Demotion Bonus

Workplace inequity is a reality. While employers pay women, on average, 80 cents for every dollar they pay a man, don’t expect to read about the gender-based pay gap in the employee handbook. To preserve the idea of a fair workplace, companies guard salaries, raises and bonuses. Who gets them and how much they receive is protected information, though equal pay for equal work will be the official line.

At the University of North Florida, where the faculty union claims there’s a 12 percent pay gap between men and women who teach, the focus is on a compensation policy written into the rulebook for academic affairs that is, according to professors on the negotiating team, a lopsided pay plan that rewards people for work they are
not performing.

Since 2008, administrators who transfer to the classroom for a teaching job are permitted to maintain their top-level management salaries-up to 100 percent after six years in the job of department chair or associate dean-though as a professor they will no longer have administrative responsibilities, such as managing staff and schedules. The rule has created a wage gap among academic peers greater than the price of a luxury car-or two-within many departments, according to records.

Documents say many administrators have made the transition to the faculty and salary discrepancies among these former administrators and professors of the same rank, who perform the same job within the same department, have reached $40,000, $50,000, and $60,000-or more. Lots more. (See chart.) In one case, the discrepancy is $142,000.

Department (# of admins turned professors) Former Admins’ salary Peers’ salary range
English (2) $107,500; & $215,000 $73,000-$99,000
Exceptional, Deaf & Interpretor Education (3) $180,500; $159,000; & $131,200 $75,000-$88,500
Biology (4) $166,000; $123,000; $114,000; & $97,000 $78,000-$91,000
Marketing (3) $148,500; $126,500; & $121,500 $130,500-$136,000
Sociology, Anthropology & Social Work (1) $139,500 $75,000-$79,500
Management (1) $135,000 $97,000-$130,500
Leadership, School Counseling & Sports Management (1) $114,000 $88,500-$93,000
Criminology & Criminal Justice (1) $102,500 $74,500-$75,000
Philosophy & Religious Study (1) $94,000 $75,000-$88,000
Childhood Education, Literacy & ESOL (1) $88,500 $79,000-$81,500
Music (1) $88,000 $69,000-$85,000
Psychology (1) $102,000 $74,000-$94,000

Now some professors are fighting to change that.

According to Marshall Ogletree, executive director of the United Faculty of Florida (UFF), the state union based in Tallahassee, the policy challenges the idea of equal pay for equal work and offers an unsettling lesson about financial compensation at this public university in Jacksonville, which is supported each year by millions of public tax dollars.

Legislators, he maintains, would “go ballistic” if they knew about the UNF policy because “it’s flat-out wrong.”

By phone last month, Ogletree said the bargaining committee of UFF’s local chapter is looking for possible financial abuse and excessive spending at UNF as they negotiate a new three-year contract for the school’s approximately 600 faculty members who are covered under the contract and known as “in-unit” staff. Since last August, seven bargaining sessions have been held and more talks are scheduled April 19.

UNF representatives disagree with any assessment calling the policy unsound.

Shari Shuman, vice president of administration and finance and Dan Moon, associate vice president of academic affairs, budgets and personnel, told Folio Weekly in a joint phone interview on Feb. 8 that administrators are members of the faculty and that leaving a management position for a teaching position is “not a demotion” but a “lateral move.”

There are limitations under the policy. Administrators who have completed four or five years of administrative service retain 60 percent of the salary stipend, while administrators who have completed fewer than four years of service retain none of the stipend.

Greg Gundlach, a professor of marketing, management and logistics for UNF’s Coggin School of Business, who once worked as an administrator at the school and benefitted from the policy, says the policy is “mind-boggling.”

Gundlach says any rule to pay administrators “far, far” more than academic peers within the same department “creates a perverse incentive structure” which, in his opinion, “… doesn’t seem right.”

The policy, he says, has long-term implications for retirement benefits because the university contributes up to three percent of an employee’s annual salary to a 401(K) retirement plan.

“Oh, yeah,” he said in a phone interview in February. “That’s a big deal.”

Gundlach maintains a vocal position on the faculty union’s collective bargaining team, which is pushing for reductions in the salary of former administrators as part of a new agreement. One proposal submitted to university officials last month would set salaries for administrators joining the faculty for the first time at median department rates. Former faculty members rejoining the department after time as chair or associate dean could return to the salary they received prior to joining the administration. “Of course they’d get any increases that had been provided over the time they served as an administrator,” he says. “That would be the right way to do this.”

The faculty union is calling for a four percent salary raise for 2017-2018, to begin retroactively if approved. They also seek a one-time bonus of $3,000 and family leave under a three-year agreement proposed for 2017-2020.

The union says it hired two forensic accountants to study UNF’s revenues and costs for operations and believes there’s a significant amount of money needlessly funding former administrators. According to records provided to FW, the per year additional compensation cost to UNF under the policy is $401,500.

“Really? It’s that much? We suspected but didn’t know for sure,” says Gundlach.

At the April 7 bargaining session, UNF negotiators said in a document that the annual total for administrator stipends is $138,000. Gundlach quickly viewed the paperwork, which had been provided through a public records request, and questioned the dollar amount. There is also concern about a stipend versus a salary. And, he says, “It doesn’t include associate deans.”

That same day, UNF President John Delaney sent faculty a “Message from the President” by email, saying the legislature would provide $6 million in new money for the operating budget following the school’s 10-point improvement over last year on a performance metric for state universities that measures such things as second-year student retention and four-year graduation rates. Calling it “good news,” he said the school will be proposing raises.

But Delaney also squashed any hope that the money could be put into paychecks, saying “Keep in mind, this system only provides one-time, non-recurring funding that cannot be used for raises or to hire.”

In a follow-up message, the president’s office clarified that the state money is for 2018-2019 operations and not the current year. Delaney, who was mayor of Jacksonville from 1995 to 2003, is retiring at the end of May after almost 15 years as UNF’s president.

School officials say the budget for raises this year is $818,000, which would provide enough money for the in-unit faculty to receive a two percent increase in the first year of a three-year agreement. Officials are offering to reopen salary talks in year two and year three, according to the UNF bargaining team, but say there are no guarantees. Officials have rejected the union’s family leave proposal, intended to care for any family member in need, such as an aging parent, and are offering, instead, parental leave with a one-time, one-semester leave to care for one child in need, but only after all personal time is used. If both parents work at UNF, only one parent would be allowed to take the leave, according to the proposal. “We’re calling it UNF’s ‘one-child’ policy,” says Gundlach, making a reference to China’s one-child birth policy.

Gundlach says the union also has issue with the policy on the transfer of former administrators to faculty, saying it is at odds with a state statute (Title 14, Chapter 215) that says no extra compensation can be provided after a contract is made. In-unit faculty, including former administrators, are covered by the bargaining unit agreement, he says. The Board of Governors, which oversees the State University System, told FW in February it doesn’t see an issue with UNF’s policy.

Still, Gundlach, who spent 20 years at the University of Notre Dame before joining UNF, says the bargaining committee could not find a similar policy at the 11 other schools in the State University System. Neither could FW. But there is some ambiguity.

At the University of Florida, a spokesperson says, “administrative supplements” are given to faculty members who perform administrative duties, such as serving as dean, but that they end “when the faculty member ceases to perform these administrative duties.” But, wrote Director of Communications Margo Winick in an email March 6, “There is not a policy that specifies how the supplement should be handled” and that it is determined on a “case by case” basis.

Most other responses follow those provided by the University of South Florida in Tampa, whose spokesperson Lara Wade says the salary adjustment for administrators is made “to what other faculty members in their department are being paid,” and Susan Evans, vice president and chief of staff at Florida Gulf Coast University in Fort Myers, who says salaries for the provost and other vice presidents who leave administration to teach will be calculated based on experience, degrees earned and faculty salaries. All administrators, she says, “forego their administrative stipend and position and move to a regular faculty line and compensation.”

According to Gundlach, if other schools can tame the policy for administrators, so can UNF. During a break in the collective bargaining session held March 2, he said, “If you’re not doing the work of an administrator, then why would the university allow anyone to keep the money?”

The bargaining committee gathers in a windowless conference room, nibbling on chocolate chip cookies as they exchange ideas and observations. Members ask similar questions and say their tolerance for the policy is over.

“We’ve had enough,” says Susan Perez, an associate professor of psychology in the College of Arts & Sciences. “It is sort of demoralizing. You can see a pay bump for additional responsibility but they’re no longer in the job.”

Mark Ari, who teaches creative writing as a senior instructor in the English department, says, “They’re getting money for work they’re not doing and that is ridiculous.”

Zornitza Prodanoff, a professor in the College of Computing, Engineering & Construction, says administrators deflect when asked about the policy. “It’s always pointed out that we’re lucky we haven’t been laid off,” she says. “We see that as a threat.”

In a presentation to the UNF bargaining team, Prodanoff maintains there is a significant gender-based salary gap at the school and also believes minorities are underrepresented on the faculty. The union, she says, is calling for a salary study.

Data from the American Association of University Professors supports claims of a gender-based wage gap. According to the AAUP’s compensation study, between 2015 and 2017, UNF paid full professors an average of $105,767 for men and an average of $92,733 for women, a difference of 12 percent.

The AAUP says salaries for full-time faculty members throughout the nation rose by 2.6 percent last year, though after an adjustment for inflation, the increase was just 0.5 percent. The faculty union maintains the proposed two-percent salary hike won’t keep pace with cost-of-living increases.

“We are absolutely not keeping up,” says Prodanoff.

The AAUP also cautions schools not to balance budgets “on the backs” of out-of-state students, who pay increased tuition. UNF officials announced in bargaining talks last month that out-of-state students generated an additional $1 million for the school last year.

According to finance V.P. Shuman, UNF hasn’t raised tuition in five years, though student fees are up 125 percent over the last 10 years. The money from fees, such as those at the health center, counseling clinic and shuttle bus service, she maintains, cannot be used to fund salaries. Tuition, the state and the lottery support salaries. “That’s it,” she says. Shuman tells the faculty union negotiating team at the March 1 session that the governor cut $2 million in school funding last year.

There are also concerns for contracts and grants, which have dropped 52 percent over the last 10 years, for a loss of $34 million in operating revenue, by Gundlach’s estimate. “We’ve fallen behind sister schools,” he says. He questions management practices because, he says, there is “never money for raises.”

David Jaeger, Chair and Associate Professor of Accounting & Finance for the Coggin School of Business, who serves on the bargaining committee for the university, says successful businesses would not fund salaries with non-recurring revenue, such as contracts and grants, “because in the long run, you know where you’re going to end up? Bankrupt.”

Gundlach lets it go and presses the salary issue for former administrators.

“That’s an academic affairs issue,”
says Shuman.

“We examined every other contract in the state of Florida and this policy wasn’t found,” he says. “Do you know how much money this involves?”

“Since I’ve been here, they’ve been doing it this way,” says Shuman. “This is how they are able to get some of the people to do some of these jobs.”

“We agree,” says Gundlach. “Pay somebody for what they’re doing.”

“My understanding is that this is happening at other places,” she says.

“It’s not done,” says Gundlach, who wants to know if UNF policy involves “millions of dollars.”

“No,” says Shuman.

The issue comes up again at the bargaining session the following day. The meeting is held in the second floor conference room within the office of the president, with a traditional décor that’s exactly as expected: giant mahogany table, cushy leather executive chairs that swivel, golden curtains and oil paintings of past school leaders. Beyond the glass doors, in the reception area, are two leather Chesterfield sofas atop an Oriental rug. A touch of drama comes from thick bamboo poles that crowd the view through an expanse of windows.

It’s a comfortable location for a meeting with a difficult agenda. Before talks get going, there’s joking about Housing & Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson, who made news the prior month for ordering a $31,000 dining table, chairs and sideboard for his office.

UNF’s collective bargaining committee arrives ahead of the faculty union team, who are in a last-minute huddle in a nearby conference room. Participants for the school include Greg Catron, director of employee relations and labor relations; Marianne Jaffee, executive assistant to the provost; Catherine Christie, associate dean and professor at Brooks College of Health; and Jaeger. The lead negotiator is attorney Leonard Carson of the Carson & Adkins law firm in Tallahassee, who has handled labor matters for the school, including contract talks, since 2003. He says the union’s (original) request for a six-percent pay hike, including two percent each year of a proposed three-year agreement, is “unacceptable.”

After the meeting, Carson tells FW the school will increase salaries based on “how much money is in the basket.” He doesn’t provide a dollar amount and adds that he did not previously know about the union’s concerns about salary for former administrators.

“First time it’s come up,” he says.

Gundlach says by phone the following week that previous negotiating committees have expressed similar concerns. But he prefers to focus on finding money to address inequities.

“If we could free up $100,000 here and there, we’re talking about the ability to
cover salary inversions,” he says, referring to a practice of increasing salaries for new hires above those of senior staff in an effort to attract the best and brightest people to
the school.

While UNF has spent about a million dollars to fix inversions and compressions, a situation that narrows salaries between new and senior staff and can lead to inversion, according to faculty members, it hasn’t been enough to fix wage disparities.

“UNF does not pay its faculty fairly,” says Denise Bossy, associate professor in the History Department. “There’s no good reason [for this policy].”

In a presentation at the March 1 bargaining session, according to a video stream posted online, Bossy and Erin Bennett, an associate professor at the Music School, say the situation affects 18 professors, though two of them tired of the whole affair and resigned.

“It can be demoralizing,” says Bennett. “It’s not like we’re doing less work than
our colleagues.”

Bennett, who received UNF’s Outstanding Undergraduate Teaching Award in 2012, offered a chart comparing salaries, saying “it’s slightly depressing to look at” because her salary is listed at $5,000 less than a colleague who hasn’t been at UNF as long as she has. She maintains the gap between them was once $10 and says the disparity happened when school officials chose an implementation date to adjust salaries that left her on “the wrong side” of the line.

She says she joined union representatives for meetings with President Delaney about correcting the inversions and put the total cost at $67,000. The president, she says, “consistently expressed sympathy” during several meetings held throughout a year, but did “nothing to fix the problem.”

“Does UNF value me?” says Bennett. “It doesn’t feel like it.”