The Role of the Faculty in Budgetary and Salary Matters

This statement was approved by the Association’s Committee on College and University Governance, adopted by the Association’s Council in May 1972, and endorsed by the Fifty-eighth Annual Meeting. In April 1990, the Council adopted several changes in language that had been approved by the Committee on College and University Governance in order to remove gender-specific references from the original text.

General Principles

The purpose of this statement is to define the role of the faculty in decisions as to the allocation of financial resources according to the principle of shared authority set forth in the 1966 State­ment on Government of Colleges and Universities,1 and to offer some principles and derivative guidelines for faculty participation in this area. On the subject of budgeting in general, the Statement on Government asserts:

The allocation of resources among competing demands is central in the formal responsi­bility of the governing board, in the administrative authority of the president, and in the educational function of the faculty. Each component should therefore have a voice in the determination of short­and long­range priorities, and each should receive appropriate analyses of past budgetary experience, reports on current budgets and expenditures, and short­and long­range budgetary projections. The function of each component in bud­getary matters should be understood by all; the allocation of authority will determine the flow of information and the scope of participation in decisions.

Essentially two requirements are set forth in this passage:

  1. Clearly understood channels of communication and the accessibility of important information to those groups which have a legitimate interest in it.
  2. Participation by each group (governing board, president, and faculty) appropriate to the particu­lar expertise of each. Thus the governing board is expected to husband the endowment and obtain capital and operating funds; the president is expected to maintain existing institutional resources and create new ones; the faculty is expected to establish faculty salary policies and, in its primary responsibility for the educational function of the insti­tution, to participate also in broader budgetary matters primarily as these impinge on that function. All three groups, the Statement on Government makes clear, should partici­pate in long­range planning.

Faculty Participation in Budgeting

The faculty should participate both in the preparation of the total institutional budget and (within the framework of the total budget) in decisions relevant to the further apportioning of its specific fiscal divisions (salaries, academic programs, tuition, physical plant and grounds, and so on). The soundness of resulting decisions should be enhanced if an elected representa­tive committee of the faculty participates in deciding on the overall allocation of institutional resources and the proportion to be devoted directly to the academic program. This committee should be given access to all information that it requires to perform its task effectively, and it should have the opportunity to confer periodically with representatives of the administration and governing board. Such an institution­level body, representative of the entire faculty, can play an important part in mediating the financial needs and the demands of different groups within the faculty and can be of significant assistance to the administration in resolving impass­es that may arise when a large variety of demands are made on necessarily limited resources.

Such a body will also be of critical importance in representing faculty interests and interpret­ing the needs of the faculty to the governing board and president. The presence of faculty members on the governing board itself may, particularly in smaller institutions, constitute an approach that would serve somewhat the same purpose, but does not obviate the need for an all­faculty body that may wish to formulate its recommendations independent of other groups. In addition, at public institutions there are legitimate ways and means for the faculty to play a role in the submission and support of budgetary requests to the appropriate agency of government.

Budgetary decisions directly affecting those areas for which, according to the Statement on Government, the faculty has primary responsibility—curriculum, subject matter and methods of instruction, research, faculty status, and those aspects of student life that relate to the educa­tional process—should be made in concert with the faculty. Certain kinds of expenditures relat­ed to the academic program, such as the allocation of funds for a particular aspect of library development, student projects under faculty sponsorship, or departmental equipment, will require that the decision­making process be sufficiently decentralized to give the various units of the faculty (departments, divisions, schools, colleges, special programs) autonomy in decid­ing upon the use of their allocations within the broader limits set by the governing board, pres­ident, and agencies representative of the entire faculty. In other areas, such as faculty research programs or the total library and laboratory budget, recommendations as to the desirable fund­ing levels for the ensuing fiscal period and decisions on the allocation of university funds with­in the current budget levels should be made by the university­level, all­faculty committee as well as by the faculty agencies directly concerned.2 The question of faculty salaries, as an aspect of faculty status, is treated separately below.

Circumstances of financial exigency obviously pose special problems. At institutions experi­encing major threats to their continued financial support, the faculty should be informed as early and as specifically as possible of significant impending financial difficulties. The faculty—with substantial representation from its nontenured as well as its tenured members, since it is the for­mer who are likely to bear the brunt of any reduction—should participate at the department, col­lege or professional school, and institution­wide levels in key decisions as to the future of the institution and of specific academic programs within the institution. The faculty, employing accepted standards of due process, should assume primary responsibility for determining the status of individual faculty members.3 The question of possible reductions in salaries and fringe benefits is discussed in the section below. The faculty should play a fundamental role in any decision that would change the basic character and purpose of the institution, including trans­formation of the institution, affiliation of part of the existing operation with another institution, or merger, with the resulting abandonment or curtailment of duplicate programs.

Before any decisions on curtailment become final, those whose work stands to be adversely affected should have full opportunity to be heard. In the event of a merger, the faculties from the two institutions should participate jointly in negotiations affecting faculty status and the academic programs at both institutions. To the extent that major budgetary considerations are involved in these decisions, the faculty should be given full and timely access to the financial information necessary to the making of an informed choice. In making decisions on whether teaching and research programs are to be curtailed, financial considerations should not be allowed to obscure the fact that instruction and research constitute the essential reason for the existence of the university. Among the various considerations, difficult and often competing, that have to be taken into account in deciding upon particular reductions, the retention of a viable academic program necessarily should come first. Particular reductions should follow considered advice from the concerned departments, or other units of academic concentration, on the short­term and long­term viability of reduced programs.

Faculty Participation in Decisions Relating to Salary Policies and Procedures

The Statement on Government asserts that “the faculty should actively participate in the deter­mination of policies and procedures governing salary increases.” Salaries, of course, are part of the total budgetary picture; and, as indicated above, the faculty should participate in the decision as to the proportion of the budget to be devoted to that purpose. However, there is also the question of the role of the faculty as a body in the determination of individual faculty salaries.

1. The Need for Clear and Open Policy. Many imagined grievances as to salary could be alle­viated, and the development of a system of accountability to reduce the number of real grievances could be facilitated, if both the criteria for salary raises and the recommenda­tory procedure itself were (a) designed by a representative group of the faculty in concert with the administration, and (b) open and clearly understood.4 Such accountability is not participation per se, but it provides the basis for a situation in which such participation can be more fruitful.

Once the procedures are established, the person or group that submits the initial salary recommendation (usually the department chair, alone or in conjunction with an elected executive committee of the department) should be informed of its status at each further stage of the salary­determination process. As the Statement on Government points out, the chief competence for the judgment of a colleague rests in the department, school, or pro­gram (whichever is the smallest applicable unit of faculty government within the insti­tution), and in most cases the salary recommendation presumably derives from its judg­ment. The recommending officer should have the opportunity to defend that recommen­dation at a later stage in the event of a serious challenge to it.

2. Levels of Decision Making. Not all institutions provide for an initial salary recommenda­tion by the department chair or the equivalent officer; the Association regards it as desir­able, for the reasons already mentioned, that the recommendation normally originate at the departmental level. Further review is normally conducted by the appropriate admin­istrative officers; they should, when they have occasion to question or inquire further regarding the departmental recommendation, solicit informed faculty advice by meeting with the department head or chair and, if feasible, the elected body of the faculty. It is also desirable that a mechanism exist for review of a salary recommendation, or of a final salary decision, by a representative elected committee of the faculty above the depart­ment level in cases involving a complaint.5 Such a committee should have access to infor­mation on faculty salary levels. Another faculty committee, likewise at a broader level than that of the department, may be charged with the review of routine recommenda­tions.

Of the role of the governing board in college and university government, the Statement on Government says: “The governing board of an institution of higher education, while maintaining a general overview, entrusts the conduct of administration to the adminis­trative officers, the president and the deans, and the conduct of teaching and research to the faculty. The board should undertake appropriate self­limitation.” The Statement adds that “in the broadest sense of the term” the board “should pay attention to personnel pol­icy.” The thrust of these remarks is that it is inadvisable for a governing board to make decisions on individual salaries, except those of the chief administrative officers of the institution. Not only do such decisions take time that should be devoted to the board’s functions of overview and long­range planning, but such decisions also are in most cases beyond the competence of the board.

When financial exigency leads to a reduction in the overall salary budget for teaching and research, the governing board, while assuming final responsibility for setting the limits imposed by the resources available to the institution, should delegate to the facul­ty and administration concurrently any further review of the implication of the situation for individual salaries, and the faculty should be given the opportunity to minimize the hardship to its individual members by careful examination of whatever alternatives to termination of services are feasible.

3. Fringe Benefits. The faculty should participate in the selection of fringe­benefit programs and in the periodic review of those programs. It should be recognized that of these so­called fringe benefits, at least those included in the definition of total compensation set forth by the Association’s Committee on the Economic Status of the Profession, have the same standing as direct faculty salaries and are separated for tax purposes. They should be considered and dealt with in the same manner as direct payment of faculty salary.


1. The participation of students in budgetary decisions affecting student programs and student life is taken for granted in this document, but no attempt is made to define the nature of that participation here. Back to text

2. For obvious reasons, the focus here is on funding from the resources of the institution, and not from external agencies such as private contractors or the federal government. Even in these cases, however, it may be possible in certain circumstances for the faculty to play a part in deciding further on the allocation of a particular grant to various purposes related to the project within the institution. There should be care­ful faculty and administrative scrutiny as to the methods by which these funds are to be employed under the particular contract. Back to text

3. On the question of due process and appropriate terminal settlements for individual faculty members (on tenure or prior to the expiration of a term appointment) whose positions are being abolished, see Reg­ulation 4c of the “Recommended Institutional Regulations on Academic Freedom and Tenure,” AAUP, Policy Documents and Reports, 11th ed. (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2015), 81–82. Back to text

4. This section does not take into account those situations in which salaries are determined according to a step system and/or a standard salary is negotiated for each rank. The salary policy and, in effect, indi­vidual salaries are public information under such systems. Back to text

5. See Regulation 15 of the “Recommended Institutional Regulations on Academic Freedom and Tenure,” Policy Documents and Reports, 88. Back to text