August 09, 2013

A Commentary by University President Lawrence Biondi, S.J.

Father Lawrence Biondi, S.J.
SLU President Lawrence Biondi, S.J. 

I read with interest recent commentaries from two faculty members at Saint Louis University complaining about reductions in the amount of salary increases some faculty received this year. 

As president of SLU, our Board of Trustees continues to give me the final authority on reviewing, evaluating and approving all salary increases. The process that took place this year was no different than what has taken place for the past 26 years of my administration and for eight years in the administration of my predecessor Thomas Fitzgerald, S.J.

At the direction of the Board, the president is responsible for considering all of the comprehensive aspects for faculty performance — teaching, research and service, including the faculty's contributions to help fulfill the University's Mission, as well as the president's Vision to make SLU the finest Catholic, Jesuit university in the United States. SLU staff members also are evaluated for their performance in their respective positions, as well as their contributions to help fulfill our Mission and Vision.

In any year, salary increase adjustments are made — upward or downward — to recommendations provided by chairs, deans, directors, managers and vice presidents. That was the case again this year. Any adjustments are made after careful review and evaluation by appropriate administrators at all levels.

It is important to note that no one's salary was cut this year and that all of the faculty members who are complaining received salary increases, although they may not have received what they desired or what they think they deserved. Even one of the letter writers called the University's pay raises "generous."

Overall, Saint Louis University is providing approximately $13.4 million in salary increases this year. And, let's be clear: Out of SLU's more than 4,200 full-time faculty and staff, there are complaints from about 16 people, or just about one-third of one percent.

And since 15 of these faculty members come from the College of Arts and Sciences, it is noteworthy to mention that the median faculty salary increase in that college was 4.0 percent, a substantial increase by any standard for any university in our country today.

The fact is the majority of our faculty and staff members are pleased with their salary increases this year, and I have received numerous letters of thanks from across the University. Moreover, members of our SLU community appreciate our commitment to making compensation a priority at a time when a number of colleges and universities — including some of our sister Jesuit institutions in the Midwest — are freezing salaries, eliminating faculty and staff positions, and cutting operating budgets.

I have no doubt that the complaints of a few faculty members at SLU ring hollow with people in the St. Louis metropolitan area who have not received salary increases in recent years or have seen their jobs disappear altogether.

Furthermore, these recent complaints continue the saga of behavior from a small number of dissident faculty members, who obviously lack the stark reality that their profession, like any other, requires them to be accountable. The past year's turmoil from these complainers has been self-inflicted, self-absorbed and self-serving, and not in the best interest of our students' hopes and dreams.

Our students come to SLU not to be subjected to these dissenters' self-absorbed motivation to be independent of professional accountability. They come to receive an outstanding Catholic, Jesuit education that values competence, conscience, compassion, commitment and community — an education that informs, forms and transforms them into tomorrow's effective leaders and into citizens who will contribute to communities throughout the world.

Enough of the drama!

Enough of the theater!

It is time to remember that we are all guided by a higher purpose at Saint Louis University. It is time to return to our respective responsibilities as students, faculty, staff, administrators and trustees for the greater good of our students and health care patients.

Lawrence Biondi, S.J.
President, Saint Louis University

Originally published in the St. Louis Post Dispatch on Aug. 8

Higher purpose. Greater good.
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