Q: If a staff member gets a raise and isn’t eligible for food stamps anymore, would it be a net loss for them?

A: If the raises were very small, that might happen – but not under this proposal. Employees with families smaller than 3 are already above the cutoff. For larger families, the raises far outweigh any loss in SNAP benefits. For instance, a family of four with an SMCM employee as sole wage earner earning less than $30,624 would be eligible for SNAP benefits of under $600/year. Under this proposal all such employees would receive raises of at least $2500/year.

Q: What would happen to salaries of administrators & faculty who fall above the caps?

A: The small number of people who fall into this category would either see their pay go down or have their current salaries “grandfathered in.” In the latter case, their pay would remain at its current level until inflation drove the benchmark high enough so that their salaries fell under the cap.

Q: Would this replace the current salary policies?

A:  This policy would be in addition to current policies, and would serve as a check on those policies. The caps and floors would only be in effect if external benchmarks suggested wages outside the bounds set by the St. Mary’s Wages policy.

Q: Why not just let the market determine salaries?

A: Looking at executive salaries for the last decade (during which we’ve benchmarked salaries for faculty & administrators to our peer group), it’s clear that the market is the problem not the solution! That said, under this proposal, the market will still determine most employees’ salaries. In two cases, however, the market fails us: the lowest paid and the highest paid. The market would suggest we should pay the former group even less than they earn today and the latter group even more. The poorest on federal assistance while the richest take home even more? That’s not the St. Mary’s Way.

Q: How were the benchmark & multipliers chosen?

A: The benchmark, 130% of federal poverty for a family of four, was first supported by the Faculty and SGA in 2002. Capping presidential pay at a ratio of 10:1 was part of the 2012 Living Rage push. The minimum pay levels for Assistant Professors were set partially in response to the Cost of Living report of 2012, which exposed how attracting new faculty is hampered by the comparatively low buying-power of our Assistant and Associate Professors’ salaries. The remaining levels (both minima and maxima) were set to have only a marginal impact on salaries. The number of people affected by these limits is small: Full Professors (3 get raises, 3 pay cuts), Assistant and Associate VPs (0 and 0), and VPs (0 and 3 – with cuts between 1% and 2.5%).

Q: How would this policy affect Union negotiations?

A: Salaries for unionized staff are negotiated between the Union and the College. This policy is not intended to change that arrangement in any way. The Union has expressed support for establishing a Living Wage in general. Union leadership have participated in vetting the St. Mary’s Wages proposal.

Q: What about faculty librarians? 

A: Our initial cost estimate only considered faculty with Assistant/Associate/Full Professors titles. We could imagine including Faculty Librarians with Assistant/Associate/Full Professors or coming up with a separate set of benchmarks. The small number of librarians means that any such inclusion wouldn’t significantly affect the proposal’s cost.

Q: What figures are you using to calculate inflation? There are many different ones (CPI, chained CPI, core CPI).

A: We used the standard Consumer Price Index (CPI), which powers the Bureau of Labor Statistics inflation calculator.

Q: If we cut pay for administrators, how would we keep administrators around?

A: We deserve administrators who believe in our mission, and who want to  help move toward fulfilling it. Part of that is tied up in their own compensation package – which is and will continue to be very generous. Furthermore, the caps of $209k for VPs and nearly $300k for the president are still well within the norm among public schools. For instance, the chancellor of UMass – Boston had a salary of just $210k (see the Chronicle’s annual Presidential Pay study for a complete listing.) It’s largely (though not exclusively) private institutions where executive pay is skyrocketing so quickly.

While there is some risk of higher turnover by instituting a cap, we should note that paying market wages is no guarantee of getting excellent (or even competent) executives. Finally, we always have the option of growing our own administrators internally. This was the norm in higher education for many years; a professor who understood the institution and wanted to be administrators rose through the ranks and eventually took over as president.

2 thoughts on “FAQ

  1. I’m fully behind the proposal, but I’m wondering how the policy could be extended to part-time workers on campus. Can we also peg their hourly pay to some multiple of the federal poverty line and/or have it adjust for inflation every year? What would that cost?

    1. That’s an interesting idea. When we did our analysis, it was already complicated enough so we didn’t take part-time instructors into account. Also, we don’t have enough information on how many adjuncts we hire to cost-out a proposal to, say, raise the minimum adjunct pay from $3500/class to $4000. Of course, if you are also thinking about raising pay for student workers, that becomes significantly more expensive; again, we don’t have the information needed to estimate those costs.

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