Behind the Scenes of the 2013 AAUP Survey

Annual report gives the low-down on the highest-paying universities in academia.

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Ever wondered how much professors are paid for their efforts? Well, there’s a survey for that.

Each year, for at least the past five decades, the American Association of University Professors’ research office has collected and compiled self-reported data on full-time faculty salaries and benefits from private and public universities and colleges throughout the U.S.

The data collection for the AAUP survey usually runs from November until February, according to Samuel Dunietz, an AAUP Research Associate. The data is then synthesized by a committee of less than five people, led by AAUP Director of Research and Public Policy, John Curtis.

The survey is a well-known, go-to resource that faculty members, colleges and universities, and the general public can use to inform themselves about the compensation faculty members earn, set within the wider economic context for higher education.

“We’re looking at the state of the academic profession so faculty members can know what they can expect to make if they’re coming into academia or have been working many years … and also to see how much the academic profession is worth compared to other industries and the general public,” Dunietz says.

Longevity of the AAUP survey has enabled it to capture a snapshot of wider trends in faculty salaries through comparison of the current survey with past surveys, such as when the economy has struggled or prospered, Dunietz explains.

For at least the past decade, the AAUP has shared its data with The Chronicle of Higher Education, the number one source of news, information, and jobs for college and university faculty members and administrators, according to The Chronicle’s website.

The publication’s staff, including Database Reporter Jonah Newman and News Designer and Web Developer Brian O’Leary, tabulates and presents online the results of the survey, adding to it the Department of Education’s Integrative Post-Secondary Education Data breakdown of full-time versus part-time professor salaries. AAUP works with The Chronicle to ensure the information provided is presented accurately online, Dunietz says.

Users of The Chronicle’s web survey interface can filter by highest-paying schools, state, faculty rank and gender as well as access more detailed information about each institution, along with trends over time.

Although, the reported numbers vary from year to year, the 2013 survey included data from more than 1,200 higher education institutions. The analysis of the data revealed that after three years of average salary increases trailing behind the rate of inflation, the overall increase last year was relatively comparable to the hike in consumer prices—but barely. The rate of inflation last year was low enough for faculty salaries to keep pace, according to 2012-2013 AAUP’s Annual Report on the Economic Status of the Profession.

Compiling the AAUP survey each year is no easy task. It requires strong analytical skills and some technical expertise not only to create a system to collect data, but also to extract that data meaningfully so it can be used, says Dunietz, who has helped with data analysis of the AAUP report the past three years.

“My sociological background had a huge impact on my position here,” says Dunietz, American University Public Policy master’s student who earned his sociology degree from University of Maryland.

Once the data is compiled by AAUP and shared with The Chronicle of Higher Education by mid-March, Newman cleans up the data, organizes and formats it, so it can be presented online — in less than two weeks. He is also responsible for calculating percentiles that ranks which colleges and universities pay well among their comparable group. For example, the 2013 AAUP survey has revealed that University of Los Angeles in Calif. is the highest paying public university with full professors earning on average $167,000 a year.

Newman is a data guru, of sorts. He is the all-important-link between data and presentation, making sure the data from the AAUP survey is as correct and reliable as possible.

However, when Newman joined the publication straight out of undergrad from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University, he had to up his Excel game.

“I think I had basic Excel skills that most people in my generation have. I’ve grown up using Excel. There were a lot of things that I didn’t know,” Newman says.

He says he has improved his Excel skills through learning from his colleagues and attending sessions like last year’s National Institute of Computer Assisted Reporting’s “My Favorite Excel Things,” which revealed unconventional Excel tips and tricks.

“I learned an attention to detail,” Newman says, “The percentile thing was a process of doing something over and over and I had to make sure I was doing it right and doing it carefully and not introducing any errors into the data.”

Furthermore, Newman says he has learned the importance of planning ahead, collaboration, and communication so that everyone on the survey team knows when the deadlines are and when everything launches online. The Chronicle of Higher Education usually publishes the AAUP survey results in April.

Before the AAUP survey can go live, The Chronicle’s designer and web developer Brian O’Leary must decide which design features will carry over from the previous years’ surveys as well as confirm that all components of the survey continue to work, and modify as necessary. For O’Leary, it’s an ongoing process of deciding which page elements need to change and which are left unchanged.

“I think that’s something we’ve always taken very seriously,” O’Leary says, “And we’ll continue to try to raise the quality of what we present and try to make it better and more intuitive. But it’s a negotiation between improving and keeping things consistent and useful.

O’Leary’s studies in English in undergrad and poetry at the master’s level, makes him an unusual choice for executing The Chronicle’s web design and development, although he has spent two stints there doing just that.

“I largely taught myself,” he says, “I don’t necessarily recommend it for everybody, but for me, it worked well. I learned flash and kind of got it on my own and decided I wanted to learn more and that sort of led to my entry into programming.”

If any bumps in the road crop up while Newman and O’Leary work to take the AAUP annual report live, The Chronicle of Higher Education’s Interactives Senior Editor Josh Hatch has their back.

Hatch says he relies on his journalistic perspective and underlying understanding of technology and design considerations, grasped from his journalism degree from the University of Richmond and time spent at USA TODAY in multimedia storytelling, to set priorities and guide his team.

“I think it’s having an understanding of all the different disciplines, maybe not a master of them all; but I understand them enough and at a deep enough level that I’m able to weigh them all together in my mind.”

Hatch, who also teaches part-time at American University in Washington, D.C., says he works closely with Newman and O’Leary to ensure the AAUP survey content is easily digestible for the reader.

The Chronicle presents the AAUP survey annually because salary compensation is of intense interest to its readers, many of whom are faculty members or administrators, according to Hatch. The survey consistently drives traffic to The Chronicle’s website.

“I think it’s our most trafficked thing that we have on our website,” Hatch says.

Despite the iterative nature of the AAUP annual report, there’s fresh learning opportunities for everyone involved in the creation process. For example, Hatch says his team has developed technically and socially — not without spirited debate.

“It’s been a very rewarding experience. I’ve learned a lot and it’s something that even though it’s largely the same process year after year; each year is different. There are new things I’ve learned and each year, there are changes that have to be made, even if they are not obvious,” Dunietz says.

It’s that time of year yet again — Newman has already met with a colleague to begin planning analysis for the 2014 data.


Save the Children Report Reveals Nearly 50 Million Children Out of School In Conflict Zones


                                  **Photo Credit WikiImages via Pixabay

Save the Children International, an organization that serves children and families, released a report last week stating that attacks on education are on the rise with nearly 50 million children out of school living in conflict-ridden countries around the world. The report was released on the eve of Malala Day, in which Pakistan schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai celebrated her 16th birthday by delivering an inspirational speech to the U.N. General Assembly.

In 2012, Yousafzai was targeted and gunned down as she went to school by the Taliban for being outspoken for girls’ education. Her tragedy galvanized global attention to the plight that many girls face.

Unfortunately, Save the Children’s report sheds light on the harsh reality that Yousafzai’s horrific experience is a widespread occurrence for children living in conflict-affected countries.

“This is an issue that many children around the world are being denied their right to learn and we want to shed light on how broad an issue this is. Many schools and education systems are really being attacked and we need to make sure that people are aware of this issue,” Heather Simpson, Senior Director for Education and Child Development at Save the Children International said to Voice of America’s reporter Frances Alonzo during a phone interview.

The report finds that in 2012, there were more than 3,600 documented attacks on education, including violence, torture, and intimidation against children and teachers. Some of these attacks resulted in death or serious injuries. Armed groups have been wreaking havoc on communities by shelling and bombing schools, destroying school materials such as books, desks, chalkboards, and recruiting school-aged children, according to the report.

Since the onset of the Syria conflict, 3,900 schools have been destroyed, damaged, or occupied for purposes other than education.

The report reveals that at the primary school level, there are close to 29 million children out of school living in conflict-affected countries and nearly 55 percent of those children are girls.

“Girls face challenges in conflict as well as outside of conflict. In many cases, girls are already at a disadvantage before conflict sets in; however, under conflict, girls and female teachers are especially vulnerable for things like gender based violence,” Simpson said.

In conflict-torn countries such as Pakistan and Afghanistan, the education of girls and women has been targeted by extremist groups in an effort to undermine their roles in society, explained Simpson.

However, in light of these difficult circumstances, fathers can play a significant role in combating militia groups and ensuring the education of their daughters.

“In many cases, fathers are the real champions for their daughters and when we’re working in communities in Afghanistan and Pakistan, we see the biggest long-term impact on girls’ education when we can get fathers really engaged on this issue and really see that investing in their girls’ education is an investment in their own families and…in their own future communities,” said Simpson.

Save the Children’s work with communities in Pakistan through home-centered book clubs and reading camps has contributed to considerable literacy gains. In a particular case, only one percent of girls at the beginning of the school year could read with comprehension, but through Save the Children’s support, that percentage jumped to one-third.

Simpson acknowledged that Save the Children’s work there, in part, hinged on support from the fathers and the communities of those girls.

“It (takes) commitment of those fathers and of those community members to really see their girls as an investment and as something that they’re willing to protect and willing to make sure they have those learning opportunities even when there (are) pressures from extremist groups,” Simpson told Alonzo.

Save the Children has played a hand in training teachers to be pillars of psycho-social support to their students. Teachers in conflict zones play a critical role in helping their students develop skills that will enable them to resist being drawn into conflict and recruited by guerilla groups.

“One of the most important things is to let children know they are not alone,” Simpson told Alonzo.

In Nepal, the government has intervened by deeming schools and school buses as “Zones of Peace,” free from attack by militia groups. School committees, PTAs, community members as well as students have built walls to protect their schools and drawn up a list of practices to help protect themselves and their school communities. Afghanistan and some countries in Africa have looked to Nepal’s successes and are establishing zones of peace for their schools.

Furthermore, Save the Children’s report finds that the high levels of children out of school and the sharp increase in attacks on schools have been exacerbated by shockingly low levels of funding for education in humanitarian emergencies. In 2011, funding for education fell from 2 percent of overall humanitarian funding to only 1.4 percent in 2012, which is well below the 4 percent that the global community has been calling for since 2010.

“Funding for education is low. In some ways, it’s the way donors are sector specific. In (others) ways, it’s the lack of spotlight on the issues, so Save the Children does a lot of humanitarian relief work and education, in our view, is a very critical piece to humanitarian relief,” Simpson said.

Through its report, Save the Children is calling on global leaders to confront this crisis by criminalizing attacks on centers for education, prohibiting the use of schools by militia groups, and increasing the levels of humanitarian funding to education to at least 4 percent of global funding.

Yousafzai’s story and Save the Children’s report are serving as catalysts, making clear that that the stakes for children’s learning in conflict-affected areas are critically high.

“Many conflicts last for ten years, so if a child does not have access to go to school, does not have access to learning opportunities for ten years, we lose that whole generation. But I think it requires us as a global community to really raise awareness on this,” Simpson said.