The Fort Lewis College Board of Trustees has begun addressing salary inequities that have developed largely because the college has offered pay increases only once in the past three years.
Trustees unanimously approved a measure that would offer salary increases to veteran faculty members and some staff members who are not part of the state personnel system.
The salary increases would go to veteran faculty and staff members who make less than recently hired peers.
The wage disparity comes about because FLC bases the pay of new hires on the pay offered for similar positions in peer institutions using a salary model from the College and University Professional Association.
While wages have risen over the past three years in the CUPA salary model, raises at FLC have not kept pace, and that means new hires often start at FLC at wages higher than longtime employees in similar positions.
Becky Clausen, associate professor of sociology and the faculty representative on the Board of Trustees, said, “This proposal, to the faculty, shows the administration is willing to address these issues. It signals we’re starting this conversation.”
FLC President Tom Stritikus agreed addressing salary discrepancies that have emerged in the past five years will be a longer-term project and the action taken Friday addresses only part of the problem.
Clausen said the CUPA salary model looks only at salaries offered by institutions of higher learning and not at the cost of living.
She noted the average house cost at peer institutions is about $200,000, less than half the cost of the average house in Durango.
The median price for a home in Durango hit $550,000 in the third quarter of 2020, according to the Durango Area Association of Realtors.
Trustee Dick Kaufman suggested FLC use the CUPA salary model, but adjust it to select FLC peer institutions in areas where the cost of living is similar to Durango’s.
Michele Peterson, associate vice president of finance and administration, said administrators are already examining ways to use more accurate salary modeling in determining compensation rates at the school.
The total cost for making all of the salary adjustments will be about $89,000 a year for the faculty and $87,000 a year for the staff. Thirty-six faculty members will receive salary adjustments and 41 staff members will receive them.
In other action, Stritikus said FLC handled the novel coronavirus well early in the fall semester, when the school had no active cases from check-in week in late August through Oct. 7.
The number of active COVID cases peaked the week of Nov. 16, with 73 cases.
No one who tested positive for the virus had to be hospitalized, no one died and the school has no evidence that transmission of any cases occurred on campus, Stritikus said.
In-person learning at FLC will return for the spring semester Feb. 1, and every returning student will need to be tested for COVID-19 before being enrolled.
The school is also examining continuing and making permanent some programs adopted to deal with the novel coronavirus, such as using outdoor learning environments.
The meeting was the last one for Trustee Dianne Van Voorhees, a Front Range attorney who graduated from FLC.
Gov. Jared Polis has named Julie Levy Duvall to replace Van Voorhees. Levy Duvall has served as U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet’s state director, and she is an FLC graduate.
Levy Duvall will be up for confirmation by the Colorado Legislature in the 2021 session, which is expected to begin Jan. 13.