Luther College Chips

Faculty vote to change salary policy

Andrea Hernandez Delgado, Staff Writer

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Luther faculty members voted to change language in the school handbook regarding the faculty salary scale on Nov. 13. When faculty are hired at Luther, they are put into a ladder system depending on the category of their job. The old handbook language mandated that faculty move a step up the ladder even during years when there is a salary freeze. The vote changed the language to prevent step-advances during salary freezes.

Originally, the handbook stated that every year instructors, assistant professors, associate professors, and professors would get a step-advance, even in the event of a salary freeze. Because Luther’s budget has forced salary freezes over the last two years, the faculty voted to change the language to stop step advances during salary freezes.

The rule about step-advances continuing during salary freezes has been in place for 30 years and has only been a problem in the last two. This became a problem because faculty members are currently experiencing pay freezes that were uncommon in the earlier years of the system. Now, the issue is focused on the salary freezes that have occurred over the last two years. Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of the College Kevin Kraus explained why that poses a problem.

“During freezes, faculty members cannot be paid more, but because our handbook said they had to go up in step, people changed the numbers in the ladders and made new incoming salaries,” Kraus said. “So every time a freeze occurred, the steps would change. For example, step two would change to step three because that meant that a faculty member would get a step-advance, but without the pay.”

In total, 81 faculty members voted to change the handbook language, 11 to keep the current language, and four abstained. This means that next year’s handbook will accommodate for years that faculty members have salary freezes.

Associate Professor of History Victoria Christman explained that the faculty vote was to decide how to move forward given the problem.

“The scale we have right now has a different ladder for each category of Luther faculty,” Christman said. “The handbook says that every year, every faculty member has to move up a step on the ladder. Yet, in the last couple of years, there has not been money in the budget for faculty salary increases. So, we essentially have had a pay freeze. Our current system cannot accommodate a freeze, because the handbook says we have to move up the ladder, which involves a pay raise. So, as faculty we had to decide how to deal with that.”

The main reason faculty members did not want to change the handbook language was because professors of different seniority could be on the same step. For example, if a new professor began teaching one year before another professor while a freeze occurred, they would technically on the same salary step and get the same increases. Yet, Christman pointed out that the faculty member who began sooner could apply for tenure earlier because they started before the other faculty member, and once they get tenure, they no longer are on the same ladder as before, meaning they get a higher salary.

These pay freezes have raised new problems of fairness according to Associate Professor of Environmental Studies and Chemistry Laura Peterson says.

“The reason this salary scale was put in place was for equity,” Peterson said. “Before this salary scale, a person could come in, make a deal with the Dean, and possibly make a much bigger salary than other people who have worked at Luther for a longer time. It was an egalitarian approach to salaries and away to keep gender equity across the whole college and equity across departments.”

Luther’s salary scale is rare. Many other post-secondary institutions offer varying amounts of salaries on several factors such as, which department the faculty will be in, the amount of accomplishment they have achieved prior to teaching, and how well they get along with the Dean. Luther’s scale is an attempt to allow everyone to advance equally.

According to Kraus, if the change had not been made, the salaries at each step would have been devalued.

“New incoming teachers would get paid less and less the more freezes occurred and changes to the steps were made,” Kraus said. “So starting next school year, when there is no money for salary increases, the faculty members will have to stay on the same step. No more fiddling will be done with numbers.”

age was because professors of different seniority could be on the same step. For example, if a first year teacher began teaching one year before another teacher while a freeze occurred, they would technically be on the same salary step and get the same increases. Yet, Cristman pointed out that the teacher who began sooner would be allowed to apply for tenure earlier because they started before the other faculty member, and once they get tenure, they no longer are on the same ladder as before, meaning they get a higher salary. 

These pay freezes have raised new problems of fairness according to Associate Professor of Environmental Studies/Chemistry Laura Peterson says.

“The reason this salary scale was put in place was for equity,” Peterson said. “Before this salary scale, a person could come in, make a deal with the Dean, and possibly make a much bigger salary than other people who have worked at Luther for a longer time. It was an egalitarian approach to salaries and a way to keep gender equity across the whole college and equity across departments.”

In total, 81 faculty members voted to change the handbook language, 11 to keep the current language, and four abstained. This means that next year’s handbook will accommodate for years that faculty members have salary freezes. According to Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of the College Kevin Kraus, if the change had not been made, the salaries at each step would have been devalued.

“During freezes, faculty members cannot be paid more, but because our handbook said they had to go up in step, people changed the numbers in the ladders and made new incoming salaries,” Kraus said. “So every time a freeze occurred, the steps would change. For example, step two would change to step three because that meant that a faculty member would get a step advance, but without the pay. Yet, new incoming teachers would get paid less and less the more freezes occurred and changes to the steps were made. So starting next school year, when there is no money for salary increases, the faculty members will have to stay on the same step. No more fiddling will be done with the numbers.”

Luther’s salary scale is rare, as many other post-secondary institutions offer varying amounts of salaries on several factors such as which department the faculty will be in, the amount of accomplishment they have achieved prior to teaching, how well they get along with the Dean, and much more. Luther’s scale is an attempt to allow everyone to advance equally.

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