Tulane expresses fiscal responsibility at cost of faculty, staff salaries

Franny Hocking, Contributing Reporter

The following is an opinion article and opinion articles do not reflect the views of The Tulane Hullabaloo.

Tulane’s decision to freeze faculty and staff salaries for the 2014-15 fiscal year demonstrates the university’s fiscal responsibility but could lead to the university losing its competitive advantage in the future. Provost Michael Bernstein said many faculty and staff have said they are concerned and disappointed about the salary freeze. 

Professors can make or break a class. They can be the spark of inspiration that helps a student choose his or her academic path. Staff members coordinate programs, run our facilities and help maintain our campus. The faculty and staff are arguably the most important part of any university community.

Bernstein said that the university put the salary freeze in place because senior administrators and the Board of Trustees decided that it was in the best financial interest of the university to slow down the rate of costs. Knowing that our top administrators are committed to fiscal responsibility and did not have to resort to laying off administrators or even cutting their pay is reassuring. 

Tulane’s tuition cost grew by only 2.8 percent this school year, which, Bernstein said, is quite a low increase in comparison to other universities around the nation. He also said it is one of the lowest rates of increase Tulane has experienced in the past 20 years. Many students will find it comforting that Tulane’s tuition growth is relatively low, considering the already exorbitant price. 

Bernstein said the institution is committed to keeping tuition prices from growing quickly because it understands the other costs students and their families struggle with in other aspects of their lives. Many of the faculty and staff have children of their own attending college and experience the same struggles as other Tulane families, though. Tulane, which considers itself a tight-knit community, should not only consider the fiscal needs of its students, but its faculty and staff, as well. 

While a one-year halt on pay raises may be the most fiscally responsible path for the institution at this point, I believe we need to all consider that the salaries of our faculty is already lower than our competition.

In statistics published by The Chronicle of Higher Education for the 2013-2014 fiscal year, peer institutions such as Vanderbilt University, Rice University, George Washington University and Emory University all pay their associate professors an average salary higher than Tulane does.

The average salary of a Tulane associate professor in the 2013-14 school year was $92,000, the lowest average salary among peer institutions.

The Board of Trustees will meet in early September to discuss the budget for the next fiscal year, which means there will hopefully be a decision about whether the salary freeze will continue into next year. Though fiscal responsibility is crucial, considering the relatively low salaries of Tulane faculty, an additional year of the freeze is a bad idea that will send the wrong message to our faculty and staff.

Franny Hocking is a freshman in the Newcomb-Tulane College. She can be reached for comment at [email protected]