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UMD ‘being run more like a corporation,’ report finds

Professors at the University of Maryland, College Park, said they had been sensing a shift in the school’s priorities in recent years; it seemed to them that the school was funneling fewer and fewer resources into instruction and research, despite its mission to “provide excellent teaching, research, and service.”

A new external analysis of the university’s finances from 2013 to the present, sponsored by UMD’s chapter of the American Association of University Professors, validates that feeling, UMD AAUP leaders said at a Monday news conference regarding the findings. The analysis was completed by Howard Bunsis, a professor of accounting from Eastern Michigan University and a former AAUP employee who has conducted similar financial reviews of universities across the country.

The report shows that the salaries of administrators have increased at a rate that outpaces raises given to faculty, staff and graduate student workers, whose salaries have barely kept pace with inflation, Karin Rosemblatt, UMD AAUP’s vice president and a professor of history at UMD, said at a news conference regarding the report.

From 2016 to 2020, the wages of “academic support” personnel, a category which, according to the report, largely includes deans and associate deans, increased by 37.1%. The wages of “institutional support” personnel, which includes upper administration, rose 14.7%. Meanwhile, instructors’ and researchers’ salaries went up by 12.3% and 10.0%, respectively, in that same time period.

Employees categorized as “management” make the highest salaries; as of 2021, they made an average of $231,516. Full-time faculty had the next-highest average salary at $122,863.

The number of employees classed as “management” has also increased 8.4% over the past two years, while all other categories declined.

“The University of Maryland is being run more like a corporation,” Rosemblatt said. “This is to the detriment of the education of the students, because we know that a more democratic university is a more effective university.”

UMD AAUP also criticized the declining number of full-time, tenure-track faculty. Those teaching duties are now being fulfilled more and more by graduate students and “professional track faculty,” which includes adjunct professors, who are often paid per course, and other non-tenure track instructors. Professional track faculty have jumped from making up 55.2% of UMD’s faculty in 2014 to 61.2% in 2022.

This concerns UMD AAUP’s leaders. While non-tenure track professors can also be strong instructors, they don’t go through the same complex vetting process as tenure track faculty, said Holly Brewer, UMD AAUP’s president and a UMD history professor, which can impact the quality of education UMD is offering.

Finally, the report indicates that the university is financially stable enough to remedy these issues and raise salaries, citing its “large reserves and cash flows, modest debt levels, stable/increasing enrollment, and increasing state support.”

In general, higher education officials across the country have said they have had to increase administrative staff in recent years to deal with the increasing demands for support services, accreditation, compliance programs and other services that aren’t strictly related to teaching.

Karyl Leggio, a professor of finance at Loyola University Maryland and a former dean at the university’s business school, said that the trend in higher education of spending less on faculty salaries is far from unique to UMD.

“That’s true of all universities of the same kind as the University of Maryland,” she said. “Could they spend more money on faculty salaries? Probably, yeah. But it really reflects the changing nature of higher education more than anything else.”

In response to The Daily Record’s request for comment, a UMD spokesperson pointed towards the university’s new strategic plan.

“Our budget priorities are aligned with our recently released strategic plan. In the plan, we declare our investments in teaching and learning, research, arts and, critically, our people and communities. It’s a plan that prioritizes people, impact, diversity, and service to humanity,” the spokesperson, Hafsa Siddiqi, said via email.

Published in February, the 10-year plan includes a reference to wages; as a part of the school’s goal of becoming a “community of care,” it says it will “take action to ensure the financial health of students, faculty and staff through fundraising, advocacy for additional need-based aid and better wages and benefits, and investments in career readiness and workforce development.”

UMD AAUP says that budget decisions are made almost unilaterally by the institution’s administration. The University Senate, which is UMD’s shared governance group, is generally given little opportunity to give input regarding the university’s spending. The input it does give it considered advisory and non-binding, Brewer said.

“There’s no checks and balances system that’s meaningful,” she said.