Public Affairs

California State University Q and A - Merit Pay and Gender

What is the CSU's faculty merit pay program?


September 18, 2000

It has been the policy of the CSU Trustees for several years that merit pay should be one instrument to help take the CSU to the next level of quality by providing financial rewards to faculty considered outstanding by their peers.  The CFA contract has included a merit pay program since 1995. The current merit pay program was agreed to by the CFA and is in their current contract, which doesn't expire until June 2001. The current program uses 40 percent of the entire faculty salary increase pool for merit increases. The process begins with faculty filling out an annual faculty activity report. That report is evaluated by departmental faculty, who forward a merit increase recommendation to a dean for review. Both the recommendation of the faculty and the dean are then sent to a president or a designee, who makes a decision that is subject to an appeal by a panel consisting entirely of faculty members.

How do you respond to the CFA's proposal to end merit pay?

First of all, the current merit pay program, including its process described above and the criteria used, is not new. It was agreed to by the CFA as part of their current contract, which does not expire until June 2001. The CFA is now proposing taking all merit pay funds and using them for across-the-board increases with no awards for outstanding faculty performance. The CSU believes the merit pay program is very important because it rewards outstanding faculty performance. Although the CSU has a strong commitment to the principle of merit pay, the CSU recognizes that the process used last year could be improved. The CSU hopes to work with the faculty to agree on an improved process that addresses faculty concerns and involves a true merit program as envisioned at the time the 1999 agreement was signed.

What criteria is used in the awarding of merit pay?

Teaching is the key criteria on which performance is evaluated. As it states in the contract agreed to by the CFA and ratified by its membership, merit increases will be awarded for  " ... quality of the unit member's teaching alone, the quality of the unit member's teaching and scholarship, the quality of the unit member's teaching and service to the university and community, and the quality of the unit member's teaching, scholarship and service the to the university and community."

Do you agree with the CFA's claim that the merit pay system is unfair to women?

The CSU merit pay system is a fair and equitable way to reward all outstanding faculty. The average merit increase for women for 1999/00 was 2.44 percent compared to 2.2 percent for men. In 1998/99 the percent increase for both men and women was higher - 2.87 for women and 2.61 for men.  Thus, the faculty merit increases have, in fact, aided in closing the gender salary gap, which exists largely due to the fact that more women entered the faculty ranks later than their men counterparts. The two other types of faculty salary increases are general salary increases (GSI), which all faculty receive, and service salary increases (SSI). The GSI and SSI can't address the gender gap because they are flat percentage increases. For example all faculty last year received a 3.65 percent GSI and about half of the faculty received a 2.65 percent SSI.

Why is the dollar amount of merit increases for women less than the dollar amount for men?

Because most women faculty in general joined the CSU more recently than men, there are fewer women faculty than men overall and fewer in the highest ranks. While the percentage of women faculty overall and the percentage in the highest ranks have risen by about 15 percent over the past five years, still nearly two-thirds of the full-time faculty are men and about three-fourths of full professors are men. The CSU spends more money on merit increases for men than women and men's dollar increases are higher simply because there are nearly twice as many men, and three times as many in the highest paying ranks. When average percent increases are compared—the most fair assessment—women faculty actually received higher percent increases over the past two years as described above. Even when average merit increases are compared in actual dollars, the difference is about $7 dollars more a month for men. It's not a disparity in the increases but rather the number of men faculty that skews the statistics.

What is the hiring, tenure and promotion process for faculty?

Each year the CSU recruits and hires hundreds of new faculty members. Recruiting and retaining a high quality faculty has been and continues to be a priority for the CSU. CSU faculty members are highly involved in the recruitment process. Committees of tenured faculty members review and recommend individuals for probationary appointments as well as temporary lecturer appointments. Recommendations for promotion and tenure also originate with faculty peer committees. These recommendations are reviewed by administrators with final decisions made by the president or designee.

What about the CFA claims that merit pay is unfair to part-time lecturers?

The CSU encourages all faculty to apply for merit increases, but only about 40 percent of lecturers do so - probably because about nine of ten lecturers systemwide are part-time. Many of the part-timers teach only two or three courses a year and have other full-time jobs. For example, a typical part-time instructor may teach two classes a year and receive $8,000 for teaching both courses. A typical merit increase might be two percent on top of the across-the-board increase. A two percent increase is only about $13 a month for someone earning $8,000 for teaching two classes a year. Those individuals may believe it's not worth it for them to fill out the annual report required of all faculty seeking a merit increase.

What benefits do CSU lecturers receive?

The benefits for CSU lecturers are among the best in the nation. In fact, lecturers are on the same salary schedule as tenure track faculty, which is not often the case at other institutions. Also, the requirements to qualify for health and retirement benefits are the same for lecturers as they are for tenure track faculty. In addition, CSU lecturers have safeguards regarding course load, salary level, and reappointment that most lecturers do not have.