Markets for faculty salaries (letter to the editor)
To the Editor:
Matt Reed has once again constructed a dilemma where none exists in reality [Salary Compression and External Markets, December 7, 2020]. There is not an “external” market where salaries are established for various fields; there is only a market. The salaries determined by this market are generally considered to be fair and equitable. The physical and mental effort to perform jobs in different fields may be similar, yet salaries vary widely based on supply vs. demand. Supply may be lower than demand because training may be costly and/or difficult; or because the field may not be seen as inherently rewarding. For most of us, we make our choice and believe it’s fair. So, if the unions are arguing for common salary schedules across fields, it is they who are being divisive – they certainly are not arguing for fairness. If a higher salary schedule is needed to attract computer science or nursing faculty – create, don’t negotiate. In New Jersey, education unions have no leverage against public institutions, by law. Dr. Reed’s own institution has a court ruling that says so.
While Dr. Reed is correct that market salaries are much higher than union wage schedules, it does not mean that salary alone prevents attraction of new faculty to those areas. There only needs to be a few qualified people that are willing to “get past the hit to the baseline”. The enticing arguments are simply the change of scenery and the opportunity to work with students. There are probably many experienced people looking for a change, who are financially able to take the “hit.” One only needs to convince a few. If an institution is finding no takers, it may not be that the salary difference is the problem. Maybe the work environment is just not different enough. People are looking to get away from the petty arrogance and jealousy they encountered in industry. From Dr. Reed’s description, the union is behaving in a way sure to drive away prospective faculty from “in-demand” fields.
Edward P. Manning