What Role Will “Equity” Play in UVa’s Pay Raises This Year?

by James A. Bacon

The College of Arts & Sciences at the University of Virginia will be using “equity” as a criteria in allocating pay raises in the coming year, according to a memo distributed by Interim Dean David L. Hill.

Hill has divided the 5% pool of funds available for pay raises into three portions. One portion, accounting for 20% of the 5%, will go to “standard promotion raises,” in which “equity” is one criteria among several. The second portion, accounting for 40%, makes no reference to equity, but a third portion, also accounting for 40%, allows department chairs and directors to “address additional merit and equity considerations in their departments and programs.”

The memo does not define what Hill means by “equity.” But the pay raises will be handed out in a context in which College employees are required to submit “diversity statements” in their annual reviews describing their commitment to Diversity, Equity & Inclusion in teaching, research and service.

When Bacon’s Rebellion asked if pay raises would be tied to race, ethnicity, sex, or sexual orientation, John Carfagno, the College’s director of communications, denied that they would. Responded Carfagno:

The communication you reference outlines efforts by the Dean’s Office to evaluate potential pay inequities between faculty members who have similar roles, academic backgrounds, performance, and scholarly activities. These can arise due to many factors, including the timing and mode of one person’s hiring relative to another. These decisions are made independent of the traits you referenced in your email to Dean Hill.

“Equity” is a word with many meanings. In an employment context at the University of Virginia, it typically has social-justice connotations. Administrators are under significant pressure to achieve “equity” by correcting racial/ethnic imbalances of faculty, staff and students, the identity of whom is carefully tracked and the numbers for which are published on the university’s diversity dashboard. Thus, for example, we know that in 2020, UVa had 100 African-American faculty members compared to 87 Hispanics, 369 Asians, and 2,220 Whites. In its commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), the university has made it a priority to recruit, retain and promote more minorities.

The UVa policy directory on University Faculty Salaries and Bonuses acknowledges that salaries are used to attract, develop, retain and recognize faculty members. “It is the University’s practice to award salary increases to faculty through the annual merit increase cycle when feasible and to provide flexibility to respond to exceptional circumstances such as retention, additional responsibilities, and administrative errors.”

According to the policy directory, salaries may be adjusted outside the Annual Merit Cycle if a faculty member has taken on substantial additional duties, or to retain faculty members who have received employment offers or whose accomplishments or expertise have made them likely to be recruited by other institutions.

The 5% funds allocated toward pay raises this year falls well short of the 8.5% increase in the cost of living, and it follows a year or more of sub-par pay raises. Faculty members were willing to make sacrifices during the height of the COVID pandemic, but now some are getting restless as their paychecks shrink. Some faculty have options. They might have national reputations or subject-matter expertise, or they might belong to certain racial/ethnic groups in particularly high demand compared to supply. In either case, they are more likely to be recruited by UVa’s competitors. Hill, like other college administrators, is faced with the challenge of fending off poachers willing to offer higher salaries.

Given UVa’s current dedication to pursuing Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, the demand for minority faculty members, especially African-Americans, exceeds the supply. I chatted with a Virginia college dean (whose identity I will not reveal because he was not speaking with an expectation of being quoted) who was rejoicing at the fact that he had successfully recruited a female African-American economist. Female African-American economists are in short supply — only three were awarded PhDs last year — and this particular woman could have commanded a significantly higher salary had she taken a job elsewhere. Fortunately for the dean, she had an attachment to the community where the university was located.

While some racial/ethnicities are in higher demand, so are professors in hot fields. Data scientists, computer scientists, economists, for example, are recruited more aggressively than English and anthropology professors. Likewise, individuals who have national name recognition and/or generate major research grants are in high demand and often raided by rival universities.

While guidelines may vary by department, the “default” mode for faculty evaluations is to give 40% weight to teaching, 40% to research, and 20% to service. As part of the evaluation, the College’s 2021 Faculty Annual reporting form asks all faculty to share their contributions to DEI, which may include “efforts to advance equitable access to education, public service, inclusive teaching practices, or research in a scholar’s area of expertise that highlights inequalities.”

The Appendix provides an extract from a Psychology Department document that describes what such contributions might include:

  • Attending town halls, serving on diversity committees, and participating in DEI workshops.
  • Supporting the Diversifying Psychology Visit Day.
  • Recruiting underrepresented minority students.
  • Facilitating inclusion in the classroom “with particular attention to students who hold marginalized identities.”
  • Designing courses that facilitate inclusion.
  • Creating syllabi that highlight the contributions of underrepresented groups and offer multicultural perspective.
  • Bringing in outside speakers to advance discussions of DEI.
  • Community activism.

Interim Dean Hill is a psychology professor and former psychology department chair. Here is how his memo describes the criteria for pay raises (my bold):

The first portion of the pool is for our standard promotion raises (12% for tenured and general faculty), retention, equity, Dean’s allocations, and other already-committed salary adjustments. These ‘pre-committed’ increases equal about 1% of the overall pool, leaving 4% for the next two portions. …

The last portion of the pool takes the other half of the remaining 4%, which equals about 2% of the total base salaries, and allows the Chairs and Directors to address additional merit and equity considerations in their departments and programs. Chairs and directors will consider general faculty, professional research staff, and staff as well as those in the tenure stream, both for merit and equity.

Hill’s memo elaborates on the role “equity” plays in doling out the pay raises (my bold).

Recognizing additional merit is important, but so too is equity. We are asking chairs and directors to consider making recommendations for equity adjustments for faculty considered to be paid below what is merited. While different than merit-based increases, they must nonetheless be tied to merit in the following way: tenure-stream faculty must also be performing well in research, teaching, and service.

So, “equity adjustments” are merit-based, but “different from” merit increases… Merit is tied to performing well in research, teaching, and service…. And performing well is tied to an individual’s commitment to diversity, equity & inclusion.

Bacon’s bottom line: Hill has the job of divvying up a modest pot of money while juggling the priorities of compensating for horrendous cost of living increases, rewarding merit, and advancing equity in a competitive labor market. It is unconstitutional to discriminate for or against employees based on their race or ethnicity. But despite the College’s assurance that pay raises will not be allocated on the basis of race, ethnicity, sex or gender, it is hard for an outsider like me to believe that racial/ethnic identity won’t play a role in how the funds are dispensed.


The Hill Memo

To: All A&S Faculty and Staff
Subject: Update on Salary Increase Process

Dear Colleagues,

I hope all of you had a successful end of the academic year and look forward to a restful summer. Seeing our students graduate this weekend was truly a moving experience. It was equally joyful to see so many of you on Grounds on Saturday—the Arts & Sciences faculty and staff who supported our students and helped them get to the finish line.  Thank all of you that participated in the Final Exercises this past weekend, I am grateful.

I am writing you with the good news that the University will be able to offer salary increases for this coming academic year and want to share the process Arts & Sciences will use to determine raises for faculty and staff. Above all, I want to express my own sincere thanks and appreciation for everything you’ve done this year and how kind and understanding you’ve been during this period of extensive change in the Dean’s office.

Structure for A&S Raises

The overall pool available will be 5% of total base salaries. Classified staff allocations are excluded as we are still waiting for information from the state. For all other faculty and staff, the total will be divided into three separate portions.

The first portion of the pool is for our standard promotion raises (12% for tenured and general faculty), retention, equity, Dean’s allocations, and other already-committed salary adjustments. These ‘pre-committed’ increases equal about 1% of the overall pool, leaving 4% for the next two portions.

The second portion of the pool takes half of the remaining 4% and allocates a pre-set dollar amount for faculty (tenured/tenure-track and three-year general faculty) and staff and a pre-set dollar amount for one-year general faculty and postdocs (except for those with a pre-committed increase). All of you worked extraordinarily hard this past year. This approach recognizes the deep and common merit of everyone’s contributions.

The last portion of the pool takes the other half of the remaining 4%, which equals about 2% of the total base salaries, and allows the Chairs and Directors to address additional merit and equity considerations in their departments and programs. Chairs and directors will consider general faculty, professional research staff, and staff as well as those in the tenure stream, both for merit and equity.

Faculty

For faculty, chair and director recommendations for merit can be made in the categories of teaching, research, and/or service. Those recommendations should be guided by the peer evaluation process. While nominations must be based on an exceptional performance in at least one area, any faculty member being considered for an additional merit increase in the tenure stream should also have performed well in all categories of teaching, research, and service.  In the case of general faculty, the contributions should be considered consistent with their position.

Recognizing additional merit is important, but so too is equity. We are asking chairs and directors to consider making recommendations for equity adjustments for faculty considered to be paid below what is merited.  While different than merit-based increases, they must nonetheless be tied to merit in the following way: tenure-stream faculty must also be performing well in research, teaching, and service. In the case of general faculty, the contributions should be considered consistent with their position.

Staff and Professional Research Staff (PRS)

In the case of staff and PRS, chairs and directors will be asked to consult with employee supervisors when making these nominations. Consideration for merit can be given for both individual and team contributions.

Additional information on the process will be sent to chairs, directors, and department managers soon.

I continue to be deeply inspired by how you responded to the call to advance our teaching, research, and service missions despite the continuing challenges of the past year. I cannot tell you how grateful I am.

Sincerely,

Dave

David L. Hill
Interim Dean of Arts & Sciences
Buckner W. Clay Professor
Professor of Psychology

5 2 votes
Article Rating
Subscribe
Notify of
guest
2 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Charles James Frankel III
Charles James Frankel III
1 month ago

Taking money from the Merit pool to be used for other purposes is punishing the high performers, the antithesis of “merit.” Separate pools of monies should be set aside for diversity and “catch up.”

Lisa
Lisa
2 days ago

This pool of money should be used to address general inflation, as you stated we are suffering more than 8% inflation this year. The state of VA gave UVA 5%, yet the staff might only see a 2% raise, maybe 4%. It’s not equitable to take from the lowest paid employees to bolster the increases of other employees/faculty. It’s not justified, good, or great. With the increased cost of undesirable parking, is it worth working at UVA?