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Howard University to give most faculty raises in new year

The effort to bring salaries on the campus in line with pay at other institutions has been criticized for excluding unionized faculty.

More than 600 Howard University faculty members will get pay raises in the new year, the institution has said. (Salwan Georges/The Washington Post)
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More than 600 Howard University faculty will get raises in the new year, part of a multiyear effort to bring salaries at the historically Black campus up to par with pay at other institutions, officials said.

The pay increases will benefit faculty members throughout the academic hierarchy, from lecturers to instructors to professors. But the measure has attracted criticism from the university’s fledgling union of more than 100 non-tenure-track faculty members who are excluded from this round of raises as they continue to negotiate with Howard the terms of a collective bargaining agreement.

The size of the raises will vary by discipline, but eligible full-time employees can expect their wages to grow by an average of 20 percent, said Anthony K. Wutoh, Howard’s provost. The university plans to spend an additional $17 million next year — funded in part by recent philanthropy — to provide pay increases.

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“Many institutions of higher education have yet to implement staff raises since the pandemic,” Howard President Wayne A.I. Frederick said in a statement. Officials pointed to a handful of other recent initiatives aimed at supporting faculty, including a 3 percent raise for employees in the spring, efforts to avoid mass layoffs and furloughs, and the decision to use a portion of the school’s endowment to fully fund the employee pension plan.

“We felt this was an important step not only to ensure the financial wellness of our staff but also to demonstrate our ongoing gratitude for the hard work and dedication that is instrumental to the functioning of our institution,” Frederick said.

Wutoh said the upcoming raises are “the most significant step” in an effort launched in 2018 to pay faculty members at least the median of what educators are paid at Howard’s peer institutions — private, urban campuses with hospitals, including Georgetown, George Washington and Tulane universities. Officials committed to addressing the pay gaps over a four-to-five-year period.

Senior, full professors lag the furthest behind their peers at other universities, Wutoh said. Professors on the campus are paid an average of $115,952 per year — more than $92,000 less than what Georgetown professors earn and about $66,000 less than GWU professors, according to 2018-2019 school year salary data compiled by the Chronicle of Higher Education.

“Never before have the majority of Howard University faculty been paid at the median of our peer institutions,” Frederick wrote to the campus.

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The raises, however, leave out union employees. University officials said those faculty members are not eligible because their union, the Service Employees International Union, has the exclusive right to negotiate their salary packages. The university is in talks with the union regarding a collective bargaining agreement, Wutoh said.

“Those negotiations have included and will include bargaining over faculty wages, raises and conditions of employment,” said Kimberly Holmes-Iverson, a spokeswoman for the campus, adding that the university “will continue to bargain in good faith.”

But Cyrus Hampton, a union member and master instructor in Howard’s English department, said he suspects that campus leaders are trying to dissuade employees from joining the contingent of about 140 unionized non-tenure-track faculty members, including lecturers and master instructors.

“It’s a commonplace for union busters to tell people that raises cannot be given during contract negotiations,” Hampton said. “There is nothing barring the university from making pay raises during contract negotiations to people who are having their contracts negotiated.”