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UNC Continues The Fight For Faculty Retention

By Rachel Nash Posted September 1, 2013 at 11:03 am

CHAPEL HILL – UNC has struggled to keep its top faculty members in the years since the 2008 economic downturn. Provost Jim Dean said it is a preeminent issue that isn’t getting better.

“In some of those schools, they are coming very aggressively after our faculty, and it is a battle to retain especially the strongest faculty,” Dean said.

In the 2009-10 school year, Carolina lost 29 faculty members whom it had tried to keep by making counter offers. In 2010-2011, it lost 46, and then in 2011-2012, 35 faculty members accepted outside offers and10 left after rejecting counter offers, according to UNC’s website.

Dean, who took over as UNC’s provost on July 1, replacing Bruce Carney, said that due to constant state budget cuts in the past several years, faculty salaries have remained relatively stagnate.  Last year, all university employees had a 1.2 percent salary increase, marking their first raise since the 2008-09 fiscal year.

“Faculty has had virtually no raises, or staff either for that matter, over the last five years,” Dean said. “And especially with people who are top performers, it becomes increasingly difficult to be able to retain them.”

Dean said it often costs the University more to money to replace faculty than it would to keep them. He said it’s not a matter of the Carolina not trying, but other universities simply outbid them by offering higher salaries.

And when top faculty members leave, Dean explained, they take millions of dollars in research grants with them.

“I can just say that in the last couple of months, we’ve lost faculty to other universities around the country,” Dean said. “The people who are leaving are generally great teachers. They are people who are bringing a lot of money into the universities through grant funding from the National Institute of Health or other places.”

Dean said other states have taken different avenues in funding public universities, and as a result, have been able to secure more money for faculty salaries.

In the 2011-12 school year, 32 percent of the raids on UNC’s faculty were from public universities belonging to the Association of American Universities, as reported by the University Gazette.

“The public universities have become better funded and are in a position to go out and try to hire faculty and we seem to be the target for a lot of those. It is a challenging time for us right now,” Dean said.

Twenty-three percent of faculty raids were from AAU private universities, including Vanderbilt and Duke.

“We were flattened on our back, but so was everybody else. Now private universities have mostly responded,” Dean said. “Their problems were mostly around their endowment performance. Obviously that has turned around much better now than it was a couple of years ago. The privates have come back very strongly.”

In the past three years, though, the retention success rate has improved somewhat steadily due to preemptive actions taken by UNC.

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