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Charlotte Amalie
Saturday, July 20, 2024
HomeCommentaryOpen Forum: V.I. Legislature Could Stem Erosion of UVI Faculty Salaries

Open Forum: V.I. Legislature Could Stem Erosion of UVI Faculty Salaries

Editor’s Note: The following is an open letter to Sen. Donna Frett-Gregory, and other USVI legislators regarding salary increases and budget requests made recently by UVI President David Hall.

To Sen. Donna Frett-Gregory, chair, and members of the Committee on Budget, Appropriations and Finance of the Legislature of the U.S. Virgin Islands,

The President and Executive Committee of the University of the Virgin Islands Chapter, American Association of University Professors, Inc., certified by the V.I. Public Employees Relations Board as the exclusive representative for collective bargaining for all full-time teaching faculty at UVI submit this formal letter in support of President David Hall’s request for additional funding for employee raises in the FY2024 budget.

The Source recently reported that among President Hall’s chief concerns were the inability of UVI to offer competitive compensation to its academic professionals, which has led to unacceptable faculty turnover rates (August 3, 2023, UVI and RTech Park Defend Fiscal Year 2024 Budgets). Regarding hiring/retaining qualified faculty, AAUP testifies to the comments attributed to Hall and highlights additional information.

1. Noncompetitive salaries have resulted in several faculty positions going unfilled and/or being filled by under-qualified candidates.
2. There is now a 50 percent turnover rate (over five years) for UVI faculty.
3. This has a direct impact on the quality of education, programs, and services the university can provide to students and the territory.

The Source quoted Dr. Hall as saying that Gov. Albert Bryan Jr., in his FY 2024 budget submitted to the Senate, included $18 million so that all government employees receive a three percent raise, yet we were informed that the university was not included in the pool. UVI employees were “government employees” in 2011 when all government employees received an 8 percent pay cut, and now AAUP asks:

If UVI employees were “government employees” when a pay cut was enacted, why are we not considered government employees when money is appropriated for raises?

It is significant to note that in 2021, UVI was included in repayments of the 2011 pay cut.

Salaries of UVI faculty have been losing ground to inflation since 2004, when the UVI Board of Trustees abolished its merit-based compensation system, and did not replace it. Since then, the university has operated under the principle “When the Virgin Islands government gives us money for raises, we will give you raises.” Subsequently, the university had no established compensation system for faculty until UVI-AAUP negotiated its first Collective Bargaining Agreement in 2020, which established minimum salaries for faculty based on 80 percent of the average salary for each rank and discipline over all institutions of higher education in the United States. This put UVI in the 40th percentile of American higher education institutions.

The AAUP Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) expired in August 2022. Negotiations are currently at an impasse because the administration’s economic offer was insufficient to maintain these minimum salaries, and UVI faculty have been working without a union contract.

As the University of the Virgin Islands seems unwilling to commit to any long-term compensation plan for its employees, we would like to suggest to the Finance Committee that they include in each year’s appropriation to the university a percentage of UVI’s total payroll, commensurate with core inflation, specifically earmarked for employee raises, as was done recently.

This would go a long way toward solving the problem of the continual erosion of faculty salaries, the resulting inability to recruit and retain qualified faculty, and the consequent deleterious effects on the quality of education provided to students at UVI.

— Dr. Adam Parr, President, UVI-AAUP; Dr. Sharon Honore’, Vice President, UVI-AAUP; Timothy Kentopp, Treasurer, UVI-AAUP; Dr. David Gould, Interim Secretary, UVI-AAUP;
Dr. Kathleen Dudemaine, St Thomas Rep., UVI-AAUP; and Dr. Glenn Metts, Chief Negotiator, UVI-AAUP

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