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Originally published: 2014-05-07 00:00:55
Last modified: 2014-05-07 13:17:39

Faculty leaving ASU in greater numbers

by Anna Oakes

More faculty members are planning to leave Appalachian State University this year compared with previous years, and some are questioning whether the university is doing enough to try to keep them in Boone.

The ASU Faculty Senate discussed the matter at its April 14 and April 28 meetings.

Tim Burwell, vice provost for resource management in the Office of Academic Affairs, told the Senate on April 28 that 21 faculty members have left or have indicated they are leaving for non-retirement reasons since the 2012-13 academic year. Of those, he said, 15 faculty members expressed no desire for a counter-offer from ASU.

But figures from Anthony Calamai, dean of the university's largest college, the College of Arts and Sciences, are even higher. Calamai said that 22 faculty have said they are leaving the college this year alone. That's up from five last year, four in 2011-12, four in 2010-11 and four in 2009-10 -- "from the best we can tell," he said. "As you go further back, we could be missing one or two."

Even for a college that employs more than 400 full-time faculty, leaders view the increase in departing faculty as significant.

"It really is big," Calamai said. "It's about five times higher than the past five years."

Last week, faculty senators asked why there was a discrepancy between the numbers Burwell presented and the numbers said to be leaving Arts and Sciences. Calamai said his numbers were more recent; not all of the departing faculty have submitted their letters of resignation and not all numbers have yet been reported to Academic Affairs.

"(Burwell) is reporting the data he has," Calamai said. "I'm closer to the source of these losses. I have a few more in the queue that he just hasn't seen yet."

Burwell acknowledged later last week that his numbers could be a little behind, and he noted his figures also do not include what is referred to as "pre-emptive" departures -- "where they don't have necessarily a firm employment offer from anybody else, but we know they have been looking."

Calamai said the majority of the 22 faculty leaving Arts and Sciences are not seeking a counter-offer.

"The fact that 19 of the 22 have said no is another stunner. They don't even want a counter," he said. "I would like to be able to counter every one of them, (but) most of the time (they say) well this is just a better deal for me."

Chancellor Ken Peacock mentioned the issue at the April 14 Faculty Senate meeting.

"The money thing is tough. I'm getting emails and hints about people who are leaving this campus for other jobs," Peacock said. "They're not going to another school in North Carolina. I see that. I can understand why.

"We are just one of those campuses fighting that battle," he said.

Burwell's and Calamai's numbers appear to confirm Peacock's claim. Of the 21 faculty departures reported to Academic Affairs since 2012-13, only one left for another campus in the UNC system, Burwell said. The trend in Arts and Sciences is also consistent, with two, at most, leaving for another UNC institution, Calamai said.

Faculty senators also questioned why ASU has not made more extensive use of the UNC Faculty Recruitment and Retention Fund in making counter-offers to faculty receiving offers elsewhere. Established in 2006, the fund now receives an annual state appropriation of $13 million to assist campuses in making high-priority retention and recruitment offers, according to UNC system spokeswoman Joni Worthington.

"In instances where a campus needs to make a high-priority retention/recruitment offer and may not have sufficient campus resources, the chancellor may make a request to the (UNC system) president for an allocation from the Recruitment and Retention Fund," Worthington said. If approved, the allocation is made to the campus to support the faculty member's salary and reverts back to the fund if the faculty member leaves the institution.

Burwell said that ASU has made requests from the fund seven times since it was created, with a little more than $200,000 being awarded to the institution, and about $175,000 of that amount being for recruitment. He said ASU's most recent requests came during a brief time period that the state required campuses to use the Recruitment and Retention Fund for counter-offers, but that requirement has since been lifted.

Speaking at the April 28 Faculty Senate meeting, Burwell commented that requests from the Recruitment and Retention Fund are typically in the $10,000 to $15,000 range -- but UNC system Board of Governors minutes show that a number of awards have been made to campuses for less than $10,000.

Burwell later clarified his statement, noting that "for the amounts that we have been making in terms of counter-offers, it made sense for us to use our own (state funds)."

"We have not in these last two years approached the president about use of the Recruitment and Retention Fund," Burwell said. "We thought they were, again, amounts that we could handle and that there was no reason to tap into that fund."

Calamai said he feels the university should take advantage of funds available for retention purposes.

"If there are resources available to the UNC system schools, and we are allowed to access them, we should do that," Calamai said. "If there's a fair resource available, we should request it. ... Our counters have not been that big compared to some of the data. It's still funding that, should we leave it on the table?"

Burwell and Calamai said that UNC system President Tom Ross has asked campuses to report detailed data on the faculty who are leaving in an effort to study the issue. Campuses are eagerly awaiting the 2014 General Assembly session to learn whether or not all state employees will receive a raise this year -- or just K-12 public school teachers.

"If that goes through -- if there's not something in this year's budget for pay raises for faculty and staff -- it will be an exodus," Peacock said.