didn’t.