Closing faculty-level pay gaps no simple task at CSUN

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Following a three-year freeze in salary increases caused by state budget cuts, CSUN continues to struggle in closing a salary gap between associate and assistant professors that is partly caused by their being hired at different times.

Due to cost-of-living and market changes, newly hired assistant professors are sometimes paid more than previously hired associate professors, who should be making more because of their rank and because they were hired first.

CSUN’s junior faculty members are hired on a 10-year track within a three-tier ranking system. Junior faculty members start with the title of assistant professor, then move to associate, then to full professor.

The salary gap, which Academic Affairs describes as a phenomenon that will always occur, has been made worse by the salary freeze caused by CSU budget cuts, according to the university.

The university recently allocated $200,000 to address salary compression issues. The funds will be given to those who qualify to apply for market or equity increases. The new funds will affect about 60 CSUN faculty members.

“We’re attempting to make up for part of the salary gap that has been opened by the state’s inability to give salary increases in the last three years,” said Harry Hellenbrand, CSUN provost and vice president of Academic Affairs.

An estimated $1 million will be needed to address most of the total gap between salaries, according to Dave Ballard, president of the CSUN chapter of the California Faculty Association.

In an Aug. 17 memo to academic deans, Hellenbrand said even though CSUN cannot address the gaps completely, it will still make consistent efforts to reduce the margin, including the use of larger-than-average promotion increases.

“We applaud what (the university) is trying to do because they recognize how hard it is on faculty and students, but the (CSU) system needs to do something to correct these problems,” Ballard said.

Amir Hussain, a former CSUN religious studies associate professor, said he resigned this year because of salary and workload issues.

“The main reason I left was because I wasn’t being paid at the level of an associate professor,” Hussain said.

“It was simply a matter of economic justice. As an associate professor, I should earn more than the average assistant professor at CSUN.”

Hussain started teaching at CSUN as an assistant professor in 1997. In 2004 he was promoted to associate professor, but he made less than the average assistant professor. He said university officials told him there was nothing they could do about it.

Hussain is now a professor in the Theological Studies department atLoyola Marymount University.

“I know a number of professors in my position who have left and are looking for another job,” he said. “If you’re not going to fix my salary, then obviously I should be looking for another job.” All 23 campuses in the CSU system are dealing with similar issues, according to CSUN Faculty Affairs.

“I think it’s an issue throughout the academic system because of market changes,” said Penelope Jennings, associate vice president for Faculty Affairs at CSUN.

The median base salary for an assistant professor in the CSU system hired in 2004 was $55,008, according to the 2004 Report on Faculty Recruitment Survey. At CSUN, median base salary for an assistant professor hired in 2004 was $54,390. The single highest assistant professor salary at CSUN is $77,004, and the lowest is $47,880.

The $200,000 in salary compression funds is not the first pool of money the university has specifically allocated to address faculty salary issues.

Later this month, the university is scheduled to begin payments as part of the Knapp arbitration decision. Knapp will force the CSU system to make back payments to professors who were paid incorrectly during the Summer 2001, 2002 and 2003 academic terms.

In total, CSUN will distribute around $3 million in faculty remedy pay, nearly half of the $6 million total the CSU system as a whole is set to distribute.

Valencia Bankston can be reached at city@sundial.csun.edu.