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At BU, Gap Between Salaries for Female, Male Profs Widening

By Marcella Bombardieri

The salaries of female professors at Boston University have fallen farther behind those of their male colleagues in the last dozen years. The salary gap for male and female full professors at BU is now twice the national average for private research universities, according to data released to BU professors by the faculty council Wednesday.

Female full professors are earning 84 percent as much as their male peers this year, compared with 88 percent in 1992.

Among full professors, the highest faculty rank, the gender gap was $19,800 this year, with men making an average of $119,900, and women, $100,100. The difference between BU’s gender gap and those of other schools is more modest at the lower ranks.

The university’s salaries are also low, overall, compared with peer institutions. The average salary for full professors at New England universities is 15 percent more than at BU.

The faculty council report was the first opportunity since 1993 for BU professors to compare the salaries of men and women, and the administration’s decision to allow its distribution marked an important change in policy. Under John Silber and Jon Westling’s presidencies, Boston University departed from the practice of most other major schools by declining to report salary data to the American Association of University Professors, which compiles annual statistics.

But interim president Aram V. Chobanian decided to resume reporting to the AAUP, and the administration also provided the faculty council with data. BU’s new president, Robert A. Brown, who has been in office only a month, said he would work to make BU salaries more competitive, but especially to redress the inequalities brought to light.

“We want to be an institution where all faculty believe they will be fairly compensated as close to market conditions as the university can afford,” he said. “But what’s most troubling is the gender differences, which beg the question of whether we have a fair distribution of resources inside the institution.”

BU professors have long known that they were paid less than their colleagues at similar institutions, and especially resented it because BU has a tradition of very high executive compensation. Silber and Westling were among the highest paid university presidents in America during their tenures, and with a salary of $650,000, Brown, too, is near the top.

Silber, an outspoken social conservative who led the university for most of three decades, did not publicly identify gender equality as an important priority in university management. In a 1990 sex discrimination case that a professor successfully brought against BU, faculty members testified that Silber called the English department “a damn matriarchy.”

“There hasn’t been an open and clear discussion of our salaries” in previous BU administrations, said Roscoe Giles, chair of the faculty council, who added that the issue of gender equity in pay was “not a high priority to address in the past.”

Silber did not return a call Wednesday, and Westling said he could not comment on the report because he had not yet had a chance to read it.

The faculty council sent a 35-page report to BU professors Wednesday; the Globe obtained a copy. It was based on comparisons of numbers provided by the university and AAUP data.

The analysis slightly inflates BU salaries, because BU’s numbers represent raises given in January 2005, while the AAUP data represented salaries for the entire 2004–2005 academic year. The analysis also did not examine benefits.

On average, professors at private doctoral universities in New England earn 15 percent more than at BU at the full professor rank, 5 percent more at the associate rank, and 8 percent more at the assistant professor rank, according to the report. The BU salaries averaged $116,400 for full professors, $80,200 for associate professors, and $68,600 for assistant professors.

The average female salary at BU was 84 percent of male salaries for full professors, 94 percent for associate professors, and 89 percent for assistant professors.

But the gap varied widely between BU’s different colleges. In the College of Arts and Sciences, women fared worse: their salaries were 78 percent, 92 percent, and 84 percent of men’s at the three faculty ranks, respectively.

The data are not weighted to reflect how many years professors have been teaching, but the men and women within each rank are of roughly the same age, with roughly the same number of years of service at BU and in their particular rank. At the full professor rank, the men were only about two years older on average, and had spent about two more years at BU.

The gender gap between men and women at the associate rank is about 7 percent both at BU and nationally. But BU’s 13 percent gender gap at the assistant level is higher than the 11 percent nationally and the 7 percent among private research universities in New England.