Stark AAUP recently sent the following statement to the SSC President, Provost, Board of Trustees, and Faculty Association with regard to the recently announced compensation plan for the upcoming year. We would encourage all members of the SSC community to join us in voicing their concerns and questions on this important issue.
As a result of recent conversations among Stark AAUP members and numerous faculty and staff, we write to you with grave concerns regarding the compensation plan that was recently announced. Dr. Jones, with further clarification provided by VP Tom Chiappini, outlined a plan which included a .5% wage increase contingent upon meeting an ending enrollment threshold. We are well aware that Stark State College, like any institution, needs to be responsive to budgetary and fiscal concerns. However, tying faculty and staff compensation to enrollment has serious implications for all members of our college community. As Dr. Jones pointed out in her opening remarks, we are all increasingly asked to do more with fewer resources in an effort to provide students with a quality education. Creating a compensation plan that holds faculty and staff financially accountable for student enrollment sends all of us—faculty, staff, and students—a potentially dangerous message.
This plan invites practices that will do harm rather than promote rigorous learning and real student success. Existing research shows that it is problematic to link pay with student outcomes; explicitly tying wage compensation to enrollment and course completion is an invitation to manipulation, grade inflation, and loss of rigor in courses. In addition, final enrollment is subject to a number of varying factors over which faculty and staff have very little control, including financial aid policies, processes for enrollment calculation, and reduction of student support initiatives. While we have received many outward reassurances that the goal is not to reduce rigor or to manipulate quality, the increasing emphasis on enrollment numbers over academics suggests otherwise.
In her opening statement, Dr. Jones stated that the Board and administration wanted to not only demonstrate faculty and staff’s value to the college, but they also wanted to ensure that employees continue to choose the college as their long-term employment options. This overall plan, coupled with rising health care costs which were briefly addressed within the compensation meetings, may also mean that employees are facing an effective salary cut rather than any increase, regardless of how small. If faculty and staff are truly valued at the college and if student access with success is truly the college’s mission, then a plan must be presented that reflects these supposed values—one that is built with actual faculty and staff input and not simply the illusion of shared governance.
UPDATE: Yesterday (4/28), Stark AAUP’s president was directed by SSC administration, on behalf of the Board, to immediately cease sending or cc’ing communications to the Board of Trustees. It is quite a disappointing reflection of institutional priorities that the swift reply involved only a structural restriction on communication yet there was no response to the actual content and concerns raised in the letter.