North Carolina Central Employees Give University Early Christmas Present
Sixty-six professors and administrators from North Carolina Central University in Durham have given their institution an early Christmas present: They gave back their salary increases in November to help the school deal with a reversion crisis that threatens to swamp all North Carolina campuses.
The amount of the giveback is small — it totals around $41,000 — while the school has been asked to revert 2.7 percent of its budget, or around $1.1 million, back to the state. But Dr. James Ammons, chancellor of North Carolina Central, finds the gesture “remarkable” all the same.
“Regardless of the amount, the fact that faculty and administrators made this decision on such an individual basis speaks volumes about how much they care about this university and the students,” Ammons says, adding that people are going to have to recognize “how very special, and very caring, the members of the faculty at N.C. Central are.”
All state employees in North Carolina were to receive a long-overdue salary increase of $625 this year. But at the same time a slowdown in the economy meant that the governor was contemplating asking all its units — including the colleges and universities — to return as much as 4 percent of their budget allotments to the state’s coffers.
At a meeting of administrators in early November, there were long faces and grim talk of postponing equipment purchases, cutting back on library resources, travel and the hiring of part-time faculty. Dr. Percy Murray, a history professor and chairman of the Faculty Senate, recalls Ammons reading a memo from the university counsel for the University of North Carolina System suggesting that faculty who wished to help the state’s schools through the looming budget crisis might consider forgoing their salary raises.
The memo sparked some good-natured joshing at the meeting — but it also seemed to have planted a seed, because spontaneously, in small groups, and without prompting from anyone in the administration, Murray says, faculty began choosing the giveback option.
“There was never a formal discussion,” Murray says. “I just came to a decision. I’m close to retirement, so it’s not going to have the same impact on me as it will as on a young assistant professor who’s got a low base salary to begin with and will see that $625 multiplied many times over the course of a career.”
“You would hear people say things like, ‘Huh! I’m not giving mine back — I’m doing bad!’ ” says Dr. Freddie Parker, chairman of the history department. “As soon as I heard about (the giveback option), my response was, ‘My gracious, that $625 only amounts to maybe 50 bucks a month — $30 after taxes.’ When you think of it in those terms, you see it’s not a biggie.”
Parker’s wife, Dr. Debra Parker, chairman of the department of human sciences, disagrees — somewhat. “For some people it was $625 out of a single household; for us, the amount was double. And we have two kids — a daughter who’s five … and another daughter who’s 13 and into every after-school activity there is. It was a sacrifice,” she says.
She adds there was also considerable discussion surrounding the message the giveback would send to the Legislature. “We were concerned that if we turned down the increase, it could say to them, ‘You can balance the budget on the backs of the faculty.’ “
However, she is pretty sure that the Legislature — and everyone else in the state — got the right message; the one the faculty members were intending to send.
“That we’re not playing — we’re in this for the long haul. If we’re willing to give up our salary raises then there’s no question of how committed we are, how far we’re willing to go, to make this work,” she says. “Nobody wanted to be a martyr. We just wanted to help.”
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