CUPA Data Reveals Longstanding Pay Inequities at Adams State

By Watching Adams Staff – 10/26/15

Many advocated for Dr. Beverlee McClure to become president of Adams State University (ASU). During her candidate presentations, she seemed a real people-person and very smart. So her defensive response to some staff and faculty inquiring with ASU Human Resources about pay issues is surprising. They’re just acting like normal people.

Faculty and staff all appreciated the lift in pay towards 72.5% of CUPA – (College and University Professional Association for Human Resources) – which is the national peer group average (PGA) of their position. What has raised eyebrows is that some staff already above this target received further boosts in pay. For example, the Strength & Conditioning Coordinator for ASU Athletics, previously at 82.2% of PGA with $40,812, was just given a $5,000 raise to $45,816, or 92.3% PGA. While it is a noble goal for all employees to be at around 100% of their PGA, these disproportionate adjustments raise concerns of favoritism and opaque compensation policy. How was this decision, and others like it, made?

If we are “in this boat together” as we are so often told, if we are to “pull together,” it would seem sensible that those with considerable salaries relative to CUPA do not receive further increases so that others at the bottom of the pile could receive equitable pay adjustments. Let’s not forget that 72.5% of CUPA still leaves ASU employees more than 25% below their peers. And in most classrooms, a 72.5% is a C- grade. Surely ASU can do better by its own workforce.

Other problems emerge, such as pay disparities that seem to persist despite a 2014-2015 Compensation Committee tasked with addressing such issues. For example, the ASU Bookstore Director, holding a Bachelors in Marketing Management, makes $63,552, or 104.1% of other bookstore directors on average. Meanwhile, the Instructional and Outreach Librarian, having earned a Masters in Library Science, makes $37,236, or 71.6% of other librarians in this position. Most ASU librarians make between 72-76% of their peers at other university libraries. Is the ASU Bookstore director somehow more spectacular than most? Conversely, are the ASU librarians somehow insufficient? ASU’s own CUPA compensation data would imply this.

A number of athletics and administrative positions pay well above 100% of their peers even as most faculty and staff make less than 80%. Some examples include:

Assoc AD/Head Coach Men's & Women's Cross Country and Track & Field: $102,048, 173.8%
Assoc Coach Men's & Women's Track & Field: $61,200, 146.9%
CS Manager Networking & Telecommunication: $73,104, 139.3%
Foundation Executive Director: $58,368, 124.6%
Director of Student Business Services: $88,260, 124.6%
Financial Aid Student Loan Counselor/Default Prevention Manager: $47,052, 119.6%
Athletic Director: $125,448 or 116.3%

Citation of “merit” have been made to justify striking disparities in pay; at least 24 administrative positions are already above 100% of their peers, some well above 120%. Only two faculty positions pay above 100% – both are in Clinical Counseling and Applied Psychology. Why should that be? Do most other faculty at ASU work 25% less than their colleagues at similar universities? Are they 25% less qualified? And in terms of the public interest, what business do Colorado taxpayers have in paying any state employee more than 110% of the national average for their position – particularly given ASU’s own budget shortfalls and aspirations to remain an affordable institution for low-resource student populations?

Upon reflection, Dr. McClure surely realizes the complaints HR receives are a natural human response to pay disparity which should be understood and not condemned. People should not be blamed for wanting what an external and apparently unbiased research organization such as CUPA says is their due.

Watching Adams understands that the disparity in pay is not HR’s fault, that it simply implements the Board of Trustee’s will. We also understand that Dr. McClure took her position when many of these compensation decisions had already been made. But are we not supposed to strive to do better by our most important resource – our people? To that end, Dr. McClure could advocate that ASU does in fact “pull together” and that top-tier earners don’t continue to be paid in excess of their peers at the expense of those who earn substantially less than they are due.

To be sure, ASU employees appreciate the 2015 bump in pay, last made in 2008. Many employees also believe that Dr. McClure has her university’s best interests at heart and her campus very much supports her.