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Pay raise falls short

Mills College Weekly

A 3 percent faculty pay raise authorized by administration last May received mixed reactions from faculty who say it falls short of local inflation rates and may hinder future recruiting.

“Depending on how it is measured, the current faculty pay raise does not cover the increase in cost of living in the Bay Area,” said Roger Sparks, associate professor of economics.

College administrators first estimated inflation at 3.2 percent for the fiscal year 2001-2002. Members of the economics department, including Sparks, were asked to compare the rate, using standard estimation methods, to determine the actual cost of living increase needed to keep up with rising costs.

According to Sparks, his findings indicated the rate of inflation was actually 5.4 percent. Administration agreed that inflation is actually higher, but chose to adopt the 3 percent raise as originally proposed by faculty.

Many professors were unhappy about the raise. “There was lots of grumbling among faculty,” said Tonianne Nemeth administrative assistant for the English department.

“I was disappointed,” said Sparks.

Sparks expressed his concerns about how Mills College is slipping in salary for full-time professors and estimates the college is below the average in assistant, associate and full-time faculty salaries.

“Across the board, we are already below on all salaries, not just full-time,” said Sparks.

Nancy Thornborrow, professor of economics, agreed the salary increase was less than Bay Area inflation, but said budget constraints limited the administration’s choices.

“It would be nice to get an across the board cost of living increase. However, since we are in a depressed economy, I was pleased to get a raise,” said Thornborrow.

Ken Burke, head of the film studies program, was extremely pleased with the amount of the raise. “I benefited nicely from it,” said Burke. “I realize I’m in the minority since I don’t have any children, have a fixed cost of housing and my wife brings in comparable income.”

Burke also acknowledged that the faculty salaries are a substantial factor in recruitment and the inability to keep up with inflation may make it more difficult to attract new faculty to fill open positions.

Burke pointed out that since Mills is under budget constraints, it should be anticipated that many areas have been impacted, including faculty salaries. He felt the priority was to provide classroom and educational support with the funds available.

“We need to put money into teaching resources,” said Burke, “so that students have a reason to come to Mills.”