Discourse / Editorials / September 25, 2013

Thoughts from the Embers: Protect Knox’s greatest asset, the faculty

It’s no secret that Knox’s faculty members are its greatest asset.Embers
It’s about time we start acting like it.

The college reports its assets as land, equipment and endowment funds that are invested in the stock market, among other things. But there would be no Knox College as we know it without a diverse and dedicated faculty.

TKS reports this story every year. We go through the motions: interviewing the president, getting Andrew Leahy’s back-of-the-envelope calculations based on the consumer price index, talking to some faculty members who feel underpaid and others who believe they receive fair salaries considering Galesburg’s low cost of living.

But the nature of this discussion is changing. Last year, President Teresa Amott told faculty and staff there would be a two-year freeze in the college’s contributions to their retirement accounts. Now, there is talk of a pay freeze that would suspend incremental salary increases to reward faculty for their years of dedication to the institution — and give them an incentive them to stay.

Some would say that too much downward pressure on salaries would encourage our tenure-track — and even already tenured — professors to jump ship.

But without them, there is no ship.

In the recent past, we have seen major departures from faculty in the psychology — and more recently in educational studies — departments, among others. While they may have had personal reasons for leaving, that doesn’t discount the possibility that they would have stayed at a Knox with better pay.

Of course, Knox’s budgetary concerns warrant some degree of belt-tightening. Until we see results from President Amott’s proposed capital campaign, financial pressure will bear down on all areas of campus to make ends meet, especially with a Board of Trustees that wants to more carefully manage endowment spending.

But how we manage the budget squeeze is a reflection of our priorities as an institution. We can choose where to make the short-term cuts and it’s up to students to tell the college administration how they feel about that prioritization.

The college is beholden to the student body, not just as paying customers who want an education, but as the future donor base, the eventual guarantors of financial stability.

When Knox starts asking you to give back part of your income to this institution in 10 years, imagine how you’ll feel about contributing if your favorite professor had to jump ship.

So write an email to President Amott or Laura Behling, the new college dean. Let them know what (or who) you think we should and shouldn’t be prioritizing. Odds are that they’ll be listening.

TKS Editorial Board

Tags:  Board of Trustees editorial faculty financial Knox College laura behling pay freeze Teresa Amott The Knox Student

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