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William and Mary Faculty Survey Reveals 'Sobering' News

With only a single 2.25-percent general salary increase in the past three years, many William and Mary faculty members are beginning to explore other job opportunities.

According to a survey conducted last semester by the Faculty Assembly, 69 percent of the College’s professors have considered leaving their positions over the past two years; Of these 29 percent have actually applied for another position.

“The William and Mary faculty report on salaries is the most sobering news I have received in the 11 years that I have served as your president,” William and Mary President Timothy J. Sullivan told the Board of Visitors. “For those who believe that the College lives in rarified air where money does not matter, and never will, we now have firm evidence to the contrary. We have discovered the ‘canary in the coal mine.’”

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Katherine Kulick, an associate professor of modern languages and literature, presented the information to the Board of Visitors and said 62 percent of the College’s 505 faculty members responded to the survey. Kulick said a survey is conducted every four years to measure the faculty’s opinions on a variety of issues such as job satisfaction and priorities. However, this year was the first time the survey included questions for faculty members regarding their own job searches and future plans, she said.

“We wanted to go beyond the anecdotal information and gather data,” said Kulick, adding that 60 percent of the faculty who have applied for a position at another institution received a firm job offer. “They are finding attractive alternatives and opportunities.”

While many faculty have considered leaving, 78 percent of the 314 people who responded to the survey stated they are satisfied with their jobs at the College.

“It seems at first to be a bit of a paradox,” Kulick said of survey’s results that show a high level of job satisfaction among faculty, as well as a significant number who are looking for jobs. “It’s not really a mystery. Most faculty want to stay at William and Mary.”

However, with salaries increasing only 2.25 percent over the past three years, 75 percent of faculty members who indicated they have considered leaving listed salary as their main motivation for contemplating a move, according to the survey. Faculty members also listed their top three priorities as increased funding for faculty salaries, increased funding for faculty research, and increased funding for student financial aid.

According to the survey, 32 percent of the College’s full professors who responded to the survey said they had applied for a job at another institution in the past two years. Kulick added 37 percent of the assistant professors who responded indicated they had applied elsewhere while 21 percent of associate professors who responded said the same thing.

“What these figures suggest is that the problem has grown from just a few individuals to a more widespread movement,” Kulick said. “We need across-the-board relief.”

Kulick added that while the survey only covered faculty member, salary increases for the administrative faculty and staff at the College had been similarly restricted over the past three years. Those groups on campus were also discouraged, she said.

“We are not alone in these dire circumstances,” Kulick said.

After a decade-long struggle to bring faculty salaries into the 60th percentile of the College’s peer institutions – a goal established by the Virginia General Assembly – Sullivan pointed out that cuts in state funding of higher education have translated into stagnant faculty salaries that have hurt morale and triggered job searches. Faculty salaries at William and Mary are now projected to drop in the 16th percentile of the College’s peer group – meaning nearly 85 percent of peer institutions would pay their faculty more.

For some time, Sullivan said, William and Mary managed to suspend the law of economics – remaining at the top of the academic pyramid ranked with the premier institutions in the country while at the same time falling behind the competition in terms of funding. At William and Mary, the Commonwealth has cut $28 million in public funding since December 2001. Since 1980, the state’s percentage of William and Mary’s total operating budget has dropped from 42.8 percent to just 18.7 percent this year.

“Because we have done so well with relatively little, there are some I fear who might believe we could do even better with less,” Sullivan said. “Those in this political camp believe that the quality of this College have become – like our Royal Charter – a birth right. An unassailable part of the university landscape – like the historic campus – a permanent fixture in our academic architecture. The results of the faculty survey presented to the Board today will confirm that William and Mary may be a place apart – but also may soon become a place in real danger of falling apart.”

William and Mary Provost P.Geoffrey Feiss said the College has already started seeing the impact of the budget cuts. Feiss said 13 faculty members whom the College wanted to keep on campus left for other job opportunities in the past year. Because of concerns about the state budget, Feiss said the number of departures could grow this year.

“What it will be this year I don’t know,” Feiss said. “If it was double it wouldn’t surprise me and that would be a scary number. Thirteen is a scary number.”

Despite the survey results, Sullivan said, he sees hopeful signs on the horizon. Board members such as Suzanne Matthews and Clifford Schroeder, he noted, came to the College’s aid recently by establishing funds to support faculty and research initiatives; students last semester passed a first-in-the nation assessment fee to “help save our faculty;” and donors from across Virginia and the country have stepped forward to support the Campaign for William and Mary, which recently passed the halfway mark in the effort to raise $500 million in private gifts by 2007.

In addition, the attitude toward higher education appears to be changing in Richmond, Sullivan said. Gov. Mark Warner took a major step in turning the political tide with the introduction of his budget, which includes an additional $145 million statewide for public universities and colleges, Sullivan said. Virginia Senator John Chichester (R-Stafford) and Delegate Vincent Callahan (R-Fairfax) has also recently proposed their own plans for putting higher education back on sounder financial footing, he added.

“The people trying to fix this mess need our help – and they deserve our support if the Commonwealth plans to provide a much-needed blueprint for a new state investment strategy,” Sullivan said. “I am much encouraged that we are in the early stages of a long-overdue debate about the future of not only our College, but our entire Commonwealth.”

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