Don't rush to judge professors' pay
Published: Monday, October 24, 2011
Updated: Tuesday, October 25, 2011 15:10
Gov. Rick Scott's decision to publish the salaries of employees of Florida's 11 public universities created a small dust-up in the state. Some faculty leaders cried foul, arguing that the move was pointed at professors and meant to make universities look wasteful, according to the Orlando Sentinel. Scott's argument is that he simply wants to be transparent about how public funds are spent.
A close look at these salaries shows that university professors may actually be underpaid. John W. Curtis, director of research and public policy with the American Association of University Professors, said the average salaries of full-time professors at public universities in Florida offering bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees fall about $6,000 below the national average, according to the Sentinel. They also reported that the average salary nationwide for these professors was $86,653 this past school year, not including medical-school faculty or professors who also hold administrative posts, such as deans. In Florida, the average was $80,879 last school year, according to the Sentinel.
One of the primary problems with Scott's database is that it does not fully explain the roles of the professors listed. For example, the highest paid professor in Florida, Neil Fenske from the University of South Florida, makes $1.2 million, according to the Sentinel. Going off of Scott's database, one could argue that this professor is grossly overpaid.
Fenske, however, also holds several other positions not listed in the database. These include chairman of the Department of Dermatology and Cutaneous Surgery at USF Health and medical director of the USF Health Cosmetic and Laser Center.
Our very own Dr. Deborah German is identified as a professor who earns almost $446,000, according to the Sentinel. What the database fails to mention is that she also holds the title of dean of the College of Medicine and vice president for medical affairs.
The reality is that professors' salaries need to increase rather than go down. In Florida, these salaries currently fall below the national average, and this could potentially lead good professors to look for greener pastures elsewhere. Sandra Lewis, president of Florida State University's Faculty Senate, argues that the state is already struggling to hang on to some of its most talented educators specifically because universities in other states, along with private institutions, offer higher salaries, according to the Sentinel. She also argued that this could cause students to leave the state and attend colleges with stronger programs.
Professors at our public universities in Florida make a wide range of salaries for a variety of reasons. There should not be a rush to judgment as to why our professors make the salaries they make. Some professors may have more advanced training than others. Some may hold more than one degree, and some professors may have master's degrees rather than doctoral ones. Some may have been employees of the state for a long time, causing them to get higher pay.
The salaries of our professors here in Florida need to become more competitive. Given the fact that our state is home to the second-largest university in the nation, we should be finding ways to make sure that the salaries professors earn are commensurate with their workload. It is important to do so in order to ensure the competitiveness of our universities in Florida and attract talented educators.