Administration Violates Statutes, Faculty Senate Files Grievances


Faculty Senate convening in early February. Members have recently spoken out against the imposition of an unapproved salary raise. (PHOTO BY STEPHAN KOZUB/THEOBSERVER


The Fordham Faculty Senate has filed grievances against the Board of Trustees and three senior officials of the university. The grievances, filed with the Hearing Committee of the Senate, come after the administration imposed a salary increase that was not approved by the Senate, which violates the University Statutes.

The Senate believes that in imposing a salary raise that was not ratified by the Senate and in allocating those funds without approval from the Salary and Benefits Committee, the administration “violated the Statutes twice and they have broken with about 40 years of precedent and good faith negotiations at this institution,” Andrew H. Clark, Ph.D., chair of the Faculty Salary and Benefits Committee, said.

Clark is referring to a Statute that says “The Faculty Salary and Benefits Committee shall review with the Administration the faculty salary structure of the University.” The statute adds that the Committee and the administration decide together how money is allocated for salaries and fringe benefits, which then must be approved by the Board of Trustees.

There were two pieces to the breach in protocol, Anne Fernald, Ph.D., president of the Faculty Senate, said. “One is about what we earn and what the package of our earnings are,” she said, “but maybe the more important piece is a kind of commitment to a model of governance that’s set out in our Statutes that involves the faculty in these decisions.”

When grievances are filed with the Hearing Committee, they decide whether or not there has in fact been a violation. If they do find that the administration violated the Statutes, there may be some kind of reprimand, according to Clark.

“Now, that reprimand, whether that actually means anything to the administration, that is probably up to the administration to decide,” Clark said. “At that point they will either apologize and continue to follow and uphold the Statutes, as we believe should be the case. Or they just disregard it.”

In addition to filing grievances against the Board, President of the University Rev. Joseph M. McShane, S.J., Provost Stephen Freedman, Ph.D., and Chief Financial Officer, Treasurer and Senior Vice President Martha Hirst, the Faculty Senate scheduled meetings with the administration to talk about salary and benefits for the coming year and hosted Howard Bunsis, Ph.D., a world-class economist, to discuss Fordham’s finances.

Fernald stated at the forum that the Faculty Senate has rehired its legal counsel, but is looking to first exhaust the internal measures before resorting to the external measures of filing grievances with the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) or filing a lawsuit against the administration.

The violation of the Statutes occurred when the administration imposed a salary increase without coming to an agreement with the Faculty Senate following negotiations of what the raise for this year would be. The negotiations continued up until June 14, one day before the deadline to reach an agreement. On June 14, the administration imposed the salary increase of 2.1 percent, violating the Statutes.

In previous years, negotiations had extended beyond the June 15 deadline if no agreement was reached, “but there was respect for the Statute and respect for the process,” Clark said.

A violation like this has never happened before, “so we’re kind of in new territory, we have taken at least initially, the Statutes themselves as the guide and so when something is broken, or not followed correctly in the university, the Statutes call for those individuals to seek a grievance with the Hearing Committee,” Clark said.

Bob Howe, senior director of communications for the university, pointed out in an email statement that the Board of Trustees are the final authority on salary increases, as written in the Statutes.

“The statutes set forth Fordham’s commitment to achieving and maintaining a level of faculty compensation that places the University in the first quintile—or at the 80th percentile—of the American Association of University Professors’ (AAUP) Category 1 educational institutions,” Howe noted.

The AAUP, an organization of more than 47,000 professors in the U.S., in a recent survey ranked the salaries and compensation of faculty at institutions across the country. It listed that the average base salary at Fordham for professors, associate professors, assistant professors and lecturers is $162,200, $114,900, $98,400 and $64,500 respectively. The “survey shows Fordham faculty compensation is higher than that of our five closest peer institutions and 10 local institutions,” Howe remarked.

“The Board likes to insist that the 80th percentile of AAUP, put in place by the former President Father O’Hare in the 1980s, is a good standard and this is what we should measure and we’re above the 80th percentile and so faculty should be happy about [what] their position [is],” Clark said.

“I think if you look at the reality of it, over 80 percent of faculty are below the 80th percentile of AAUP,” Clark continued. “The AAUP is a national standard, not one specific to the extreme costs of living in New York city.”

To account for the high cost of living in New York City, Clark explained that the Faculty Salary and Benefits Committee had offered a multi-year deal in which a purchasing power increment of 1.6 percent be added above the consumer price index (CPI). Purchasing power is the idea that a salary raise should be above that of the cost of living, otherwise the salary never actually increases.

Over the course of the career of a full-time faculty member, the faculty would receive a salary increase of 60 percent in real terms provided they received both of their promotions, according to Clark.

“Housing in the New York metropolitan area has gone up certainly far more than CPI,” Clark continued. “It’s just not realistic, people just can’t live here, or if they’re living here, they’re living in tiny one-bedroom apartments or studio apartments with families, or they’re commuting two or three hours a day in order to live in a place that is affordable enough that they can support themselves or their family.”

Given that the CPI for this year was negative .3, the Faculty Salary and Benefits Committee’s multi-year offer would have meant an across the board raise of 1.3 percent, not including what is added for merit, “which would be the lowest raise we’ve received in my memory, or at least since I’ve been at this institution,” Clark said.

In the hope that this model of increasing faculty salary by 1.6 percent above CPI every year would become permanent, Clark and the Salary and Benefits Committee suggested a trial three-year plan.

The administration denied the three-year plan and instead offered a raise of 1.9 percent including merit. The Salary and Benefits committee then suggested a raise of 3.6 percent, including merit, based on what the raises were at other institutions, Clark said.

As the negotiations between the Faculty Senate and the administration continued, the administration landed at a 2.1 percent increase and the Faculty Senate reduced their offer down to about 2.7 percent, according to Clark.

“The difference between their position and our position was about $500,000,” Clark continued. “The budget of the University is around $560,000,000, so that represents .1 percent of the budget. It’s not that $500,000 is not huge, but it’s small in comparison to some of the other things that are done on campus.”

Prior to the discussions of salary and benefits, the administration and faculty worked collaboratively during the Middle States accreditation process last year. This process involved peer evaluations of the University for accreditation purposes.

“When this violation happened, it broke the trust between the administration and the Board and the faculty,” Fernald said. “Many of us were trying to imagine a new way of working together that was more collaborative, that was more generous, and the Board’s actions and the administration’s cooperation and actions hurt that sense of cooperation.”

Fernald remarked that she is determined to work and advocate for the best interests of the faculty and the best interests of the university as a whole, and that “the actions that we take are determined in some measure by the degree of cooperation that we perceive, or lack of cooperation that we perceive from the administration,” she said.

“Hirst and the administration acknowledge the centrality of the faculty to the University community and Fordham’s mission, and are eager to come to an agreement with the Faculty Senate on issues of benefits and salary, consistent with good governance and within the limits of Fordham’s budget constraints,” Howe concluded.

“I think that faculty are demoralized,” Clark said regarding the violation of statutes and principles of shared governance. “I think they’re demoralized, dispirited, discouraged, angry.”