June 26, 2017

AAUP Update: Salary Placement Concerns


There have been several good questions asked about the faculty salary analysis referenced in the AAUP email of November 18, and I’d like to elaborate on the research that we have done.  This research is still ongoing, and as is common with research the more we investigate, the greater the number of new questions we have.  We know that we don’t have all of the answers (or even all of the questions) yet, so please accept this as an update and not a final answer.

As you may recall, when we are hired our initial salary is based on two factors.  Each year the administration prepares a schedule of starting salaries.  This schedule is not contractual other than to limit these salaries to within the negotiated range.  Generally speaking, starting salaries range from the negotiated minimum to around the middle of the range.  Where within that range the new faculty members are placed depends on the number of placement points they are awarded based on factors such as credentials and experience, among others.

From this, we have identified at least 3 possible causes of pay inequity:

First, within each year, was the schedule consistently applied?  If one person was hired with more points than another, did the first person have at least as high an initial salary?  In some situations the schedule may put two people with different numbers of points at the same starting salary, but it should never put someone with fewer points at a higher salary.

Second, were the new faculty correctly placed on the schedule?  Did each person receive the appropriate number of points, and did all of the deans consistently apply the rubric in determining how many points to assign?

Finally, were there any anomalies in the year-to-year changes in the salary structure that would cause someone hired one year from currently having a lower salary than someone else hired in a subsequent year with the same or fewer points?

As we have had no say in the construction of the initial placement schedule, questions pertaining to whether points are used to reward those attributes which we believe most important and worthy of higher salaries are not addressed here.

Last year, the AAUP requested of the administration copies of the initial salary placement data for all faculty members.  We were provided with binders containing hard copies of this information earlier this semester.  While some of the data is incomplete, we now know for most faculty when they were hired, how many points they were given, and what their starting salary was.  This allows us to address the 1st and 3rd questions above; the second question, as to whether the number of points given each faculty member was in fact correct, and whether the rubric for determining this quantity was consistently applied from unit to unit, we do not know and probably cannot ascertain.

Based on the data made available to us, adjustments to the scale from year to year do not appear to be more favorable than negotiated salary increases.  So for example, a person hired with 5 points in one year would make more the next year due to the negotiated raise than would someone newly hired with 5 points that year.  Ideally, the person would make slightly more than someone hired the next year with _6_ points, as one additional point would be awarded for a year’s worth of experience, and (hopefully) that year of experience at MC should be rewarded to at least the same extent as a year’s work elsewhere.  In most cases this expectation seems to hold.  Comparing current salaries for people hired in one year, or the next year with 1 additional point, or the following year with 2 additional points, and so on, we see definite groupings of salaries.  These groupings show a trend of higher current salaries for those with longer tenure and/or more experience (or other placement points), as expected.  Within these groupings, however, there are fairly wide ranges of salaries, and we are still working on trying to account for these ranges.  It is also worth noting that several faculty with varying levels of experience are currently at the minimum of the salary scale.  This is a consequence of the recent negotiations which significantly raised this minimum, and thereby lifted people from different salaries to this new higher minimum.

In addition to looking at year-to-year trends, we are also investigating consistency of salary placements relative to the number of points within each year.  In fact, there do seem to be some instances of pairs of people hired in the same year where the faculty member initially placed with fewer points currently has the higher salary.  We are still looking into these situations, and trying to determine whether anyone was placed at an unfairly low initial salary, and if so why, or if someone else may have been placed at an unjustified high salary – and, if so, again why?  Or is there some altogether different explanation?  We’ll continue to research this and keep you posted as we learn more.

Rick Penn
Professor of Mathematics
AAUP Past President
Montgomery College, Rockville


  1. Joe Thompson says:

    I would like the AAUP to look into my particular situation. I believe that I was undervalued when first assessed.

  2. Sumita Kim says:

    Rick and the Executive Committee,

    Since the conversation has been transferred to the AAUP website, I would like to reiterate my follow-up question here.

    Thanks for all the hard work and for this additional information. I am looking forward to hearing more conclusive results on your research as you make progress. However, as you noted, the college seems unwilling, or unable, to share any data that can indeed answer our questions on the equitable assignments of points in the initial salary placement process.

    My question is how can we initiate a review process for the pay disparity matter similar to that of the staff and administrators. I hope the union will support any reasonable effort to establish a more equitable system. This will only contribute to a fairer and more just environment for all.


    Sumita Kim
    Painting Coordinator
    Associate Professor of Art
    Montgomery College-Rockville Campus

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