Among the many educational entities trying to better their salaries during these troubled times, is the College of Fine Arts at the University of Utah a particularly deprived orphan child?
Recent statistics indicate that full professors in fine arts receive about 28 percent less at the U. than their peers in comparable institutions nationwide and fall 19 percent below the U. average.Fine Arts Dean Robert Olpin translated this shortfall into even more stringent specifics. "The average salary for fine arts professors at the U. is $41,300," he said, "while the average for all professors is around $13,300 more, a 25 percent differential! Our fine arts associate professors average about $32,500 - $4,500 short of all associate professors. And fine arts assistant professors, averaging about $25,800, fall short of the all-assistant professors' average by about $8,200!"
He blames the present critical condition of his faculty's salaries not so much on the present administration as on neglect in the past, dictated by a "market mentality" during hard times. Olpin is somewhat encouraged by a considerable increase last year (which still leaves a "huge gap"), and hopes for a bigger share of the university pie next year. But at best, he acknowledges that the fine arts disciplines just don't have the capital (spell that "clout") to attract a greater percentage of the funding.
Of all the university's disciplines, artists are among the most likely to be imposed on salary-wise, because they love their art and are loyal to the community.
"Art, ballet, modern dance, music and theater are more bonded with the Salt Lake community than many other educational pursuits," Olpin noted. "When raises are being passed out, these people have a low priority because they are doing the things they would do whether they were paid or not; hence they are penalized for this devotion."
The U. music department demonstrates how budget cuts affect product. To a budget of near $1 million annually, cuts of $118,000 (11.8 percent) have been phased in over a three-year period. Fatalities include the jazz studies major, classical guitar program and opera program; there are enrollment caps on many courses, and service courses to the rest of the university, such as group voice not strictly for music majors, have been eliminated or severely curtailed.
"Paradoxically, when a big fundraiser is in the works or the administration wants a nice program to make a showing for visiting firemen, they call on us," said department chairman Ed Thompson. "And they think nothing of hiring Bonneville to have music composed for special occasions, while passing over talented composers on our own faculty."
Thompson acknowledged Olpin's strong support, and says now the department is holding its own. "Olpin won't let us receive such shrinkage again," he said. "We can't blame any one administration, but over 20 years, significant increases have gone elsewhere than fine arts.
"My big concern is what it's doing to our faculty. We had three major resignations last year (Madeline Schatz, orchestra; Greg Hanson, band; and David Froom, composer) due to low salaries, which points up our vulnerability to being raided. And we can't even hope to recruit and retain good replacements for what we can pay. The university's philosophy is, when competing in the marketplace, it's easier to keep a music professor than a biology professor."
The situation has worsened markedly in Utah lately, said Thompson. "Four years ago, according to the National Association of Schools of Music, our department was in the 75th percentile in salary for comparable schools of music. But now we have dropped below the fifth percentile."
A table in the U.'s Daily Chronicle for May 30, 1990, comparing faculty salaries for full professors nationwide showed the University of Iowa at $58,000; Arizona, $57,100; North Carolina, $58,200; and Virginia, $63,400. Utah came in at rock bottom - $50,900. Even accepting Olpin's most recent figure of $54,600 (which includes medicine and law), still leaves the U. near the bottom.
A Chronicle report of March 26, 1990, showed that U. full professors average $51,198; associate professors, $36,581; and assistant professors, $35,264. (These include engineering and business colleges, but not law and medicine.)
But Thompson's faculty doesn't come anywhere near that average. Indeed, his highest-paid people don't even make the university average. As for himself, he falls about $20,000 short annually of the average salary for music department heads in 38 flagship state institutions. The same survey showed that fine arts teachers averaged $47,800 for full professors, $37,800 for associate professors and $30,000 for assistant professors.
Thompson left engineering to take up music, which he knew would never pay as well. But it aggravates him to hear someone say, "well, you chose your profession." "I never expected to make a lot of money," he said, "but neither did I expect to be on the bottom of the totem pole.
"Our U. of U. counterparts in art, theater and dance report about the same conditions. While other colleges within the university are clamoring for parity with other institutions, we would like to have parity within the institution; and if we had parity within the institution, we would have parity with other institutions."
Moving down, music department adjunct faculty receive about 33 percent less than other U. adjuncts. Graduate teaching assistants are paid 33-50 percent less than their peers in other departments, and these stipends have not been increased in 10 years. (This translates to $3,000 annually for a music teaching assistant vs. $4,500 in language, and as much a $7,000 in other departments.)
Last spring, Sally Fitt of the modern dance department conducted a survey of fine arts salaries, yielding similar statistical results. But her survey shows that salary is not the only measurement by which the College of Fine Arts falls short. Responding teachers reported very large workloads and heavy service on graduate committees, and 70 percent said they do 90 percent or more of their own clerical work.
Miniscule funds for travel assistance make it impossible for faculty to attend important professional meetings, accept invitations to read papers or assume leadership positions unless they pay their own way, which few can do.
Personal comments revealed reasons for low morale: long years of service with resultant accomplishments unacknowledged locally, though national and even international attention has been paid; lack of time for creative research; and increased enrollment (50 percent in the past 10 years) without added faculty, resulting in gross teacher overload and long hours.
"The year my graduate program was rated No. 1 nationally it was cut," said one professor. "I will probably be moving on once my last grads escape."
Commenting on reallocation cuts that have hit and continue to hit fine arts heavily, Olpin said, "the U.'s fine arts programs are crippled; and somebody else on campus has our money; and our wonderful people in art, ballet, modern dance, music and theater (so loyal, talented and hard-working) are very unhappy about all of the above. Me too."