The small raise that faculty members at the University of Utah would get under Gov. Norman Bangerter's proposed budget for 1989 may be too little, too late - way too late.
A poll taken in May and released this week by the University shows one-third of the faculty members who answered the survey - and 52 percent of them responded - are actively looking for jobs elsewhere. It also shows morale is low and sinking.It's easy to believe that faculty members at other institutions of higher education around this state feel pretty much the same way.
After three years with no pay raise, the governor is proposing to give the faculty a 3 percent salary boost. But it's not a true 3 percent; the proposal also calls for a cut in the state's share of their benefits package. If they wish to keep their benefits at the current level, part of that 3 percent is already eaten up. Combine that with a projected 4.5 percent inflation level, and the faculty once again sees a decline in their paychecks in real terms.
There's no reason to doubt the accuracy of the survey; a 52 percent response level is considered a significant response and valid by pollsters. Indeed, with no pay increase for three years, many competent faculty members have already left the university. Those responding cannot be dismissed as a small group of malcontents.
Instead, they are more likely the loyal ones who stubbornly hung on, hoping things would get better but now see otherwise. Taken last year or the year before, the survey could have shown an even higher percentage seeking to leave.
Asked why they remain at the university, the largest percentage cited geographical amenities first, followed by faculty colleagues, and research interests.
None of the three factors can be considered solid anchors and, indeed, all appear in jeopardy. Geographical amenities such as skiing and travelling around the state for camping and hiking become less attractive as their costs increase.
If a third of the faculty is trying to leave the university, the nurturing effect of faculty colleagues certainly doesn't seem a solid reason. And faculty turnover and low funding can quickly cut off the flow of federal and other funding for research projects.
The survey shows discontent and low morale among the University of Utah faculty. It's fair to assume teachers and professors at the state's other colleges share their feelings.
The morale problems exposed by the new survey put Utah's higher education system in a precarious position. In a state that ranks education of its young people as a high priority, we can't afford to let our colleges and universities decline.
Staunching the outflow of university and college educators now, with a better salary program, would be cheaper, more effective, and less painful than losing a talented group of educators and in a few years having to rebuild the system.