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On a nine-month pay schedule option:

At the December 5th 2013 meeting of the Faculty Senate the following motion was made by Michael Mihalik, Joel Tellinghuisen and Myrna Wooders:

Motion: That the Faculty Senate recommend allowing academic year faculty to choose between a nine-month salary schedule and a twelve-month salary schedule and; that this choice be allowed all new and current academic year faculty.

[NOTE:  That should say “pay schedule” instead of “salary schedule” since the salary schedule refers to the period of time that we work for the University – 9 months for academic faculty — while the pay schedule refers to when we are paid.  This is a common error; see, for example, the agenda for the April, 2010 Senate meeting. ]

There was very little time to discuss the motion at the December meeting – less than 15 minutes.  The meeting was adjourned until February.

At the February 13th meeting of the Faculty Senate there were 18 votes for the motion and 18 against so the motion failed.  (It was a disappointment but nevertheless, a big step forward – see the concluding paragraph below). Following is some discussion and history.

Here is a copy of the remarks that I made when presenting the motion at the December meeting. There was very little other discussion.  Senior administration expressed concern that faculty would have difficulty managing their money if they were paid over nine months and that the current system of a 12-month pay schedule for 9 months work was “simple”.

Prior to the February 13th meeting, Joel, Michael and I prepared the attached A Nine-Month Pay Option, which responds to comments we had received privately. It comes with an “Executive Summary”.  The document was sent not only to the Senators but also sent to most of the academic-year faculty for comment.   The comments were primarily in favor of the motion.

The vote and also email correspondence with a number of faculty members indicate that there is substantial support for allowing faculty to have the option.  A 2010 Faculty survey indicates that over 37% of the respondents were in favor of having a 9-month option (even though only slightly over 16% wanted to take up the option themselves).  A number of faculty members (I among them) believe that many of the faculty that responded negatively to the 9-month option in the survey did not intend to deny the option to others.  This may explain why there appears to be more support for the motion than a more negative interpretation of the survey would suggest.

What is hard to understand is why a faculty member would vote against others having the 9-month option.  It does seem that there are some issues that are not yet well-understood.  There were no questions concerning our estimates of the interest lost to the University; indeed, Vice Chancellor Jerry Fife describes them as “reasonable. “ My impression is that the two main concerns are health insurance and the costs of setting up systems to allow the option.  I do not think that the insurance issue is a major problem since other universities are able to manage providing the same health insurance to faculty on their 9 and 12-month pay schedules.  Also, there are already faculty members on 9-month pay schedules here at VU; my understanding is that these faculty are part-timers but still, their total take-home pay is divided by 9 instead of by 12 and I’d conjecture that some computer software is programmed to take care of this.  Our benefit options change each year; it is easy to imagine simply selecting a pay schedule each year when we select our benefits (leaving our health insurance options the same for those individuals on 9 and 12 month contracts).

Finally, let me note that from the archived minutes of the Faculty Senate on the internet, it appears that there has been only one vote against a motion; this concerned prohibiting guns on campus.  Having learned a bit about how the Senate operates and knowing that, until our pay-schedule motion, there were no written (secret) ballots, I do not find the prior seemingly unanimous agreement of opinions surprising.  Let us hope that in future there will be more written ballot voting on matters of concern to faculty.