Merit Policy Reminder

The current collective bargaining agreement (CBA) states that units are to revise and submit their merit policies for approval by the end of the Spring 2023 term.

Deans of colleges and schools may prepare and issue templates for merit policies to assist units during this process. Following that step,  “the faculty will first consider any input provided by the appropriate governance committee, department or unit head, dean, vice president, Provost, or designee” and faculty may amend policy suggestions from a dean and submit an amended policy for approval.

The opportunity to devise policy that recognizes merit provides a vital touchpoint for local shared governance. Unit by unit, we can reflect on what matters in our work and how our efforts should be measured and rewarded while considering the structures and incentives we want to establish for ourselves and our colleagues.

Some units may need to address how to handle cases where faculty meet or exceed expectations in some but not all areas of responsibility.

The guidelines issued by the College of Arts and Sciences include this language:

  • Merit policy should explicitly state that only faculty who receive an overall assessment of meets or exceeds expectation qualify for a merit increase
  • Not meeting expectations in any category precludes an overall assessment of meets or exceeds

Two key points:

This isn’t actually what the CBA says, and insisting on this approach anywhere on campus could lead to unintended consequences that would undermine its intent and goals.

Article 26, which outlines this CBA cycle of institution-wide raises and has greater force than the supplemental appendices, states:

  • Distribution: Merit distributions should be given as a percentage of base salary, irrespective of FTE in any given review period, and not as a flat dollar amount, unless the unit has Office of the Provost approval for the distribution. Unit level merit policies must include criteria for determining whether faculty members exceed, meet, or do not meet expectations in teaching, service, and research, as applicable, and a methodology for determining when faculty meet expectations overall based on their ratings in those areas.

The last phrase presumes that there can be scope for some degree of merit eligibility if a faculty member meets (or even exceeds) expectations by a wide margin in multiple areas yet falls somewhat short in one of them.

It is also important to note that merit raises will be disbursed in January 2024 based on work performed previously. The thought that one of our colleagues may have worked tirelessly to perform their job to the best of their abilities under the most difficult of circumstances only to fall slightly short in one of their areas of responsibility and then—consequently—be told by their unit and by our institution that their collective efforts over this period had zero merit is shattering.

Faculty and units should follow the procedure outlined in the CBA:

  • Consider the input provided by a unit head, department head, dean, vice president, Provost, or designee.
  • Amend those suggestions as appropriate.
  • Submit an amended policy for approval if you choose to make changes.

It is not too late to make changes, and units aren’t constrained to submit policies in accordance with a dean’s suggested guidance.

Although there may be cases when it truly wouldn’t be appropriate to award a merit raise, intentionally including a more flexible mechanism for evaluating whether a faculty member meets expectations overall will help maintain and enhance, rather than diminish, our standards for teaching, service, and research.