Faculty leaders thankful for pay raises, but question college’s delivery

By Olivia Cohen, Managing Editor

Kayla Macedo

Editors’ Note: The following story has been updated with further clarification regarding the CFAC and USofCC contracts.

Some full-time faculty and non-unionized staff will notice a boost in their paychecks on Aug. 31. But faculty leaders are questioning how the raises were administered, and part-time faculty complained that they were left out altogether.

Emails sent to Columbia employees in May stated that qualifying faculty and staff will see a 2.5% increase in their annual salary and a 1.5% performance-based bump for some selected employees. Employees who qualified for the increases will see those reflected in their next paychecks.

Two groups are not included in these latest increases: The United Staff of Columbia College – the USofCC – and the part-time faculty union, also known as “CFAC.”

USofCC members will receive a 2.5% increase for this fiscal year and for the 2023-24 period under a previously negotiated contract. CFAC members also will receive a 2.5% increase this year under their most recent contract, which extends to Aug. 31, 2023.

Diana Vallera, president of CFAC, said she was shocked when the news hit employees’ inboxes, saying the messaging felt “intentional.”

“I was really shocked when this letter came out, and it was intentional,” Vallera said. “It went to everyone. It wasn’t just to the people who were receiving the bonuses, but it went to unionized faculty as well.”

Vallera said the part-time faculty group was not contacted regarding the raises, and the first time they were informed of the news was when the email was sent to the college.

Vallera said CFAC meets with the college “all the time” to bargain for raises and other forms of union labor business, but they have not received a raise or bonus since March 2020 when CFAC employees were given a bonus after classes were shifted online in the early days of the pandemic. Vallera said at that time the union was able to successfully negotiate an extra week’s pay.

Vallera added that the union has asked for additional pay every semester since Spring 2020 to acknowledge the extra work part-time faculty did during COVID-19 and has been rejected every time.

“This pattern [of only some employees receiving raises] affects all of us, and that is really what I want to emphasize. … While we’re paid differently, full-time faculty deserve to get compensated. Part-time, of course, deserve to get compensated,” Vallera said. “If we’re in an institution of higher-ed, [and] we’re trying to model how our students should go out in the workplace in a unionized workplace and should deserve to get paid equitably, then the message is really against everyone. It’s not just against us.”

Lambrini Lukidis, associate vice president of Strategic Communications and External Relations, said in an email to the Chronicle July 19 the school gives out performance-based increases “annually for non-union faculty and staff, budget permitting.”

Madhurima Chakraborty, associate professor in the English and Creative Writing Department and the Faculty Senate president, said the announcement was not entirely a surprise to her.

Chakraborty said Senior Vice President and Provost Marcella David visited the Faculty Senate meeting in May and discussed the adjustments to the new pay floor rankings and salaries. Chakraborty said during her visit, David did not share the increased percentages that full-time faculty would see reflected in their paychecks.

“These percentages fail in comparison to any kind of cost of living increases [with] inflation,” Chakraborty said, in regards to 2.5% and 1.5% respective increases.

Chakraborty said an 8% to 10% increase would be considered a meaningful raise, and even then, those percentages would “just barely be keeping up with the cost of living.”

The last time Columbia offered an “across the board” increase for all employees, both union and non-union, was in September 2013. This was before the college transitioned to a performance-based increase system for non-union faculty and staff in 2016 and finalized USofCC’s collective bargaining agreement for increases for staff retroactive to 2016, Lukidis said.

The increase all employees received in 2013 was 1%.

Chakraborty said the senate has requested specific fixed-percentage increases, but the senate cannot bargain with the school.

“There’s no negotiation. We’re not unionized full-time faculty. We aren’t unionized, [and] we have no legal representation,” Chakraborty said. “There’s no bargaining that happens with us. Numbers are just given to us.”

Chakraborty added that she does not want the senate to come off as ungrateful, as they understand the college has “particular financial priorities and hardships” right now.

Aside from the fixed percentage and performance increases for qualifying faculty and staff, professors of various levels saw adjustments to their salary floors beginning Aug. 16 as well.

The new floor ranks were announced after the college studied faculty compensation at other higher education institutions and at the recommendation of the provost.

Lukidis said Columbia is a member of the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources – or CUPA-HR – in which the school purchases salary data from other institutions that report faculty salary data annually, as Columbia does.

Lukidis said Columbia compares salaries to CUPA-HR institutional data grouped in various ways, using different points of comparison including Carnegie classification, peer groupings and Midwestern private institutions.

“We additionally looked at published floors from peer institutions (e.g., Northern Illinois, UIC, Western Michigan, Michigan State), as well as non-peer institutions in the Midwest (e.g., Western Illinois, UW System),” Lukidis said.

Lukidis said the last time salary floors were increased was in 2012, when the floors were established.

Some professors will expect to see $7,000 more per year due to the new floor rankings, whereas some associate professors and assistant professors will see an $11,000 and $12,000 bump, respectively.

The email from the President’s Office said faculty members who are eligible for an increase to the new salary floor for their rank will either be raised to that new floor or receive a combined fixed-percentage or performance-based increase, whichever is greater.

New promotional bumps will also be in place for tenure- and teaching-track faculty, bumping eligible faculty up between $1,000 and $3,000, depending on where they are on the track.

Despite this, Chakraborty said the college is administering the increased floor rankings after the fixed-percentage and performance-based increases, instead of before, making faculty’s percentage bonuses absorbed into the new floor rankings.

Chakraborty said if an associate professor was making $66,000 a year and received both the 2.5% and 1.5% increases, they would still be below their position’s floor ranking of $72,000. As a result, they would be bumped up to the floor, essentially losing the fixed-percentage increases.

Frances Maggio, associate professor and coordinator of the Costume Design program, who also served as the Faculty Senate’s vice president parliamentarian, said the school should have brought employees to the floor and then given them raises, instead of the other way around.

“[I’m] probably looking a gift horse in the mouth, but I just feel like they should have raised the floors and then given people the raises, because they themselves said that the fact that the floors were being raised is not technically a raise,” Maggio said.

Maggio said she is pleased that the school increased the faculty floors in general.

“I was shocked and amazed that they raised the floors, and I was very happy about that,” Maggio said. “And I know that in this economic climate, it’s pretty amazing that they did that. And I’m pleased with that.”