CEDAR FALLS — After two years of collaboration between the University of Northern Iowa faculty union and the UNI administration, a major agreement has been reached to rectify faculty salary inequities.
The agreement will result in an increase of $155,064 in salaries to 51 faculty members of the union’s bargaining unit. Out of 51 faculty salary adjustments, 36 (70 percent) are for women. Among the 15 men, four are racial/ethnic minorities. A total of 78 percent of the adjustments correct inequities in the salaries of women or minority faculty.
An additional $13,428 was recommended for distribution across the annual salaries of four faculty department heads.
“Outside of contract negotiations, this is the most important labor-management agreement in the history of UNI,” said Joe Gorton, president of United Faculty, the bargaining agent for UNI professors.
United Faculty and UNI administrators convened a salary equity committee in the fall of 2014 to assess possible salary inequities.
Gorton said the need for the committee arose from “concerns brought to their attention.”
“When we heard of the issues, we were concerned the disparities could be gender-based,” Gorton said. “As in there could be legal claims, vis-à-vis a lawsuit.”
According to a statement, the committee “conducted a regression analysis to identify faculty who may not be paid equitably based upon such factors as years of service, rank, years at rank, discipline, gender and service as department head.”
Carissa Froyum, professor of sociology, and associate provost Nancy Cobb spearheaded the analysis.
Froyum said the analysis initially flagged 86 professors. Based on statistical methods, the committee was able to determine 51 faculty members were not being paid like the majority of their counterparts in similar positions with similar qualifications.
Froyum, who’s written extensively on social inequality, said the salary inequities most likely began in starting salary negotiations between new faculty hires and department heads offering the position.
Gorton said subsequent percentage-based raises would have exacerbated the problem.
“If people aren’t familiar with markets and how salaries are comparing currently … they can act inconsistently with offering initial salaries,” Froyum said.
She said individuals using their discretion — perhaps seeing qualifications on two similar resumes differently, or a lack of departmental knowledge on what was offered to candidates in the past — is the likely root of the inequities.
Froyum said UNI’s merit system — the ability of departments to award salary increases based on perceived performance — could also have contributed to the disparities.
Asked why the inequities affected women and minorities most, Froyum wouldn’t call it deliberate discrimination.
“People bring assumptions about groups of people to the table, certainly,” Froyum said. “And their perspectives are shaped by what they see.”
She said everyone has internalized biases, and the byproduct in this case disproportionately affected women and minority faculty members.
Gorton said the agreement is a result of “years of trust-building between faculty and the administration” since the closing of Price Lab school.
He added the settlement cost would have been far greater if the two parties had gone to court.
Asked whether the payout could be tied to 3.7 percent tuition increase for UNI students for this fall, Gorton said he couldn’t say, but indicated the settlement “wasn’t part of regular salary negotiations.”
In its July meeting, the Board of Regents said a tuition increase, generating an additional $5.6 million for UNI, would “assist the universities in … meeting mandated salary, and directing these revenues to support teaching and student needs.”
In a separate press release, Interim UNI President Wohlpart stated, “Faculty care deeply for our students and for the university and local community and are at the heart of our institution. We are deeply appreciative of the collaboration with United Faculty to investigate and resolve an important issue.”