The current freeze on faculty salaries is on track to thaw next year as planned. According to Dean of Academic Affairs Cristle Collins Judd, there has been no discussion of extending the freeze into the 2011-2012 academic year.
"Our anticipation was that it was a two-year salary freeze and that after that we would move out and that is where we are," said Judd.
The freeze on faculty salaries was first publicly announced in a January 22, 2009 message from President Barry Mills. The letter outlined the terms of the freeze among other measures to cope with the endowment's 17 percent loss.
It is unclear exactly how much faculty salaries will increase next year. According to Judd, Mills and the senior officers are just beginning to discuss the budget, which will be finalized in the spring.
In the past, increases in faculty salaries have been determined by means of the 4,5,6 policy. Under this policy, annual increases in faculty salaries at Bowdoin rise in accordance with a three-year lagging average of the peer schools ranked fourth, fifth and sixth in a comparison group of 17 colleges and universities.
When the freeze lifts, the 4,5,6 policy will be gradually, rather than immediately, reintroduced. According to Judd, the policy's grounding in the average faculty salaries of peer schools makes it impractical in the wake of the financial crisis because Bowdoin's peers have also instated salary freezes and other cost-cutting plans.
"Were we to actually just put the 4,5,6 policy directly back in and to put in numbers that were zero or negative, that would actually have the following effect of a salary freeze down the road, which obviously is not what we want to see happening," said Judd.
The 4,5,6 policy was not designed to account for the effects of a financial crisis.
"In some ways, just like home mortgages, it was a process that never assumed that there would be flat salaries or that there would be declines in salaries overall," said Judd.
According to Judd, the process of determining next year's increases will involve "looking at how we make sure that our compensation for our faculty is fair and keeps us in the position that we see ourselves in relation to our peer schools," said Judd.
"Last year's data suggested that even with the faculty [salary] freeze that we hadn't lost ground," she added.
In the 2009-2010 academic year, full professors were paid $127,800, associate professors received $89,300 and assistant professors earned $69,800, on average. The mean faculty salaries at Bowdoin and other institutions are annually compiled by the American Association of University Professors and are available on the Chronicle of Higher Education's website.
Wesleyan, Middlebury and Swarthmore are among the schools whose average faculty salaries were used to generate Bowdoin's figures the last time the 4,5,6 policy was used.
In the 2009-2010 academic year, full professors at Wesleyan earned an average of $129,400, full professors at Middlebury received $123,000 and full professors at Swarthmore were paid $127,200.
In early 2009, the presidents of peer schools released statements outlining their plans to cope with the financial crisis. Middlebury announced a 10 percent cut of its staff and the closure of a dining hall. Dartmouth expected to lay off 60 staff members. Amherst planned on cutting the dining service budget 10 to 15 percent and admitting 100 more students over four years. Wesleyan planned to accept 120 extra students and Williams instituted a freeze on staff and faculty salaries.
At Bowdoin, staff member salaries exceeding $40,000 a year were frozen. In the 2008-2009 academic year—the year before the freeze and the last for which there is available data—Mills earned a total compensation package of $470,111.
"Institutions have taken a variety of approaches," said Judd. "Some institutions did not take as long a view on salary freezes as we did, but they decreased the size of their staff or they froze hires for new faculty or they left other positions empty."
Representatives at Bates and Colby were unavailable for comment.
"While salary freezes are challenging individually, what Bowdoin didn't face was a challenge to the quality of the working environment and a challenge to the quality of the academic program," Judd said.
Judd stressed the importance of collective sacrifice as did Mills' 2009 letter, which stated that in the Blue Tarp Committee's discussions "a principle emerged that I believe is vitally important—that the changes we implement be shared among all members of our community."
Beyond predictable faculty displeasure with the freeze, professors of various levels expressed that they understood the reasons for the policy and supported it.
"No one likes a salary freeze—that's for sure—but, on the other hand, you have to ask, 'what's your alternative?'" said Assistant Professor of Economics Yao Tang. "I think it's actually quite reasonable because...we see that the College is trying not to fire permanent employees."
Professor of Mathematics William Barker, who chairs the department, called the salary freeze "extremely appropriate" and "the right thing to do."
"Nobody likes it, but the major thing was it prevented anyone from having to be let go," Barker said.
"I think that the sense in which Bowdoin was able to make some very strategic choices—not easy choices—but choices that didn't have the kind of panicked or draconian feel that some other institutions encountered, contributed to people's sense that this was a shared decision that people supported for what it meant collectively," said Judd.
"I think it's a difficult but understandable measure," wrote Assistant Professor of Economics Julian Diaz in an e-mail to the Orient. "It is in line with the kind of policies we teach in class: During recessions salaries go down, and budgets have to be trimmed. But it is undeniably painful, I don't like to have my salary frozen, but I understand why it had to happen."
Some faculty members commented on the indiscriminate nature of the freeze.
"By making a blanket rule, it ties administrators' hands to not be able to respond to individual circumstances," wrote Professor of Economics Rachel Connelly, who is the department chair, in an e-mail to the Orient.
"Perhaps a zero increase in the overall faculty pool, but administrator discretion to give raises for extraordinary achievement would have been a better policy, but I can understand that with so little new money to go around administrators prefer the ease of a freeze," she wrote. "Then for any individual, it is not the administration's decision that you didn't get a raise."
"At the same moment, faculty as a whole can both call for an end to this freeze and can collectively understand that Bowdoin has weathered this storm better than many other schools," wrote Connelly.
Judd emphasized that while salaries were frozen, many of the other elements of faculty compensation have continued to increase.
"It's always important to remember that salary is only one part of that compensation and we look holistically at faculty compensation policy," said Judd. "Unlike other institutions, one of the things we didn't do was impact benefits in any negative way."
According to Judd, "The College's retirement program stayed as generous as it has always been; the College has a very generous health benefits package; the tuition for dependent children increased at the rate that it had increased in the past...[and] support for faculty research and travel was actually enhanced during this period because of things that had come in through the Capital Campaign."
"In the areas of support for research and teaching, we made important steps forward that we had planned to make and we didn't step back on those," she added, noting the development of an enhanced sabbatical policy.
Throughout the freeze, hiring continued, as did raises for promotions. Judd and other members of the faculty noted that the academic environment of the College was not deeply affected by the institution of the freeze.
"I've appreciated that the College has been able to limit the impact that it's had on programs, hiring, basically just what everyday life is like at the College," said Assistant Professor of History Rachel Sturman.
"Faculty teaching loads stayed the same. Class sizes stayed the same," said Judd. "There were a number of ways where one could have impacted the academic program in ways that the College would have thought were negative and would have impacted faculty load."