Letter to Chancellor on Bypassing Faculty Search for Provost

May 18, 2021 

Dear Chancellor Everts, Members of the Board of Trustees, and the citizens of North Carolina:

We write this letter to express four concerns about the process through which Dr. Heather Norris was appointed Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor of Appalachian State University. 

1. Lack of Transparency and Public Accountability:

This decision is contrary to the February 10, 2020 email from Chancellor Everts announcing Dr. Norris’ interim appointment which says: “a national search for Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor will be established in Fall 2020.” This commitment was repeatedly expressed publicly, including to the newspapers the Watauga Democrat and the Appalachian.

Despite these public pronouncements, and even though the University conducted multiple national searches for both faculty and administrators last year, there was no search. Indeed, no explanation for the subsequent decision not to conduct a national (or even a campus) search has been provided.

2. Neglect of Broadly Accepted National Standards for Hiring Senior University Administrators, Including Basic Standards Set Out by the AAUP:

The appointment of the Provost directly contradicts the AAUP’s 1966 “Statement on Government of Colleges and Universities” which states: “The selection of academic deans and other chief academic officers should be the responsibility of the president with the advice of, and in consultation with, the appropriate faculty.” Further, the 1974 (revised in 1981) statement on “Faculty Participation in the Selection, Evaluation, and Retention of Administrators” emphasizes the necessity of faculty participation in the selection of academic administrators whose “duties [are] more directly dependent on faculty support.” Specifically, this statement says that for the selection of such positions—of which the position of Provost is clearly an instance—“the composition of the search committee should reflect the primacy of the faculty interest” and the “faculty component of the committee should be chosen by the faculty of the unit or by a representative body of the faculty.” Further, this disregard of AAUP standards for shared governance comes at a time when those principles were just reaffirmed by a special Faculty Senate Ad Hoc Committee on Shared Governance on which Dr. Norris and the Chair of the Board of Trustees served. 

3. Failure to Uphold Appalachian’s Stated Commitment to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion:

The appointment of Dr. Norris as Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor has bypassed the university’s stated commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion in recruiting, hiring, promotion, and retention efforts.  Faculty searches follow a multi-step recruiting and hiring protocol that is designed to ensure a broad and diverse pool of applicants and therefore hire the best possible people for the available positions.  Not proceeding with a search process that would have given a diverse range of candidates an opportunity to apply and show what skills they could bring to the Provost position contradicts the administration’s stated diversity, equity, and inclusion goals.  

4. Absence of a Formal Search Substantially Impedes Dr. Norris’s Ability to Succeed as Provost:

Formal searches for senior administrators typically include public presentations by candidates in which they outline their vision for the institution and their priorities for the position.  Attendees may ask questions of candidates.The lack of a formal search has denied Dr. Norris this opportunity. While her work as Interim Provost during the past year  provided a limited number of faculty and staff some opportunity to gauge her abilities as a senior administrator, her vision and priorities remain almost completely unknown to a majority of the faculty, staff, and students of Appalachian.  This basic lack of knowledge about Dr. Norris poses a significant barrier to her effectiveness and success as Provost. 

Because the absence of a formal search process robbed the faculty, and Dr. Norris herself, of the opportunity to discuss her strategic vision and other important matters that will impact our academic mission, the Appalachian State chapter of the AAUP will organize an open forum shortly after Fall 2021 classes begin, at which Dr. Norris will be invited to present her views of the Provost position, and her vision and priorities, with a question and answer session following her presentation. Needless to say, were you to organize such an event, our forum would most likely not be necessary. Given the importance of these issues to the faculty, the campus, and the public, we look forward to your response to the chapter’s concerns.


Appalachian Chapter of the American Association of University Professors

Approved by Chapter Membership May 18, 2021 

Is Chancellor Everts Walking Back Commitment to Faculty Raises?

Faculty deserve a concrete plan for the salary increases already committed to. Maybe we will get one on Feb 14 at 2pm Grandfather Ballroom.

The Happy Hour Memo from Chancellor Everts on Faculty Salaries –  Friday, Feb 7 at 5pm – does not contain a concrete plan or commitment.  Perhaps you were drinking when you read it, or missed it altogether.  Here it is, with annotations:

Since my arrival on Appalachian’s campus in 2014, I have remained steadfast in my commitment to improve working conditions for all Appalachian employees. This includes investing in our physical infrastructure to support our faculty, staff and students. It also includes improving the compensation structure for our most valuable resource: our people.

Faculty perform the core mission of the university and it is the faculty specifically who have suffered dramatic salary decline.  It was the faculty salaries specifically that the administration committed to raise by an average of 4.99% starting July 1, 2019.  The Chancellor has invested heavily in athletics infrastructure.  The badly needed renovations to Sanford Hall, where our first year students take their required composition courses, are on hold.  Other academic buildings routinely flood or leak water from the ceilings.  And yet the football stadium end zone project goes over budget by $5million and the administration immediately seeks approval to spend an additional $5million. 

As I advocate for Appalachian at the state level, I consistently emphasize these two key areas.

This is hard to believe in light of what the Chancellor told the Board of Trustees at the Nov 2019 meeting. The first 7 substantive paragraphs of that report to the BOT had to do with successes in athletics and the activities at football games.  There were but two paragraphs each on faculty and on staff, and there was absolutely no emphasis on the need to increase our compensation to stay competitive.

Authorization, compliance and reporting measures for different sources of funds add additional layers of complexity to an already complex system.

The administration knew not to expect more than a small percent increase to the budget from the state this year, and had already committed to a 4.99% faculty salary increase from a reallocation of existing funds.  It’s not that complex. It’s time to honor the commitment.  

Remaining competitive in the current higher education market is critical to Appalachian’s success, and competitive compensation is one key to recruiting and retaining the talented faculty and staff who create the premier undergraduate experience for which Appalachian is often lauded.

And yet the administration has for the past five years starved the faculty, adding one administrator after another, paying them handsome salaries well above market rates.  The Chancellor just doubled the salary of the Athletics Director – who now earns nearly $500,000 with added bonuses and raises built in. Evidently it’s more important that Appalachian remains competitive in Athletics than competitive in Academics.  Actions speak louder than words.  

The ideal scenario for salary increases is legislative funding and authority to provide a merit-based annual raise process this year. It remains my priority to continue advocating for this option using every available avenue.

Of course, the IDEAL scenario is legislative funding.  But the fact remains that the institution can use the money it has to pursue its central mission and pay its core actors, the faculty.  If times are tight, it’s even more crucial to spend wisely and prioritize the central mission of the institution.  But then maybe the university’s mission is just a bunch of words.

However, in the event that we ultimately do not get an approved budget and authority to conduct an annual raise process, we will explore options within our existing campus authority. For example, at my direction, Vice Chancellor Paul Forte and Human Resources Director Mark Bachmeier have been working with Academic Affairs to identify how resources can best be applied toward labor market adjustments for faculty and staff.

We will explore options only if we do not get an approved budget in April??  And yet, our sister institution, NC State, did not wait. NC State found internal money for faculty salary increases and released the funds in Jan. 2020.  We ought to know if Appalachian’s hands are tied or not, and how and why.   

At this point, we feel the best path forward is to wait for the legislature to reconvene, and make a decision that will have the broadest possible impact for the most employees, but we are prepared to act within our existing authority.

In other words, the Chancellor does not want to proffer the raises now.  She prefers to wait.  She does not mention her commitment to giving the 4.99% raise pool for faculty salary increases.  In fact, faculty specifically are not even mentioned.  The 4.99% is not mentioned.  Raises being retroactive to July 1, 2019 not mentioned.  The administration already committed to a 4.99% faculty salary merit increase to be retroactive to July 1, 2019.  The 4.99% faculty raise pool would cost about $5million.  The administration has already committed an EXTRA $5million to cover cost overruns for the football stadium renovations.  Just look at where the money and efforts go.  Actions speak louder than words.

It is important we control what we can as we continue advocating for a sustainable source of funds and the authority to move forward, unified in our shared goal to achieve a compensation structure that matches the talent of our employees.

Sheri Everts, Chancellor

Actions speak louder than words.  It is not clear that solving the faculty salary crisis is a goal our Chancellor shares with the faculty.

The faculty showed up demanding recognition last Feb. It’s time again to do the same on FEB 14, 2020 2pm Grandfather Ballroom.

Administrative Bloat is Worse than the James G. Martin Center Realizes

According to a May, 2019 report by the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal, the right-leaning nonprofit institute with a mission of improving higher education in our state, more and more of North Carolinians’ tax dollars are going to pay administrators on the UNC System campuses, not faculty.  Appalachian State is one of the campuses examined in the Center’s report, along with NC State, UNC-C, ECU, and Chapel Hill.  As the report shows, when we talk about high earning employees on campus, we’re not talking about professors.  Only one of the ten people earning over $200,000 at Appalachian is a professor:

Screen Shot 2020-02-02 at 8.26.33 AM
Martin Center staff writer Anthony Hennen points out in their report that “. . . the occasional media characterization of professors as highly paid with strong job security isn’t necessarily an accurate picture of who gets the biggest paycheck on campus. Instead, it’s the university workers outside the classroom who draw them.”  However, there’s something even worse going on at Appalachian State that escaped the report’s notice.

It’s not just the increase in the number of administrators or their high salaries compared to the faculty.  It’s that our top administrators are in many instances paying administrators well above market rates while paying the faculty on the same campus below market rate.   And the UNC Board of Governors approves this.  All the while, the administration tells the faculty that there is just no money to keep our salaries at market rate and that we’ll need to increase enrollment, change the funding model, and get more money from the state in order to pay the faculty adequately (that is, in line with peer institutions).  As Hennen states, “administrators decide where budget cuts are made and can protect the budget for administrative staff at the expense of faculty positions.”  And of course, if the faculty are not paid competitive salaries, the status of our institution sinks.

For over a year now, the faculty at Appalachian has been communicating with the administration about the faculty salary crisis.  It was prompted by the shock that, despite terrible decline in faculty compensation, and despite the UNC Board of Governors sending a memorandum on August 6, 2018 giving all campuses the discretion to award us merit raises of up to 4.99% of current base salary for the 2018-19 year, Appalachian’s administration gave us zero.  Sadly, the Board of Governors seemed fine with this decision, oblivious to how low faculty salaries at this institution have gotten, especially when compared to administrator and EHRA non-faculty staff salaries.  They even gave the Chancellor a raise.

Faculty members attended multiple meetings and forums in 2019 to share their distress and their ideas for how to turn this situation around.  By the end of last semester, after multiple claims that “we can’t move money” and other excuses for inaction, the faculty finally got a promise of a 4.99% merit raise pool for the 2019-20 year, even if the state did not increase its allocation.  While this raise would not even make up for cost of living increases during the period over which the faculty suffered salary decline, it was a step in the right direction.

And yet, thus far, no raise process has been initiated.  Faculty morale continues to drop.  This is especially the case when we read about the new football coach’s salary, the Athletic Director’s enormous raise to a base salary of $450,000 as of Jan., 2020, which includes a guaranteed 4.5% increase annually, the $2.5million that the University will spend to regrade Miller Hill, a grassy hill upon which football fans sit to watch the games (regrading the hill will enhance the fan and athlete experience and make the stadium sound louder, according to the Athletic Director), and the extra $5million that the University got approved to spend on the football stadium end zone project (this is an extra $5million because they went over budget–making it a spend zone).

We have full-time non-tenure-track faculty on Appalachian’s campus whose livelihoods would be improved if their salaries could be raised to $50,000 with a guaranteed annual raise of 4.5%.  Plenty of tenured professors, who invested years doing post-secondary training and then years proving themselves qualified and competitive enough to make tenure, would just like to earn what their peers at similar universities are earning.  Many would like to see $2.5 million spent to improve our science labs, our libraries, and help send students to study abroad.  That seems more important than moving the dirt that football fans sit on for seven games a season.

Administrative bloat is not just a national trend or necessity, it is a choice our administration and our Board of Governors have been making.  Why aren’t more students, administrators, taxpayers, governing board members, and higher ed institutes looking more carefully at the spending choices being made?  What has made so many people so blind to the skewed priorities on the campus?  Perhaps they’re fans of football or don’t realize that athletics sticks students and taxpayers with the bill.  Perhaps they haven’t looked at the numbers or don’t understand data.  Perhaps they personally benefit from above-average administrator salaries.  Perhaps the administrators are earning every dollar; perhaps they are even the best administrators in the nation.  Thing is, great administrators know how to manage their budgets so as to attract and retain top faculty because they know that without high calibre faculty their university sinks.  The administration proclaims that we are the premier undergraduate institution in the state.  This cannot be achieved or sustained by starving the faculty and academic facilities.

This blog is run the Appalachian State University AAUP Chapter.  The opinions published herein do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the AAUP organization or any given individual member of AAUP.


NC Bill that Robs the University to Pay Athletics

During a faculty salary crisis, we discover legislation  has been introduced to REDUCE the University’s tuition revenue—even though tuition revenue can pay faculty salaries.   

As reported today in the Raleigh News & Observer  , the provision would allow out-of-state athletes on scholarship to owe only in-state rates for tuition at UNC System schools for scholarship purposes — saving millions for the booster clubs and sports programs that fund those scholarships.

This does not save the student athletes who on scholarship any money—their tuition is already paid for.  This only changes who has to pay for it.  So it saves sports booster clubs—at Appalachian it’s the Yosef Club.  The Yosef Club represents private funding that professional fundraisers have raised, and it currently pays for these tuition scholarships.  The scholarship money pays the tuition to the University, including the much higher out-of-state tuition for any scholarship athlete who is from out of state.   

This legislation suggests we consider out-of-state student athletes as in-state students so that the Yosef Club does not have to pay their out-of-state tuition.  At Appalachian, that’s $15,000 per student per year (because out-of-state tuition is $15,000 more per year than in-state tuition).  If about 160 of our 450 student athletes on scholarship are from out of state, that’s $2 million a year that we’d not ask the Yosef Club for!  That’s $2 million a year not going to the University cash inbox.  That’s $2 million a year in tuition revenue that the University would not be collecting!  That’s $2 million a year LESS for faculty salaries!

Are Appalachian’s administrators behind this?  Do they WANT to save the athletics boosters money and REDUCE our tuition revenue, which can pay faculty salaries?   Our administrators told us that they care about faculty, care about faculty compensation, and care about the quality of academics at Appalachian.  Who is so carelessly—no, recklessly—supporting a Bill that will reduce our University’s budget and our University’s academic mission?  And all to save the sports booster club money?  Major fumble!

Related post: App State’s football program loses $20 million a year, and forces students to pay for the loss. Read it here.


In response to a request made by the Faculty Senate Budget Committee in early 2019, Appalachian’s Center for Research and Policy Analysis (CERPA) conducted an analysis of the University’s budget allocations, using raw data the Appalachian administration shared. It is a serious data-driven report that provides important insights for the faculty, administration, and Board of Trustees.  

The administration presented a response to the CERPA report to the Faculty Senate on April 29, 2019. Unfortunately, rather than spending time addressing the problems and finding solutions, the administration created a presentation that manipulated the data to confuse the facts. 

The administration never denied the accuracy of the findings or analysis in the CERPA report; rather, they sought to spin the numbers another way.  However, it was not so easy to fool the Faculty Senate. Senators quickly noticed the obfuscation and exposed it in the Q&A.

There is no denying the basic fact that over the past five years, the administration has shifted a significant amount of funding from academics to administration and support activities. A Senator pointed out that hidden in the administration’s own presentation, the numbers showed that the amount of money shifted away from academics exceeds $2.5 million. Yes, you read that correctly: if this administration had funded academics at the same rate as five years ago, there would have been $2.5 million more going to academics. If those funds were directed to faculty salaries, it would be enough money to correct 66% of the faculty salary deficit!  

It’s clear that campus budget decisions can address the faculty salary deficit. It’s time to take a good hard look at institutional priorities. We’re all in this together, and we all want this institution to thrive. Faculty have pointed out the problem. We are waiting for the administration to show leadership on finding a campus-based plan to address the faculty salary crisis.

Here’s a closer look at specific examples of attempts to obscure the facts.


The administration’s presentation obscured the relative changes in funding priorities by reporting the absolute numbers. This is a well-known trick used to camouflage incremental changes by skewing the numbers and charts with large absolute numbers. Data literate people know that incremental decisions and relative changes are the relevant numbers when discussing changes in budget priorities and trends.  

Faculty Senators pointed out something hidden within the following administration’s slide. It shows that academics accounted for 70.7% of the general budget in FY2014, but since FY2014, academics only accounted for 62.5% of new funds. One senator pointed out that this decline in the share of funding going to academics meant more than a $2.5 million cut in academics!

Yes, if budget priorities remained the same as FY2014, academics would have $2.5 million more in funding. This amount would provide an average raise of nearly $3,000 for full-time faculty. A $3000 average raise would have made a difference! It would have recovered 66% of the lost purchasing power that faculty have experienced in the past 10 years.

Where did these funds go?  What took priority over faculty salaries and academics?  The administration’s slide tells us the answer. The following slide shows that the relative funding cuts to academics were redirected to expand the university’s bureaucracy. As the following slide from their presentation shows, in FY 2014, institutional support and student support accounted for 18.8% of the general budget (14.2% + 4.6%).  Since FY 2014, 27.0% of new funds (up from 18.8%) were allocated to institutional support and student support (19.9% + 7.1%).

The administration’s own analysis confirms the key finding from the CERPA report, that the administration has cut relative funding for academics to prioritize administrative and support activities.

Figure 1a (1)

Figure 2a


To skew the numbers in their favor, the administration selectively dropped relevant data, namely auxiliary budgets–which are the budgets for different campus services, such as athletics. In explaining the reason for dropping this data, they claimed that units in the auxiliary category are self-funded. This is not true. A major component of auxiliary operations is Athletics, and Athletics is not self-funded. The truth is that athletics has more than a $20 million annual operating deficit. You read that correctly. Athletics loses more than $20 million every year. The losses are covered by student fees and these fees are determined on campus by this administration (link to previous story).

The problem is that the student-funded subsidies to athletics directly cuts into funding for student support and indirectly cuts into funding for academics. As CERPA pointed out, student fees are limited to a 3% total increase each year, so choosing to increase athletics fees is a choice not to fund other needs. The point here is that athletics accounts for much of the growth in EHRA non-faculty positions, and the administration decided to expand these EHRA non-faculty positions instead of funding other things. So, this data directly shows the administration’s budget priorities and should be part of any analysis. Cherry picking data is an elementary trick to manipulate findings. We need action to solve the problem, not data manipulation to justify inaction. And yet, even after inappropriately dropping this inconvenient data, the new chart still shows that the numbers of EHRA non-faculty grew 33% faster than those of EHRA faculty!

Figure 3a


To calm faculty alarm about our salary crisis, the administration emphasized the level of the budgets by stating that “Academics continues to receive the highest percentage of the total budget.”  This is an empty statement that distracts from the key finding. Did you notice that this doesn’t point out that the proportion of the budget going to Academics is shrinking? It doesn’t speak to the problem that the administration is shrinking the share of the budget that goes to academics.

More disturbing, the statement implies that allocating more than 50% is the benchmark. As if it is all good if Academics receives more than 50% of the budget! If the administration actually holds this view, Appalachian is in a more dramatic tailspin than we previously thought.

Allocating more than 50% to Academics is not the benchmark for prioritizing academics! Given that academics is the mission of the university, it should receive much more than 50%. In FY2014, academics received 70.7% of the budget, but it has only received 62.5% of new funds since FY2014.


The administration presented a slide that appeared to question the assertion that “recent allocations of positions prioritize upper- and mid-level administration” by listing EHRA non-faculty positions with salaries under $50,000.  See their slide below.

Figure 4a

Of course, simply pointing out the existence of the positions earning less than $50,000 doesn’t change what the data tells us. Not surprising, their presentation did not point out the existence (and expansion) of the highly paid executive EHRA positions. Let’s look past this distraction. The revealing data is found by comparing the change in the number of positions of EHRA non-faculty and the change in the compensation for these positions.  Only using general fund data (to be fair), the data show that EHRA non-faculty positions increased 10% between 2014 and 2018. During this period, compensation for these positions in Institutional Support increased a whopping 36.5%!

This tells us that the growth in EHRA non-faculty positions is due to increases in the high-paid positions, specifically mid- and upper-level administration. The data show that the university is expanding the bureaucracy with highly paid positions while shrinking the funding for academics and faculty salaries (link to previous story).


The AAUP blog looks at campus issues related to the AAUP.  Blog posts do not necessarily represent the opinion of every member of the AAUP.


The Center for Economic Research and Policy Analysis (CERPA) released its report, commissioned by the Faculty Senate, on Appalachian State’s budget priorities. This helps us see what the University has been spending money on and why faculty have suffered such dramatic salary decline, a problem spelled out clearly at the Feb. 25 special Faculty Senate meeting.

The 11-page report uses data provided by the University Budget Office and IRAP. It’s worth reading the whole report here, but the upshot is this:

The University has used available funds to expand administrative positions over faculty positions and faculty raises. Since 2014 faculty positions increased at a rate much slower than SHRA staff positions and EHRA non-faculty positions. 

The University has directed compensation funds to administrative and support positions more than faculty positions. Since 2013, funds for compensation increased 21% for academics, 29% for student support, and 37% for institutional support.  

Although we have often heard that money cannot be moved from one category to another, the University’s hands are not really so tied. The University can move money around! And the University can avoid the need to move money by getting things right in the budget planning process. Paul Forte stated on Feb. 25 that a path can’t turn into something else, referring to the million-dollar path to the football stadium that the University will build, but the University could have asked for permission to use that $1million for a different project. Similarly, making decisions to hire administrators and paying for their operating expenses is done at the cost of funding other things, such as faculty raises. The dramatic expansion of institutional and student support comes at the cost of faculty salaries.

Rather than explaining their choices and funding priorities, and taking responsibility for them, the administration told us that they simply could not raise our salaries—as if they weren’t spending money to expand other positions and offices. But, clearly, that’s exactly what they were doing, at our expense and at the expense of the institution.

Stay involved. Attend the April 12 University budget presentations.


This blog post is on matters of concern to faculty and related to the AAUP’s mission, but it does not necessarily represent the perspective of all faculty members or all AAUP members.

Chancellor Needs a Plan for Faculty Salary Increases

On Feb. 25, 2019, hundreds of faculty showed up, live and in person, to speak out about the faculty salary crisis. You can watch the videotape of it on The Appalachian’s Facebook page.

The Chancellor’s email reply to the specific faculty who made comments or posed questions on Feb 25 said that the University uses CUPA salary data to compare faculty salaries to norms in their fields. We’ve compared faculty salaries to CUPA averages. CUPA data shows faculty, specifically, are not well compensated.  

If you think faculty members are overpaid whiners, wait until you see the administrators’ salaries. Many of our administrators earn well above CUPA averages for their positions. 

In addition, there are landscapers, camp services staff, ticket managers, recreation managers, recruiters, athletics trainers, advisors, counselors, and campus interior designers who have higher salaries than some of our full-time faculty members. And these staff members deserve every penny they get!  This is not an issue of faculty v. staff, or a demand that staff lose their increases to support faculty increases. This is an opportunity to point out the university’s priorities in relation to faculty and the academic mission. 

As you can see from the Chancellor’s remarks and her email on Feb 25, Chancellor Everts left faculty hanging on a promise of a new funding model (call it Plan A), with no Plan B.  Even Plan A never stated how much of this promised financial windfall she will devote to fixing the faculty salary problem. An average of a 10.1% salary increase to faculty would put us at the 75th percentile of our peers, as the Senate Budget Committee’s report at the Feb 25 meeting showed. So, what specifically is the amount of money Chancellor Everts expects to get in Plan A, and how much of that amount is needed to increase faculty salaries by an average of 10.1%?  

Next, if Plan A doesn’t come to pass (i.e., if our funding model remains the same), what is Plan B? Chancellor Everts did not offer a plan for reaching targeted faculty salaries. Maybe Plan B involves saying Appalachian involves freezing administrative salaries, even in years when we have money for raises, until faculty salaries are at their target.  There has been no plan developed or shared. The Chancellor can tell us to email our Deans. But the faculty deserves a plan proposed by university leadership, with the leadership getting faculty input in any plans. The leadership should work to implement the plan, with specific salary targets, and provide regular updates on how close to their targets they’ve gotten.  


Note: This blog post is on matters of concern to faculty and related to the AAUP’s mission, but it does not necessarily represent the perspective of all faculty members or all AAUP members.


Chancellor Emails Faculty Who Spoke or Wrote Comments, Questions Feb 25

———- Forwarded message ———

From: Chancellor Everts <chancellor@appstate.edu>

Date: Wed, Mar 6, 2019, 11:46 PM

Subject: Responses to your questions from the Feb. 25 Faculty Senate meeting

Dear Colleagues,

I would like to thank you for the time you took to share your questions, perspectives and personal stories with me, as well as with your other colleagues assembled for the special Faculty Senate meeting on Feb. 25.

Below I have compiled answers to your questions, some of which are informed by Appalachian’s Board of Governors liaison Philip Byers, Provost Darrell Kruger and Vice Chancellor for Business Affairs Paul Forte. (Please note, for those who posed questions to Provost Kruger during the second half of the meeting which have yet to be answered, he will share his responses separately.)

There were several follow-up questions to my comments related to my priority of providing merit raises to faculty. The central theme of these questions is around the difference between merit and equity raises and why my priority is focused on merit, rather than equity raises. Related comments and questions pertain to a discussion of the raise process, whether related to equity or merit – not being fair or meaningful – and a question about whether we have options other than the Delaware Study of Instructional Costs and Productivity upon which to base faculty salaries. I was also asked to promise to use enrollment funds to provide minimal merit pay increases, and asked whether the amount of promotion and tenure raises could be increased.

In response to these questions, I would like to reiterate a key message from my remarks on Feb. 25: My priorities and advocacy at the state level, since arriving on this campus, have been focused on changing the funding model for Appalachian, which will fundamentally and dramatically change our campus and what it will be like to work and learn here. When this happens – and I believe this will happen soon – my top priority will be merit increases for faculty and staff. (Academic facilities and support appropriate for a campus of our size are my second and third priorities.) I focus on merit increases because the university has a solid system in place for staff, and this is an area in which faculty in particular have the ability to influence a principled and reasonable application of standards of merit. I appreciate your sharing your concerns regarding merit pay. Based on the questions and concerns you raise, I believe it will be important to undertake a merit pay study, so we can explore how different the merit process is across colleges, discuss parity between non-tenure track and tenure track salaries, and determine whether Appalachian should reform the merit process. I have asked Provost Kruger to work with Faculty Senate to get this underway.

Regarding the questions about the Delaware Study and the request to promise to use enrollment funds to provide minimal merit pay increases instead of providing new positions or other academic needs in the future, these questions raise a very important point: faculty have a voice in university budgeting. The budgeting process begins at the faculty and staff level, so voicing your requests to your Chair and Dean is critical. Next month, Deans will be presenting their budget requests in an open meeting. I encourage you to voice your concerns and requests now and attend the budget presentations on April 12 as well – it is an important opportunity to be heard, and to be part of the budgeting process as it is taking place.

For clarification, Academic Affairs uses College and University Professional Association for Human Resources (CUPA-HR) data as a point of departure for comparing faculty salaries by academic discipline, and the Delaware Study to determine the number of faculty positions required based on enrollment growth. In addition to the upcoming budget presentations, I also encourage you to meet with Academic Affairs leadership and/or to attend an upcoming “Office Hours with the Provost” session so you can ask more questions and share further share the concerns you have raised. As Provost Kruger moves forward in working with Faculty Senate, your thoughts and perspective will be valuable.

Regarding faculty promotion increases, the last time we increased the amount awarded to those who earn tenure and promotion was in July 2015. Provost Kruger allocated $283,000 to support 58 faculty promotions this year – 30 to full professor and 28 to associate professor. He and I agree we need to increase the amounts awarded to faculty who are promoted, as this amount has not changed in nearly four years. This will be an important consideration during the budget discussions for next year, and we thank you for bringing up this matter.

Another theme that emerged is related to benefits – health care benefits in particular. I heard your stories of struggling to manage the burden of serious illnesses. As a two-time cancer survivor, I understand the tremendous strain a critical illness has on individuals and their families. To a family already burdened with catastrophic health events, managing added financial stress is incredibly difficult. While the negotiations for the state health care plan are not controlled at the university level, Governor Byers and I will share the stories you told us on Feb. 25, as well as the many other stories we know, with the Board of Governors, UNC System staff and legislators. I will also continue to relate the advantage of a competitive benefits package in recruiting and retaining talented faculty and staff – an important point also brought up by more than one person.

Several of you raised questions related to full-time professors and a national trend in rising numbers of non-tenure track, three-quarter time, adjunct faculty and lecturers. We have been moving in the right direction in this regard. Since 2015, we have added 75 full-time faculty, increasing the number of full-time faculty to 1,005 (72% of our total) faculty. Of our full-time faculty, 737 (73%) are on the tenure track. While we are performing better than most of our peer institutions on this measure, our student-faculty ratio is one of which we are very proud, and has remained steady for the last several years. In the 2017-18 academic year, Academic Affairs authorized Deans and Department Chairs to extend multi-year contracts to adjunct faculty with solid performance histories in departments with student credit hour (SCH) demand. Appalachian employees may choose to engage in employment beyond their work at the university, but this should be a preference, rather than arising from a need to compensate for salaries not keeping pace with the cost of living.

There were a few questions regarding my choices to fund construction projects and coaches’ contracts during a year in which faculty did not receive raises. The answer to these questions comes down to funding sources. Appalachian cannot reallocate the money for these expenses to pay faculty salaries. That said, Director of Athletics Doug Gillin is working to change Athletics funding so a larger proportion is funded by revenue sources (such as gate receipts and donations), with student fees supporting a smaller percentage of athletics expenses.

There was one question about why the message to campus on Sept. 26 came from Human Resources rather than the Provost or me. In response to this, I apologize on behalf of Provost Kruger and myself. We realize the way you received this message came across as insensitive and this was not our intention.

There were two questions regarding the specifics of how our funding model would change, and how this change would result in an increase of more than $20 million for Appalachian. The model under which we are currently funded is based upon projected credit hours. Under the current model, our appropriation is calculated as the difference between expenses and tuition receipts. Under the proposed funding model, we would receive funding based on a credit completion formula (CCF). Under the proposed CCF model, we would be funded based on actual credit hours completed, including summer hours (which have not previously been considered in our funding allocation). Under this model, tuition and nonresidents would be excluded. These changes, once implemented, will result in an increase of Appalachian’s state appropriation of approximately $22 million over time.

Governor Byers and I were asked why we feel we can get this model changed when past Chancellors were not successful in doing so. I understand the skepticism of those of you who have been here many years longer than I have, and I would likely feel doubtful had I experienced the same. Governor Byers addressed the changes in the makeup of the Board of Governors and the fact that we have an Appalachian alumnus and Trustee helping us advocate for change. From my perspective, I can tell you that when I arrived at Appalachian I immediately recognized the single, most significant impact I can make here – far above and beyond the physical infrastructure changes underway – will be to achieve this change in the funding model. Doing so will create lasting improvements in the quality of life and work for our faculty and staff, and will launch our institution into the future with a strength and capacity we have not yet seen. I am wholeheartedly dedicated to making this happen. I have been working toward this goal since day one, and I advocate for it in Raleigh, in Chapel Hill and in Boone every single day. I believe it is in our near future.

Finally, through your frustration, nearly everyone who shared their perspectives and asked questions also expressed passion for teaching our students and for our university. Appalachian students, faculty and staff are fortunate to be members of this community. It is well past time our university is recognized and rewarded for the achievements of our accomplished faculty, our innovative staff and our passionate students.

I remain dedicated to making this happen.

Very sincerely,


App State Administrators (But Not Faculty!) Paid Well Above Averages, CUPA Data Show

Appalachian State faculty salaries, when adjusted for inflation, have been in decline for a decade. Our salaries are now lower than those at most of our peer institutions.  After the 2008 recession, things were hard, and we all did more with less.  Now we’re in an era of economic prosperity and everyone is benefitting from this. Except the faculty at Appalachian. Our peer institutions gave their faculty raises. Faculty peers’ salaries have kept up with inflation. Ours have not. We didn’t mind not having money when everyone was in the same boat. But over this decade the administration has continued to hire new administrators and support staff at overly generous salaries. They have funded new initiatives and prioritized giving Athletics the money it needs–all while telling us that they have no money for those of us who perform the core mission of the institution. Too painful to believe?  Take a look at some numbers.

The College and University Professional Association for Human Resources (CUPA-HR) collects data from a variety of higher education institutions and reports findings that reflect aggregate salary information. CUPA data reveal that App State faculty salary averages hover around CUPA averages while App State executive-level administrators are compensated well above CUPA averages.

When looking at the data for 2017-18 faculty salaries from the CUPA Faculty in Higher Education Survey report, we see that App State faculty salaries are right around the average salaries for all Master’s level universities (our CUPA group). Of course, we like to think we are better than the typical Master’s level university, so it would ideal if App State faculty (and all employees on our campus) were paid quite a bit more than the average salary in our general CUPA group of Master’s level institutions.   

In 2017-18, the average App State full professor salary was $98,383. This is 2.3% above the CUPA average for full professors at Master’s level universities ($96,197). App State associate professors on average earned 2.6% above the CUPA average ($79,102 at App State compared to the group average of $77,066), and our assistant professors earned 1.4% below CUPA average ($69,252 at App State compared to the group average of $70,220). CUPA data did not show an average salary for full-time NTT faculty at App State.

However, App State executive-level administrative salaries tend to far exceed CUPA averages. CUPA averages for executive-level administrator salaries in 2017-18 were reported on Higher Ed Jobs. CUPA’s 2017-18 Administrators in Higher Education Survey used data from 1,187 institutions for 197 executive and senior-level administrative positions, and shows us average salaries for specific administrative positions by type of institution. Comparing the CUPA averages for 2017-18 executive-level administrator salaries at Master’s level institutions to App State administrators’ 2017-18 salaries, which are reported in the Raleigh News & Observer online database of UNC salaries, we see that our executive-level administrators tend to make far more than the CUPA average salary in our CUPA group of Master’s level institutions, even while faculty salaries in any given rank hover around CUPA averages. For instance:

  • CUPA average Chancellor-Single Institution/Campus within System= $300,000; ours=$345,313 (15% above CUPA ave)
  • CUPA average Chief Contracts/Grants= $79,656; ours=$91,108 (14% above CUPA ave)
  • CUPA average Dean of Graduate School = $135,000; ours=$175,200 (30% above CUPA ave)
  • CUPA average Chief Athletics Admin=$116,725; ours=$270,612 (132% above CUPA ave)
  • CUPA average Chief Diversity Officer= $98,450; ours= $148,675 (51% above CUPA ave)
  • CUPA average Chief HR Officer = $111,395; ours=$149,086  (34% above CUPA ave)
  • CUPA average Dean of Honors=$110,642; ours=$140,000 (27% above CUPA ave)
  • CUPA average Chief Information Officer = $137,112; ours=$173,233  (26% above CUPA ave)
  • CUPA average Dean of Business= $179,685; ours=$226,645 (26% above CUPA ave)
  • CUPA average Dean of Education=$105,000; ours=$171,990 (64% above CUPA ave)
  • CUPA average Dean of Arts & Sciences= $101,366; ours=$187,500 (85% above CUPA ave)

This is only a sample of App State administrators, of course. Go see the data for yourself.  Look at the CUPA average executive-level administrator salaries here. Be sure to look at the average salary for a specific administrative position in the Master’s column (not, for instance, the “all institutions” column or the column showing institutions that award only Associate’s degrees).  You can check the average salaries of other non-faculty professional positions, such a coaches, advisors, student success professionals and Title IX coordinators, here

Our executive-level administrators may be doing fantastic jobs and deserve every penny that they’re being paid. Faculty might be willing to celebrate these above-average administrator salaries on our campus, if our salaries were similarly above average. The problem is not that our administrators are paid well above CUPA averages.  The problem is that upper administrators are being paid well above our CUPA group averages while faculty are not.  In fact, we are told that there’s just not enough money to pay faculty.

While there are, of course, variations across departments, with some faculty being paid further above their corresponding CUPA average than others, the point is that on the whole faculty members are not being compensated as well compared to CUPA averages as many of our executive-level administrators are.

App State is one of the better institutions in our group of Master’s level institutions, so it makes sense to compensate our employees more than the CUPA average; as a better-than-average institution we have better-than-average faculty and administrators. While faculty perform the core mission of the University, at salaries that hover around CUPA group averages, the University’s upper administration has made sure that upper administrators are well compensated.    

On Feb. 25 at 4pm the Chancellor will be addressing a special Faculty Senate meeting on the Faculty Salary Crisis. Will she attempt to explain why her hands are tied, why she can’t do anything to raise faculty salaries? You might want to show up and see if she’s able to convince you that while she’s able to take care of executive-level administrators and support staff, paying many of them well above average, she is not able to take care of faculty.

If you check these figures and think any of these numbers are for any reason inaccurate or misleading, give us some data.  We welcome all facts and data!

Note: This post is a report on matters of interest to the AAUP chapter, not an official statement by the Chapter.