Professor pay trails average
Full professors at Brandeis are paid lower salaries than their equivalents at many of the University’s peer institutions, according to an annual report by the American Association of University Professors. The average full professor at Brandeis earns $130,800 a year, which is in the 60th percentile for doctoral institutions included in the study and is less than schools like Tufts University, Bentley University and Smith College. Brandeis is also one of the few schools in its peer group where average full professor salaries have decreased since the 2012 to 2013 academic year. The study conducted last year found that Brandeis professors made $131,400 on average.
Compared to 28 institutions similar to Brandeis in size or liberal arts status, which comprise a group that was designated by the Board of Trustees for the purpose of determining executive compensation, Brandeis professors have higher salaries than only their peers at Vassar College, Washington and Lee University, Middlebury College and Syracuse University.
Dean of Arts and Sciences Susan Birren wrote in an email to the Justice that there are many factors that contribute to Brandeis’ position in salary rankings, including financial pressures on the University and the lack of programs like medicine, law and engineering, which typically pay faculty more.
“Salary is only one reason that young faculty come to Brandeis,” wrote Birren. “As a highly ranked research university, faculty have the opportunity to build their research and scholarship in a supportive, collaborative environment, to work with senior faculty who are renowned in their fields, and to teach and do research with outstanding undergraduate and graduate students.”
Brandeis faculty have the 16th-highest salaries out of 42 Massachusetts colleges and universities listed, two spots below last year’s 14th place, according to the AAUP survey.
Every other school in the University Athletic Association, the athletic division that Brandeis competes in, pays its full professors more than Brandeis.
Brandeis’ Waltham neighbor Bentley University pays its full professors an average of $152,400 per year, and nearby Boston College gives its professors an average of $168,400.
While many of Brandeis’ peers with higher faculty salaries also have larger endowments, Fordham, Bentley, Colgate and Wesleyan Universities all have higher average salaries but smaller endowments. Other schools in New England with smaller endowments but higher average salaries include Quinnipiac University—$132,500 per year—in Connecticut and Bryant University—$148,200 per year—in Rhode Island.
Focusing on junior faculty
The survey found that associate professors at Brandeis have average salaries of $96,000, assistant professors average at $82,200, and instructors make an average of $60,200.
Brandeis ranked considerably higher in the comparable group of 28 institutions when it came to associate professors and assistant professors, categories both Birren and Prof. Jerry Samet (PHIL), a member of the University Budget Committee, classified as important to focus on. “If Brandeis is going to equalize salaries, it has to be for junior people. Because if we don’t attract the best junior people, we won’t get them, and the whole quality of the faculty will drop, which won’t be in anybody’s interest,” Samet said in an interview with the Justice. “I’m always worried that my junior faculty will be flight risks.”
Birren shared her opinion about the importance of recruiting junior faculty, and wrote that “in the past year we were successful in recruiting our top choice candidates in five out of six assistant professor searches.”
For assistant professor salaries, the University ranks almost exactly in the middle of the 28 comparable colleges, with 13 above it and 15 below.
Contrasting faculty salaries to executive compensation
The financial crisis when Brandeis stopped putting money into faculty pension plans occurred at the same time as paying what Samet called “tremendous severance pay packages” to President Emeritus Jehuda Reinharz and outgoing Chief Executive Officer Peter French. “I still feel that the University owes us $5 million, and they ought to make that good,” said Samet. “Whether they can or not is not clear.”
At first, said Samet, he wasn’t that troubled: it was simply a difference in market values between faculty and administrators. “Everyone tries to get their market values,” he said. “Professors are paid in other coins besides money and … I’m not asking to be paid the same as an executive who puts in 80-hour weeks. But it’s grating when you know that your colleagues at other universities are paid more than you.”
A strategic goal
In the executive summary of the University’s strategic plan, published last year, one of the listed goals is to “renew investment in faculty and staff excellence.”
“A first-rate university cannot exist without a first-rate faculty,” reads the plan.
“This requires not only rigorous procedures for hiring and promotion, but also salaries, benefits, and academic supports that enable us to compete with our peer institutions.”
Birren wrote that she and the University remain steadfastly committed to this goal.
“I completely agree with the strategic plan language that defines the excellence of the faculty as a critical factor in creating an outstanding undergraduate experience and in achieving our success as a top-notch research university,” she said. “I have been working to make progress on addressing faculty salary concerns and, in the past year, was successful in moving the average assistant professor salary closer to the means of our peer institutions.”
Samet said that he expects the recent financial upswing at Brandeis to have a positive effect on faculty salaries.
Birren wrote that faculty salaries will continue to be a high priority for her and her colleagues in the administration. “I expect to continue to work with Provost Lisa Lynch and President Fred Lawrence on faculty salary issues and to make more progress in the future,” she wrote.
Provost Lynch declined to comment by press time.