Faculty Senate debate salary increase for President Caboni

The Faculty Senate met Thursday on Zoom to discuss a variety of topics, including the recent pay increase for President Timothy Caboni.

The main order of business was discussion over the recent salary raise of Caboni. Margaret Crowder, president of WKU’s American Association of University Professors and a geology instructor, read a statement regarding their concerns about the increase.

“WKU’s chapter of the AAUP finds it deeply concerning that such a dramatic increase in compensation for the president is more important than bringing faculty and staff compensation up to benchmark levels or resolving salary compression and gender and racial salary inequities,” Crowder said from the statement. 

The statement read the increase widens the already-present gap between that of high-level administration and faculty and staff. The faculty salaries combined at WKU rank at approximately 88% of the median salary based on data from benchmark institutions. Caboni’s new salary ranks at 100% for presidential salaries.

Crowder also read from the statement that the last raise given to faculty and staff was in January 2019. It was a 2% cost-of-living raise with an additional 2% that went into a pool for merit pay. 

“The increase in President Caboni’s salary during the current COVID-19 crisis comes in the wake of a resolution by the Board of Regents in their December 2020 meeting recognizing that ‘Faculty and Staff, acting in the best interest of students, made personal and professional sacrifices to ensure the continuity of the WKU experience’ and that the ‘Faculty and Staff continue to exemplify the WKU spirit by exhibiting leadership, guidance, compassion, and flexibility in keeping the education and welfare of the students as their top priority,’” Crowder said. 

The statement from the AAUP asked for faculty and staff salaries be brought up to benchmark levels as well as rectify any pay disparities. They also requested the salaries of administrators be anchored to a percentage of that for faculty and staff. Finally, the statement called for transparency in budget decision making pertaining to salaries. 

The Faculty Senate voted to endorse the statement, and it passed with 43 yes votes, three no votes and five abstains.

Following the vote, Faculty Regent Shane Spiller shared his experience with the Board of Regents and the Executive Committee regarding the president’s salary decision. He discussed his reasoning for voting in favor of Caboni’s contract which included the salary increase.  

“I went into the meeting planning to vote against the contract,” Spiller said. “And I don’t think I was alone in that, and that was not necessarily because I didn’t think ‘Gosh, Caboni probably didn’t deserve an extension’ or any particular things. I just did not like various parts of the structure of this contract and I spoke out against that.” 

He said after hearing the comments from the Board of Regents members and seeing their satisfaction with the president’s performance, he decided to vote for the contract. Spiller said retention is up, the university’s financial situation is dramatically better, and enrollment of this past freshman class is the best it’s ever been. 

Spiller recognized the concerns of the faculty, acknowledged it has been a while since faculty received raises and said there has been an overload of work put on faculty due to position cuts and removals. He said he will continue to represent the faculty on the Board of Regents and make employee raises a major concern.

Other senators were not pleased with the decision. Mac McKerral, a journalism professor, was concerned with the lack of transparency in the Caboni’s contract development.

“A big part of the problem here, and it’s a big part of the problem with this administration, is communication,” McKerral said. 

He also said that for issues like retention, faculty are told they are the ones responsible, as well as consultants who advise recruiting and retaining students.

Katrina Burch, a psychological sciences professor, said she was frustrated with Caboni receiving a pay raise while the faculty experienced pay compression but is not surprised. 

“He is charged with the strategic direction and thinking of the institution […] and he has met certain performance metrics,” Burch said. “That doesn’t mean I don’t believe that faculty shouldn’t get raises, I do.” 

After the pay raise debate, the senate heard from Isaac Keller, administrative vice president of the Student Government Association. He updated them on the status of SGA scholarships and a new campaign surrounding sexual assault on campus.

He also asked the senate to endorse a resolution from the Naming and Symbols Task Force proposing to change the names of any building or college with ties to racism. The faculty voted in favor to endorse the resolution. 

Deborah Wilkins, title IX coordinator, gave a presentation and answered questions on the WKU Sexual Assault Response. She described the process on how a sexual assault gets reported as well as what the response team does to help victims. 

Senators discussed the possibility of making a sexual assault training mandatory for students. Wilkins revealed the team is planning mandatory trainings for Greek life next fall. 

Committees also gave their reports. Patricia Todd, chair of the Colonnade and General Education committee and a marketing professor, proposed a new course, PJ 101- Influence of the Photograph, be added to the Exploration section of Colonnade requirements. The proposal was passed. 

Laura DeLancey, chair of the Faculty Handbook Committee and libraries professor, brought forth the issue of clarity in regards to the Faculty Handbook. She said there were cases in the handbook where policies were duplicated from one section to another and certain words altered meanings.

She proposed deleting the duplication and instead adding referrals to the original policies. These revisions were made for section IV.B.4 Extension of the Probationary Period, IX.F Adjunct Professor, IX.I Faculty Emeritus and X.A Faculty Awards.

John Sunnygard, associate provost for Global Learning and International Affairs, asked the senate to approve a new travel policy for WKU, as well as student ability to appeal to travel to restricted locations. The proposals passed. 

Enough senators had prematurely left by the end of the meeting that they failed to meet quorum to vote on new business, meaning they couldn’t vote on a senator resolution regarding the president’s salary. The resolution was tabled until the next meeting in April. 

Ellie Tolbert can be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @eleanortolbert4.