Monday, December 9

Faculty exodus to Ivy Leage troubles UCLA


Monday, November 25, 1996

PROFESSORS:

Benefits, salary prompt move to private universitiesBy Hannah
Miller

Daily Bruin Contributor

Jeffrey Frieden could not resist the sirens of Harvard.

Frieden, a tenured political science professor, left UCLA in
1995 after 12 years for the greener pastures of the Ivy League.
Although he reports his "principal reason was personal," the other
reasons he gives are symptomatic of a larger, university-wide
faculty exodus from UCLA. An exodus that could be prevented,
according to some professors.

Frieden’s story is typical. Although UCLA’s political science
department is, like Harvard University’s, one of the top 10 in the
nation, Frieden found that Harvard’s financial resources made a
significant difference to the teaching environment.

"UCLA and Harvard are comparable on intellectual grounds," he
reflects. "But it’s just nice not having to confront salary
cuts."

He’s now teaching the same classes he taught at UCLA, but to
lecture halls of 45 rather than 150 or 200. With housing support,
he’s been able to find a home close to campus, rather than
competing in L.A.’s Westside housing market with "doctors, lawyers,
and stockbrokers who make two or three times what faculty does,"
Frieden remarked.

UCLA’s ability to attract and keep professors like Frieden is
directly linked to its financial situation. But with state funding
cuts of 15 to 20 percent over the last five years, this situation
is changing.

The American Association of University Professors reports that
the relative salaries and benefits at public institutions have
fallen 15 percent over the past 20 years compared to pay at private
institutions.

"If Harvard wants to throw a $5 million chair at somebody,"
admits Ned Pinger, Vice Provost of the College of Letters and
Sciences, "we can’t compete with that."

Jun Li tells a different story. When the tenured UCLA
mathematics professor left for Stanford University in 1995, he was
thinking of his 2-year-old daughter.

Although the San Francisco Bay Area has a higher cost of living,
Li found the local Palo Alto schools to be an improvement over the
Los Angeles public schools, a common concern amongst UCLA
faculty.

Not only can he expect to send his daughter to a top-rated Palo
Alto elementary school for free, but he can also count on Stanford
to subsidize two-thirds of his daughter’s college education, a
faculty benefit offered by many private universities.

Li’s family also worried about Southern California’s crime and
uncertain economic future. For Li, who had finished his doctorate
at Stanford University, the environment was the deciding
factor.

"They are two very fine institutions. I just chose the one that
has a slight edge," said Li.

UCLA, unlike most of the private institutions with which it
competes, does not offer any education subsidy to children of
faculty, nor does it offer them admissions preference, another
common perk.

For professors with children, this can be worth a cross-country
move. George Stiny, professor of architecture, left for the
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) after 16 years at UCLA.
Although Stiny’s new salary is equivalent to what he received at
UCLA, his two daughters, 2 and 5, will have their college
educations subsidized at 50 percent of the MIT tuition, for any
university they wish to attend.

Stiny, a native Californian, admits, "I’ll tell you what I miss
most ­ swimming outdoors."

Housing is another overriding problem for UCLA professors.
Faculty typically have to choose between university apartments
­ a tight squeeze for a family ­ or a two-hour daily
commute from the San Fernando Valley.

"If faculty are offered the same amount in Ann Arbor, they can
buy a big old frame house," said history department chair Ronald
Mellor. As Frieden suggests, this pressure could be eased with more
university support for housing.

For instance, take the case of Michael Wallerstein, a political
science professor who migrated to Northwestern University in
1994.

"For me, it was a quality of life issue," Wallerstein reflected.
"For those of us with kids, it’s harder, especially with the
housing prices."

Faculty moves, in general, have less to do with the academic
quality of UCLA and more with simple practicalities.

"I don’t feel I’ve moved to an intellectually inferior
department," comments Wallerstein. "I really liked UCLA, but I do
appreciate a smaller university with less bureaucracy."

With his move to the northern Chicago suburbs, Wallerstein saves
$20,000 per year in the private school fees he was paying for his
two children in Los Angeles. Although Wallerstein feels that UCLA
did "as much as can be expected" to keep him, he does admit that an
offer of an adequate raise might have made up the difference.

"When I left, my salary was in the low 50s. You can’t raise a
family on that," testifies Robert Gregor, a physiological science
professor who left for the Georgia Institute of Technology in 1994,
after 18 years at UCLA. Since his move, his flat salary rate has
risen by 60 percent.

"The most difficult point for us," says Mellor, "is that for the
last few years, we haven’t gotten the cost-of-living increase."

UCLA departments face a Catch-22. While successful in hiring new
talent, a few years later many are tempted away by other
universities.

"Many of our younger professors have gotten offers from very
good universities in the last five years, from Dartmouth, Stanford,
Chicago, Michigan," said Mellor. "These are extremely difficult to
fight off. But on the whole, we’ve been quite successful."

"The top 10 departments raid each other all the time for really
good people," said UCLA Political Science Professor Victor
Wolfenstein. "But who knows what ‘really good’ means anyway."

Although Jeffrey Frieden guesses that he probably would have
left UCLA eventually to return to his native Northeast, he feels
the school could be doing much more.

"UCLA’s retention problems stem from two things," he said. "Not
moving first when it comes to getting good people, and moving too
slowly when current faculty get other offers."

When disgruntled faculty want to change their working
circumstances, the process is akin to hearing bids at an auction.
Faculty will solicit offers from other schools, then ask UCLA to
make a counteroffer of a pay or benefits increase. The university
often takes as long as a year to respond, simply because
administrative bureaucracy is so slow. By then, the professor might
have already made up his or her mind to leave.

Constantly being on the defensive does not leave the departments
much money or time to lure desirable faculty to L.A.

"There are incentives to come here, such as the emphasis put on
research," said Vice Provost Ned Pinger. "A lot of private
(universities) stress teaching."

It is in this environment that UCLA has begun to rebuild after
the huge losses sustained with the implementation of three
Voluntary Early Retirement Programs (VERIPs), in 1991, 1992 and
1993. The College of Letters and Sciences alone lost 10 percent of
its faculty in VERIP III, almost all at the top levels of expertise
and experience.

However the UCLA history department has managed to hold its own.
Since 1982, it has risen in the Conference Board’s faculty rankings
from 11th to sixth place. Mellor attributes the improvement to an
influx of private donations during the 1980s, which allowed the
history department to attract internationally renowned
scholars.

Particular success, Mellor notes, has come in the areas of
ethnic history, where UCLA has had a "very, very strong record in
hiring," according to Mellor. Because of a scarcity of specialists
in those fields, those who work at UCLA face regular offers to go
elsewhere.

Varying UCLA salaries might be a solution to the current faculty
exodus, but the practice presents a moral dilemma. Private
universities are not shy about giving "royal treatment to faculty
superstars, but UCLA has a commitment to equitable pay scales.
Treating faculty unequally is politically risky, but something of
an industry standard.

Faculty quality is a litmus test of the famed Californian
commitment to higher education. Sacramento has a great deal of
power to affect how the UC schools are maintained.

"Until now, we have been primarily funded from state sources and
research," said Pinger. As a percentage of the state budget, higher
education has fallen from 18 percent in the 1960′s to 11 percent
during Pete Wilson’s years as governor.

As UC Berkeley has recently done, UCLA will likely turn to
private donations in the years ahead to make up the public funding
cuts. Thus far, these ‘gift funds’ have provided the extra monies
for perks. "We try to respond when people get offers," admitted
Mellor. "But I do feel we’re a great deal behind (comparable)
universities."

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