By Mark Clements | LSU Student

A nation survey by the Chronicle of Higher Education conducted from 2010-11 shows only one in five like universities have lower faculty salaries, on all levels, than Louisiana State University.

While that 19th percentile peer ranking doesn't come as a surprise to many, the reasoning behind the numbers might.

Bob Kuhn, assistant chancellor in the office of budget and planning, said the statistics aren't as extreme as they seem on the surface, and the results may be skewed due to the high volume of instructors – generally, the lowest paid faculty members – the university employs.

In the fall semester of 2010, LSU had 213 instructors on salary. In the same semester, neither the University of Florida nor Texas A&M employed any.

"If you look at our research peers, we have more than anyone else," Kuhn said. "Other schools hire adjuncts (parttime outside contractors) to teach courses when needed, while the University relies more on instructors."

Adjuncts are paid by class while instructors are on salary and receive fringe benefits. As a comparison, Auburn University had 85 instructors on salary in the fall 2010 and Alabama employed 172.  Both fell far below the median pay, as well.

Despite calling the faculty the university's "greatest asset," Kuhn said LSU has withheld faculty raises for four years – the longest the institution has gone without a raise since 1982.

"Not giving merit increases would not only make it difficult to recruit new faculty members but difficult to maintain the current ones," Kuhn said.

English Professor and Faculty Senate President Kevin Cope says that while the numbers don't surprise him, it doesn't make the results "any less shocking."

"It doesn't justify the fact that people are improperly paid in respect to their qualifications, achievements and contributions to the university. The people on the low end who are doing a lot of the work and reaping the least quantity of benefits … are being abused the most severely by the very people they elected."

But Cope said the blame shouldn't fall on the university administration, but rather with the state's elected officials.

"The administration is doing what it can to get more money, but it can't spend what's not there.  The blame ultimately falls with the Legislature, the governor and ultimately, I suppose, with the people who elected them."

Barbara Heifferon, who supervises instructors in the English Department as the director of the Writing Program, said many teachers stay at the university because the profession, despite its low compensation, is "a calling" for most instructors.

"It's pretty painful for us and demoralizing for everybody," Heifferon said. "We care about our students. It is a fulfilling job even with low pay and politics and everything else going on. It's not fair for the work they do and they do work very hard."

But the poor pay may be beginning take its toll. Cope said the ranks of faculty have fallen nearly 15 percent in the past year.

If the university continues to struggle finding quality instructors, Cope said the affect could ultimately fall on the students.

"We will need larger classes and have to dispense with some of the more congenial environments, like discussion courses.