A National Ranking That Really Counts

From the University Report (published by the GAA 1970-94)

While most of us pay attention to Carolina’s rankings in various athletic polls, we all know that the poll that matters most is that which measures our faculty.  For it is the teaching, research, and public service performed by our faculty that determines the stature of Carolina and the perceived value of our diplomas.

In recent weeks, Gillian Cell, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, and Paul Rizzo ’50, dean of the Graduate School of Business Administration, have notified our trustees and others that we are losing some of our most outstanding faculty members to other schools, not necessarily ranked higher than Carolina, because these competing institutions are providing substantial salary increases and better fringe benefits.

It is fortunate that the Board of Visitors, an important support organization for the University which functions under the direction of the Board of Trustees, has focused on this serious challenge. At its meeting in late April, the Board of Visitors reviewed a draft report from its task force on compensation.  The finds were unsetting, if not alarming.  The base salaries for our faculty are increasingly non-competitive.  We now are ranked by the AAUP (American Association of University Professors) in the 60th-79th percentile in base pay.  The task force recommended that we seek through the Board of Governors and the General Assembly to raise the base pay so that we would return to the 80-94th percentile.

Carolina also suffers from salary compressions.  By this, we mean that it is not unusual to have a member of our faculty who has been with the University for some time and receives only the annual increase in salary provided by the General Assembly, to be greeted by a new member of the faculty, perhaps at a lower rank, who receives a starting salary that is very close to their own.  Naturally, this can create unneeded tension among colleagues and makes those who are here more vulnerable to overtures from other institutions.

The task force reported that there is very little flexibility for the administration to reward outstanding performance with merit increases or to retain valued employees that are being lured elsewhere or to attract outstanding faculty talents where openings occur.  Further, given its proximity to Chapel Hill, Duke University’s ability to pay higher salaries and provide better fringe benefits creates a very demoralizing situation for our own faculty who often collaborate with the faculty at Duke and who may even be neighbors.

While the task force focused on the faculty, it is important to note that because the University is located in the Research Triangle, many University employees in secretarial and staff positions are attracted to Research Triangle companies offering better salaries and fringe benefits.  This leads to high turnover of important support personnel.

While the University through the state provides a good comprehensive major medical plan, employees are required to pay to have their family members covered. This makes Carolina less competitive than many of our peer institutions.  And, among the most vexing problems for our faculty, is the fact that we are among the few major research universities in the country providing no research leaves.  Such leaves are viewed as essential for faculty growth and self-renewal.

The University is indeed fortunate that alumni leaders spent considerable time thoroughly researching the important questions surrounding salaries and fringe benefits.  Their draft report has already received much public comment, all supportive, and the issues have now been well articulated.

UNC Board of Trustees Chairman Bob Eubanks ’61 announced at the Board of Visitors meeting that UNC System President C. D. Spangler Jr. ’54 had indicated to him that his top priority for the short sessions of the General Assembly will be an improvement in faculty salaries.  Certainly, improving faculty salaries is something in which all of us need to take an interest.

If we have in our University, as we believe, the state’s most prized possession, we need to see that we remain competitive.  Otherwise, the question will no longer be one of how do we advance into the top ten, but whether we slip out of the top twenty.  If we are not aspiring to advance, then we are not fulfilling our obligations to those who have come before us and presented us with this splendid University that has served the state so well for so long.  The charge is ours.  How shall we respond?

Yours at Carolina,

Doug signature





Douglas S. Dibbert ’70


Faculty Salaries in the Top 30 PhD Granting Institutions

Prof. Assoc. Prof. Assist. Prof. Inst.
1.  University of Cal. (Berkeley) 64.2 42.3 38.1
2.  Stanford University 70.8 50.1 39.8
3.  Harvard 73.2 38.2 48.9 21.3
4.  Yale University 87.7 40.8 32.3 29.4
5.  MIT 68.6 48.2 37.6 27.6
6.  Princeton University 67.8 42.3 32.8 28.6
7.  University of Chicago 64.2 41.9 35.4 26.9
8.  UCLA 63.0 41.0 36.2
8.  University of Michigan 59.1 44.5 38.8 23.2
8.  University of Wisconsin (Madison) 52.1 38.2 33.7
11. Columbia University 64.8 45.8 33.6
11. Cornell University 59.6 42.3 35.5
13. University of Illinois (Urbana) 53.8 37.8 33.6
14. University of Pennsylvania 64.3 58.3 38.3
15. Caltech 69.6 52.0 42.2
16. University of Minnesota 52.1 38.3 32.7 28.8
17. University of Texas (Austin) 58.1 38.3 33.9 26.7
18. University of North Carolina (Chapel Hill) 55.8 40.1 34.5 28.7
18. Northwestern University 61.0 51.0 37.0  
20. University of Washington (Seattle) 50.8 35.7 32.8 24.7
21. University of California (San Diego) 60.8 41.8 35.1
21. New York University 62.5 42.4 37.1 27.5
21. Rockefeller University 77.4 44.8 30.5 25.4
25. Brown University 58.5 38.9 32.1
25. Duke University 62.2 42.7 34.8
25. Purdue University 55.1 38.6 32.3 21.0
28. University of Virginia 62.6 42.1 33.7 24.5
30. Carnegie-Mellon University 63.4 42.8 37.8 33.5
30. Johns Hopkins University 63.9 43.1 36.3 29.0
North Carolina State University 55.1 39.9 34.5 26.5

The above statistics were compiled for the American Association of University Professors and reported in the May 4 issue of The Chronicle of Higher Education.  These salaries for 1987-88 are reported in thousands of dollars and rounded to the nearest hundred.  They cover all full-time members of the staff except those in medical schools.  The figures are adjusted to a standard, nine-month work year.


*Rank is based on overall quality of the institution, according to data in the Assessment of Research-Doctorate Programs in the United States as published by the National Academy Press in 1982.



Money Makes Campus Go

 Reprinted courtesy of The News and Observer

 School songs are melodic, the ancient bricks and mortar call up nostalgia, the team makes the throat dry with cheers.  But a university isn’t just about the misty memories.  It’s about education.  An in the academic world, the competition for the best teachers and researchers rivals – in intensity if not glamour – that for stars of the hardwood.

At the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, a task force of the Board of Visitors shows relatively low pay levels for professors – compared with other major research universities.  For this fraying of the fabric of academic quality, money is the mending thread.

The average full professor’s salary at UNC-CH seems healthy — $53,200 according to the American Association of University Professors.  And yet, salaries for the top faculty members at premier institutions are determined to a certain extent by competition.  A university with the resources will not hesitate to “raid” top faculty from a school that cannot pay top dollar.

And at Chapel Hill, those salaries are in the middle range of AAUP ratings for major institutions.  The average full professor’s salary, for example, is nearly $6,000 less than that paid at the University of Virginia.  Yet Chapel Hill is consistently rated among the top public universities in the country for overall academic quality.  That means, in effect, that it’s been getting a bargain in faculty.  But sooner or later, the “sale” is going to end.

If a university cannot offer competitive salaries and benefits, it will lose its best people to other schools.  That’s particularly true when salaries for assistant professors and lecturers are low, thus leaving the bright young talent even more vulnerable to being raided.

The problem is reflected as well in the university’s sluggishness in recruiting and retaining minority faculty.  Their numbers have dropped t UNC-CH.  Why?  In large part because there are more attractive offers – within and without academe.

In keeping salaries competitive, UNC-CH faces complications inherent in being a public institution and in being one of 18 campuses in a statewide system.  University system officials must constantly beware of a leveling of quality in the guise of treating all member institutions fairly.

Likewise, the General Assembly must not bow to the regional bickering that could hurt Chapel Hill, or for that matter, the other leading research school, N.C. State University.  Lawmakers naturally want to look out for the institutions on their home turf.  But they have a responsibility to keep Chapel Hill in the top rank of public, liberal arts institutions – because it is of benefit to the entire system and to the economy of the state.  If UNC-CH isn’t staying in the top rank – or is threatened with slippage – lawmakers and university officials should seek additional financing through taxation or reordering of priorities to shift funds to salaries and benefits.

For regardless of the beauty of the campus or the aesthetic benefits of living in the Southern Part of Heaven, the fact is that salary and benefits are top priority for teachers and researchers the university wants to hire and keep.