University Officials Continue to Fail Faculty

In my 36 years at Wake Forest, three items have regularly been on the faculty’s agenda for things the administration could do to improve its lot: bringing salaries up to the level of the universities to which we compare ourselves; developing a regular sabbatical program so that all tenured faculty can have regular leaves; and providing a day-care center for the many people who work on campus.

In the past, it had always been hoped that one of Wake Forest’s capital campaigns would raise funds for one or more of these causes. Even without such an effort, the administration promised the faculty more than a decade ago that it would raise faculty salaries to the level of our peers. This has never happened.

It is telling, I think, that President Hatch’s capital campaign never included any of these items on its agenda. As a matter of fact, the administration has been so indifferent to faculty concerns that few professors even bother to bring up a sabbatical program or a day-care center anymore.

That leaves compensation, but again, there is no indication that there is any effort to raise faculty salaries. As I noted in an earlier editorial, the administration regularly informs us that it has raised $232 million for “faculty support and programming,” but this figure surely is little more than flimflam. From the beginning, President Hatch has touted the great wonders of having raised money for 10 Presidential Chairs, but this does little or nothing for the remaining hundreds of faculty. Somehow it is thought that the presence of these new, major professors will boost all of our spirits, but I’m certain most of us would prefer the pay raises we were promised long ago.

Inasmuch as the administration seems unwilling to demonstrate how much of its $232 million has been devoted to faculty salaries and benefits, one can only assume that it only includes funds for oneoff opportunities like a few Family Fellows and grants for research and travel, the equivalent of the one-time bonuses some corporations gave to their employees after the big tax cut rather than increasing wages, a strategy that keeps salaries and benefits depressed over time.

Once more: most of the faculty would be grateful for a clear reckoning of the sums from the capital campaign that have tangibly increased the welfare of the professors on campus, especially salaries and benefits. Short of such evidence, we can only conclude that there has never been any real interest in improving the lot of the faculty in spite of the fact that the #12 ranking in “Best Undergraduate Teaching” in the US News & World Report analysis of US colleges and universities is a major reason why Wake Forest does so well in that survey. That Wake Forest would fail properly to compensate the faculty and staff who do the most to make the university “thrive” in the midst of its otherwise grandiose plans is nothing short of a scandal.

Jim Hans

English Department