Salary freeze has higher-ed stars chilly toward Oregon college jobs
The College of Education at the University of Oregon is one of the school's crown jewels — faculty members win awards, their achievements are trumpeted from Eugene to the...
The Associated Press
PORTLAND — The College of Education at the University of Oregon is one of the school's crown jewels — faculty members win awards, their achievements are trumpeted from Eugene to the White House and back, and its students are hot commodities in the job market.
So why, then, has it been so tough for the department to hire a new professor or two for its educational leadership program?
True, it's a specialized field, and the successful candidate has to boast a long list of qualifications. But in the fiercely competitive world of academia, landing such a plum job is a real coup.
Educational Leadership Professor Gerald Tindal, who is leading two current faculty search committees, said the school is scouting candidates from other major institutions.
But it's not always an easy sell, Tindal said: Competing schools can offer salaries that are almost twice what professors can make at Oregon.
Tindal is far from the only person at an Oregon university who has had trouble filling open faculty positions in the past few years, as the state's budget woes have deepened and salaries for public employees — including professors — have been frozen.
It's a delicate topic because administrators are skittish about making those who were eventually hired feel as though they were second fiddle. But there is widespread consensus that in the past few years, a growing number of faculty searches have come up short.
And the situation hasn't been helped by higher-than-usual numbers of faculty members retiring because of changes to the public-employees retirement system, or by those lured away to financially greener pastures.
In the 2003-2004 school year, the University of Oregon had 13 "failed" faculty searches — meaning it was unable to fill the jobs despite extensive searches, said Provost Lorraine Davis.
The norm is usually only about five such searches per year, she said.
"It is not as if we came up empty-handed, because we certainly have added some wonderful faculty," Davis said. "We have just come up short oftener than I remember."
Two of those stalled searches, she said, were for highly paid, endowed chairs, typically among the most sought-after positions.
The school also had a higher-than-usual number of so-called "diminished searches" in which jobs were offered to candidates who, while excellent, were not the top choices. Nine of 48 searches last year at the University of Oregon fell into that category, Davis said.
It's not news that Oregon universities have had to offer faculty recruits lower salaries than those doled out at competitor schools.
According to the Boulder, Colo.-based Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education, which analyzes university data from across the West, salaries paid to full professors in Oregon are consistently among the lowest in the region.
In his 2005-2007 budget proposal, Gov. Ted Kulongoski did propose setting aside $1 million to help lure star faculty to the state and to retain others who might be thinking about leaving.
Besides salary concerns, Davis and others said they are running into more questions from candidates about the state's future investment in higher education.
"They ask, what is the future of education and of being a professor in the state of Oregon," Davis said.
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