Geneseo salaries don't stack up

Drastic cuts in New York state's budget will delay the administration's efforts to improve the salaries of professional faculty and staff at Geneseo.

Provost Katherine Conway-Turner said that Geneseo's professors are "notoriously underpaid," despite being, "far better than average" in quality. Salaries are partially negotiated by United University Professions, a union for employees of the SUNY system. Salaries are generally based on discipline, years of service and academic rank.

Conway-Turner said she uses studies by UUP and the College and University Professional Association to determine the median salary for professors within a certain discipline and rank, such as an associate professor of history. She also compares salaries of Geneseo faculty to those of other benchmark institutions and SUNY schools.

Last year, the provost and President Christopher Dahl developed a salary adjustment plan to increase the salaries of professors who had been making less than the CUPA medians.

Faculty members with more than five years of service were brought up to the median for their discipline and rank, and faculty with one to five years of service were brought up to 75 percent of the median. Of the $800,000 put toward enacting the adjustments, some of it was allotted for discretionary increases.

Conway-Turner said it was a "step in the right direction. We hope to be able to continue to make steps toward putting [faculty] in a position of having better salaries."

She had hoped to assess the situation every year and make adjustments as necessary, but the deterioration of the SUNY budget has been a setback to the process.

The provost said that establishing a timeline for continued salary adjustments is difficult because of the unpredictability of the state budget, but that the administration hoped to make "more major adjustments when times are better."

"I appreciate that the administration is taking measures to bring us up to par," said chemistry professor Ruel McKnight. "They're headed in the right direction, but it's not there yet."

English professor Thomas Greenfield agreed.

"I'm convinced the administration is absolutely committed to getting salaries up to benchmarks," he said. "They are completely sincere in this."

Richard Young, professor of geological sciences, said his main concern is that Geneseo is "still behind most of the SUNY institutions." He cited Brockport, a similarly sized SUNY school whose professional faculty make more on average than Geneseo's.

Conway-Turner said that some SUNY schools that employ a large proportion of adjunct faculty can afford to pay full-time faculty slightly more, noting that Geneseo has decided to maintain a high percentage of full-time faculty. Larger SUNY schools also have large graduate and research programs that add money to their budgets.

Although organizations like CUPA provide clear benchmarks for the salaries of academic faculty, national standards do not exist for professionals like librarians and the Computing Information Technology staff. Conway-Turner said the administration will "really look carefully at librarian salaries in the future."

UUP sets a minimum and maximum salary for professional faculty at six different levels, but the discrepancy between the low and high limit is more than $20,000 at every level.