Given widespread protests against rising tuition and the impending doubling of student loan interest rates, one might expect to see students picketing on a college campus. But at Fairfield University (Conn.) in May, the shoe was on the other foot, as nearly 100 faculty and students picketed outside President Jeffrey P. von Arx’s annual address to faculty.
The reason? The Fairfield U administration, faced with budget woes and shrinking enrollment, wants to end a long-standing practice of paying professors as well as, or better than, peers in comparable institutions.
Faculty salaries at Fairfield have been set at a level higher than 95 percent of faculty at similar comprehensive masters-granting universities. That salary rate has been cited as a major enticement for recruiting the best faculty.
At the heart of the protest is a claim that the school has reneged on a promise. Three years ago, faculty agreed to assume a greater portion of their health insurance costs in return for a continuation of the way salaries were set.
But, after dealing a $5 million budget shortfall earlier this year, von Arx said, "Tying compensation to an external standard was no longer financially sustainable."
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