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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Stop the sucking

    Finding and keeping talented faculty should be a high priority

    Listen carefully to the sounds of the UA campus and you’ll hear a distinct sound behind the clamor of students rushing to class and the distant strains of “”Bear Down”” streaming from the clock tower. What’s that noise? It’s the giant sucking sound of talented faculty abandoning the university for higher-paying jobs at other schools.

    Retaining excellent faculty members is a perennial dilemma at the UA, and if we are to have any hope of remaining a quality, competitive institution, the university needs to figure out how to stop the eternal vacuum.

    Last year alone, more than half of professors approached with job offers from other schools packed up and headed out of town – about 50 top teachers overall. Many of them left Arizona in favor of other top-tier research universities around the nation, offering cushier salary packages and better benefits. And this outward exodus of the university’s most skilled scholars isn’t anything new; it’s been going on for years.

    In an interview with the Arizona Daily Star last week, President Robert Shelton admitted that the UA is “”just not competitive in faculty salaries.”” Recognizing the severity of the problem is an important first step toward repairing it.

    More importantly, however, Shelton committed to make paying professors a prime concern. “”We have many needs and wants, but all of it pales in comparison to attracting the best people,”” Shelton said in the interview. We think he’s absolutely right – attracting and retaining talented faculty members should be a top priority for the university, and Shelton’s pledge to plug the “”brain drain”” is a step in the right direction.

    Although a $10 million funding boost from the state, which Shelton requested last year, is a good stop gap measure to stave off the annual effects of faculty flight, the university shouldn’t rely on a capricious state legislature to keep bailing them out, especially in an era of seemingly endless budget cuts. We need a serious fiscal commitment to recruiting and retaining talented faculty.

    Although our beautiful campus and temperate climate may be nice, the intangible benefits of our campus are no substitute for a bag of cash. The only way to save professors from being sucked away is to offer reasonable salaries to keep them here, and the UA needs to budget for fatter faculty paychecks.

    Fortunately, the administration says they’re working on it. In addition to the spoils of his annual lobbying battle in the state capitol, President Shelton hopes to supplement professors’ pay with student tuition dollars and raise private funds to endow future faculty.

    Retaining the talent we already have is an important goal, but the UA should go further. Stopping the outward flow of faculty is a start, but we also need to focus on recruiting distinguished professors. Unfortunately, we can’t hope to lure lucrative talent without fixing the abysmal attrition first.

    A truly excellent university is the sum of the skill, ideas and effort of thousands of talented individuals. If the UA hopes to remain a top-tier school, hiring and holding on to eminent faculty should be a high priority – and the only way to do it is by offering competitive salaries.

    OPINIONS BOARD: Editorials are determined by the Wildcat opinions board and written by one of its members. They are Justyn Dillingham, Allison Hornick, Sarah Keeler, Jerry Simmons, Connor Mendenhall and Allison Dumka.

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