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UA wants $15M for faculty

By Andrea Kelly
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Tuesday September 23, 2003

After losing top-flight faculty members last year to other universities, administrators have decided it is time to ask the Legislature to invest $15 million to help keep key faculty members from migrating to other schools for better salaries.

The UA needs $54 million to bring the average salary to the 50th percentile nationally, but the $15 million request is what administrators think would be feasible to ask from the state, which faces another deficit this year, said Greg Fahey, UA lobbyist.

President Peter Likins said he hopes to send a clear message through the Arizona Board of Regents to legislators on Friday about the need to increase salaries.

"We have a problem in trying to hang on to the very people who make the university succeed," Likins said.

In 2002, the UA lost 49 faculty members.

On Friday, Likins will present his budget request to the regents, who will then vote whether to approve it and send it to the Legislature.

Chris Herstam, president of the regents, said he would support the university's budget requests at Friday's ABOR meeting because he sees it as an important cause.

"I think they've used all the means they can up to this point, and now they need help," Herstam said.

It is important to top administrators and the UA community that the money comes through, because it is an opportunity to keep the faculty who have been making positive contributions for years at the university, Fahey said.

"The president and provost are trying to make a statement to keep the best faculty around," Fahey said.

He was careful to add, though, that if the UA receives that money, it will not be an instant answer.

"This won't end retention, but it will certainly mitigate it," Fahey said.

Fahey said the problem of the UA's low faculty salaries might have stemmed from tax cuts implemented in the 1990s.

He noted that while Arizona cut taxes in the ╬90s, other states were investing in their universities, "building up a base" that they would later use for salaries.

Administrators are reluctant to say if there are specific people they are worried about for next year, as the crucial positions always fluctuate.

"A couple of years ago, it was computer people being lured away by dot coms," Likins said.

Last year, administrators requested only $300,000 to improve faculty salaries, asking the Legislature to invest most of its funding in research buildings.

Over the summer, the Legislature approved the university's requests to fund the buildings' debt service.

This year's budget request also asks for twice as much money as last year's request to cover enrollment growth, because the Legislature did not fund any enrollment growth last year, Fahey said.

Democratic senator Gabrielle Giffords said that it is important for members of the UA community to speak up about where they want their money spent.

Giffords said she doesn't always hear enough from the people who will be affected by money distribution.

When it comes down to it, budget money will be distributed to the cause legislators think is most worthy, she said. Unless they hear from the UA community, they will likely not think of it first when distributing budget money.

"We hardly hear from people when it's time to cut the budget," Giffords said.

She mentioned the importance of the thousands of alumni, students and faculty at the UA to let the legislators know what's important to them.

"We need your activism; we need your voice at the Capitol," Giffords said.

On Friday, the regents will review the UA's request. If they approve it, they will send the request to the Legislature.

If the request is included in the state budget, which is put together in the spring, the request will go into effect on July 1, 2004.

¸ Shelly Shelton contributed to this report.

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