The University of Virginia Board of Visitors on Thursday approved a resolution supporting the goal of raising average faculty salaries into the Top 20 among U.Va.’s Association of American University peers.
The board also adopted a resolution commending progress on a new four-year financial plan, and directed the University’s administration to present a refined version of the plan for Board consideration on or before May 21.
Board members gave unanimous support to an initiative that President Teresa A. Sullivan has described as her most urgent priority. The University's current average faculty salary is ranked No. 26 in the AAU.
"Competitive faculty salaries is one key to keeping our best faculty and attracting the next generation of top faculty during a time in which many of our instructors will soon be retiring," said Rector Helen E. Dragas. "The board is committed to maintaining and improving upon our world-class education and research, and sustaining such a commitment through sound financial planning is something we take very seriously."
“This is the time the board affirms its commitment to the excellence of the University,” board member Stephen P. Long said before the resolution vote.
Board member William H. Goodwin Jr. said the University has in prior years been able to achieve a ranking in the Top 20. But that compensation level has slipped in more recent years due to budget constraints.
“The faculty is the engine of this school. If we can’t take care of the faculty, we really do have some issues,” Goodwin said.
The resolution sets a goal of reaching the Top 20 within a four-year period ending in June 2017, with the understanding that it will be addressed in the University’s annual operating budget.
In her preliminary meeting remarks, Sullivan highlighted U.Va.’s national reputation, pointing out its recent ranking by Princeton Review as the nation’s No. 1 “Best Value” public university and stressing that the University already has earned its spot among the great public institutions and now is seeking “to be something unique and greater than any of our peers.”
Reaching the aspirations that will emerge from the ongoing development of a new strategic plan and vision for the future, however, depends upon retaining and attracting the best faculty.
“If we falter or hesitate on this front, no other front will matter, because university excellence does not happen without faculty excellence,” she said. “We need to act decisively, because the stakes are high and getting higher.”
Executive Vice President and Provost John D. Simon said not all schools or departments at U.Va. are outside of the Top 20 in the faculty salary rankings, and not all faculty would receive identical pay increases under the plan being developed. Instead, compensation will be linked to merit, based in part on the results of peer reviews at the individual level.
The second board resolution commends the efforts made to shift the University from a year-to-year budget approach to a long-term plan that accounts for multi-year strategic priorities.
The four-year plan, led by the office of Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Pat Hogan, will be a comprehensive financial operating and capital plan for the Academic Division. It is intended to include incremental cost estimates associated with achieving strategic priorities as well as potential new alternative revenue sources for those efforts.
In other news from Thursday’s meeting:
- The board approved the appointment of third-year student Blake Blaze as its next nonvoting student member. An economics and mathematics major in the College of Arts & Sciences, Blaze also is a member of the University’s football team. He will succeed current student member Hillary A. Hurd.
- Hogan announced the suspension of a search for a new chief financial officer. Hogan said the pool of external candidates did not have the financial experience to complement the skill set of his existing team. He said the University’s current staff of financial experts is capable of taking on greater responsibility at a high level. Hogan said he soon will begin restructuring the COO portfolio and assigning new duties to account for the elimination of the CFO position. “More important than the cost savings, I believe the quality and strength of our financial function will be enhanced with these changes,” Hogan told the board.