Allie Bedell

Equinox Staff


Despite a lagging economy and significant cuts in the University System of New Hampshire’s budget from the state legislature, some employees of Keene State College will be looking forward to increases in pay next year.

In her address to the campus on Feb. 10, President Helen Giles-Gee said the Board of Trustees approved a three-year contract with the Keene State College Education Association (KSCEA) on Jan. 2 in addition to allotting raises for non-union benefited employees.

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KSC employees currently fall into three categories: members of the KSCEA, like tenured professors; members of the Keene State College Adjunct Association (KSCAA), which includes adjuncts in their fifth semester or greater and non-tenured professors; and operating and professional, administrative, and technical (PAT) staff.

According to Kim Harkness, the director of human resources, KSCEA staff received a two percent increase for FY 2011. For FY 2012, which runs July 1, 2012 to June 30, 2013, KSCEA staff will receive a one percent increase in pay, followed by a three percent increase for FY 2013 and another three percent increase for FY 2014.

“That’s all by collective bargaining agreements,” Harkness said, noting the difficulty in contracts that extend multiple years.  “It’s hard because we’re looking into the future not really knowing what the legislature is doing.”

Harkness said operating and PAT staff will receive merit-based raises up to 0.5 percent, in addition to a retroactive 1.5 percent increase which occurred for all operating and PAT staff employed before Jan. 1.  The retroactive payment is an attempt to compensate because this portion of staff did not receive a raise for fiscal year 2011-2012, although everyone did receive a one-time bonus payment of $500.

She said the transition to merit-based increases is new to KSC and was created by the University System’s Board of Trustees.  Harkness said “because KSC was able to demonstrate its fiscal conservatism,” the Board approved a two percent pool which would allow increases for operating and PAT staff, but mandated that at least one-fourth of that pool, or 0.5 percent, be allocated based on a merit system.

“That was enabling language,” Harkness said of the allowance to provide these increases, but said that in no way did it require University System schools to actually provide increases. “So in fact, UNH is not providing raises to their operating and PAT staff.”

Harkness said, however, Plymouth State University and Granite State Community College will be awarding raises as well.

Because the merit-based system will be newly implemented, Gordon Leversee, the dean of sciences and social sciences, said the college had to develop a way to evaluate operating and PAT staff relatively quickly.

According to Leversee, staff will first fill out an evaluation form to determine their performances for FY 2010, running from Aug. 1, 2010 to June 30, 2011. “I fill out elements of the same form, then we meet,” he said.

During the meeting, Leversee said the employee and supervisor come to agreement about the standing of the employee, which is due by March 1.  Employees who are at least “satisfactory” in all areas will then have a second evaluation to be considered for a merit-based increase.

“Staff will have the opportunity to explain the areas of their strengths,” Leversee said.  “There is an expectation that merit is for exemplary employees.” After the second evaluation, Leversee said he will make recommendations to Provost Emile Netzhammer, who will then send recommendations for raises to the cabinet and the president.

Leversee said that although these merit-based increases are small, they’ll increase the base pay of the employee, so they’ll continue to build over time and eventually have potential to add up.

Although employees can potential see increases in their pay, Leversee said the idea of merit-based pay inspires some philosophical debate between the pros and cons of merit pay systems.  He said that the Board approved the switch, however, after a campus survey went out last year, indicating that staff would not be opposed to a merit-based increase system.

“In general, our increases for staff have been across the board increases,” he said.  “To me, these are dollars the campus has available, so I’m certainly going to do my part.”

After this year, Leversee said a committee will study the system being used to determine what works best for KSC in a merit-based pay increase system.  Ultimately, that committee will make recommendations about how to adapt the system moving forward to suit it to the annual review needed for KSC.

“As we refine our own process,” Leversee said, “it can create the opportunity for people to work toward merit.”

The final segment of KSC employees, the KSCAA, will not be receiving increases in pay this fiscal year according to Harkness, although previously they had received comparable increases every year.  She said that instead, the collective bargaining agreement decided upon no changes to FY 2012 while they work through other grievances concerning job security.

“The assumption is when we do go, there will be some need to catch up and make up,” Harkness said, indicating a retroactive raise later on.  “They have greater concerns about job security.”

Mike McCarthy, a communications professor and president of the KSCAA, said the union’s ultimate goal is to protect adjunct faculty with the level of workload they’ve had.

“I’ve walked into negotiations saying things are tough,” McCarthy said.  “How can I in good conscience ask for more pay?”

For McCarthy, adjunct faculty hold a unique and important place in the college.  He said that though they don’t necessarily hold the highest degrees in their area of expertise like tenured faculty, they often times have real-world experiences to help students learn about not just the theory, but the applied processes they learn in the classroom.

“You don’t learn the theory of building a stone wall,” he joked, saying you learn how to build it.  “For us, what we hope we offer is both the theoretical background but also the practical background.”

KSC’s student trustee, Jordan Posner, expressed concern about the movement of adjunct professors to tenured professors. “On the whole, we are cutting adjunct positions and promoting more professors to tenure in order to become more “prestigious,” Posner said.  “If you revert back to the [president’s] address, we cut adjuncts by $500,000, which is the result of this action.”

Posner referred to Giles-Gee’s speech where she noted that the college was asked to reduce the course load of adjunct faculty in order to “meet reduction in the state appropriation.”

McCarthy said that the budget cut accounts for significant issues with adjunct faculty job stability.  Because tenured faculty cannot be removed, adjunct faculty are the first to have courses cut from their workload.  McCarthy said instead of allocating more money to adjunct faculty and cutting elsewhere, students are not only losing out by having larger class sizes, but they’re missing out on valuable educational opportunities when adjunct faculty positions are cut.

“What hurt us was this huge cut.  We were cruising along, we were doing fine,” McCarthy said. He said the KSCAA is already entering negotiations for its next contract, focusing on job security and figuring out how to balance that with increased pay.

Both Harkness and McCarthy emphasized that the community understands the current financial strains on the college, and that they’re interested in protecting the jobs of their peers and the quality for students.

“It was very hard on the staff because some jobs were lost,” Harkness said.

In April, the Chronicle of Higher Education will publish national figures which will help the college determine whether or not these raises are in line with other colleges and universities across the country.  Harkness said it is not unusual for public schools to lag a little behind private schools.  The numbers released will then help the college determine how it may need to change its increases looking forward in order to keep staff at reasonable levels to match those of comparable institutions.

“Those are important benchmarks,” Harkness said.


Allie Bedell can be contacted at


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