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A group of St. Mary’s College of Maryland professors has proposed a new wage system that would tie together the salaries of the lowest-paid employees with those of the top administration.

The professors behind the proposal want to see everyone on campus, including maintenance, housekeeping and grounds staff, benefit when the college does well. The plan aims to make sure that even the lowest-paid staff with current starting salaries of $25,500 would have pay adjusted to provide a “living wage.” It also caps the pay of faculty and administrators.

The pay plan is based on starting the college’s lowest-paid staff at a salary of 130 percent of the federal poverty level for a family of four — $29,967. According to the professors behind the plan, this would ensure no family working full time at the college would qualify for food stamps.

From that number, which would rise with inflation, minimum salaries would be set for professors and administrators based on a multiplier. For instance, a full professor’s salary would always be at least 2.5 times the lowest paid staff’s salary, in this case $74,940.

The plan also includes maximum salaries for professors, vice presidents and the college’s president.

The college’s board of trustees would have to endorse and approve the plan before it could be put in place.

“I think we’ll certainly discuss it,” Gail Harmon, board chair, said Tuesday. “It’s a very interesting concept.”

If the plan were put in place today, the group of professors said, it would cost the college about $270,000 once some salaries were increased while others were cut. If current administrative salaries were grandfathered in and no salaries were immediately cut, the proposal would cost about $380,000.

“This came, really, from a long-term concern,” Laraine Glidden, a professor emeritus who has worked at the college since 1976, said.

Over the past decade, there have been several rallies to call for a living wage for the college’s staff. Many college employees and students over the years have been concerned about the disparity between the lowest and highest paid on campus, Glidden said.

“We think actually it’s a pretty modest proposal in terms of change,” she said.

She said that she expects there to be much discussion over the coming year about the proposal, but that there are other concerns at hand.

“I think there are a lot of issues that we’re dealing with right now,” including budget cuts needed to make up for a shortfall in enrollment this semester and a search for a new college president, Glidden said.

About eight to 10 college employees, mostly faculty, developed the proposal, including English professor Robin Bates.

“I think this is a great time to do it because it’s saying we’re not only being reactive but also proactive,” he said.

Bates said the plan would help rein in tuition increases by capping administrator and faculty salaries and eliminating the possibility of exponential pay increases. “We always have to be creative in trying to find ways to keep down costs,” he said.

Developers of the innovative proposal said it could re-invent the college and attract a unique type of faculty and staff who were as concerned about moral ideas of work equality as what their own pay would be.

And while the organizers of the plan said there is room for negotiation, there’s no sure bet the plan will go through.

“These kinds of initiatives are not uncommon at all,” Alan Dillingham, an economics professor and president of the faculty senate at the college, said of the idea of offering a living wage. “These are driven by equity concerns by someone’s sense of fairness.”

The problem, Dillingham said, is that there are very different labor markets that drive different positions’ salaries.

“They don’t move together, necessarily,” Dillingham said.

Another potential problem with the proposal is that there is generally a correlation between the salary offered and the quality of applicants, Dillingham said. That could impede finding the best people for faculty and administration jobs, he said.

“I’m very skeptical of these arbitrary rules people like to apply,” the self-described labor economist said.

Dillingham did acknowledge that some of the higher-end salaries at the college were out of line, relatively, with peer institutions, in part because of various salary freezes imposed by the state since the recession that restricted who was eligible for raises.

“There’s been no real rhyme or reason to the compensation increases given in the last four years,” he said. While he may not agree with the current proposal, Dillingham said some kind of framework needs to be put back in place for salaries and pay increases.

St. Mary’s College of Maryland wage proposal

Minimum multiplier Minimum $ Current minimum $ Maximum multiplier Maximum $ Current Maximum $

Staff 1 29,967 24,500 - - -

Assistant professor 2 59,952 56,100 - - -

Associate professor 2.2 65,947 60,918 - - -

Full professor 2.5 74,940 72,500 4 119,904 155,541

Assoc. and asst. v.p. 3 89,928 100,301 4 119,904 130,593

Vice presidents 4 119,904 184,110 7 209,832 215,026

President 7.5 224,820 325,500 10 299,760 325,500