Gallaudet faculty are bilingual, bicultural, and experts in our fields. It is time that the University compensates us fairly

On November 19, 2021, Gallaudet University hosted a webinar announcing the results of a faculty salary analysis conducted by Ernst & Young, a consulting firm. The consultants described their methodology of using a custom list of 51 peer institutions, chosen using unclear criteria. For each peer institution, average faculty salaries for each rank were obtained from the National Center for Education Statistics’ IPEDS database and adjusted geographically based on a tool from the Economic Research Institute to account for the difference in labor costs between each peer institution’s location and Washington, DC. The Gallaudet administration had set a goal to pay its employees at the median of its peer group plus 10%, so the consultants found this number for each rank and compared it to Gallaudet’s mean salary for each rank. They used this number to create recommended new salary ranges for Gallaudet faculty. Our response to the webinar and analysis follows.

The Gallaudet University Chapter of the AAUP decries the Gallaudet administration’s recent announcement that Gallaudet University faculty are being paid fairly even after twelve years of almost no pay increases of any kind. Today, a Gallaudet faculty member earns 20% less in real wages than they did in 2009. Despite this fact, the administration announced to faculty that the pay scales for full Professors would be adjusted downward. These decisions were based on an analysis which did not account for the bilingual and bicultural skills Gallaudet faculty are required to have that are all too rare in higher education. The analysis also used a skewed peer institution sample, comparing Gallaudet faculty salaries with those of faculty at institutions that are traditionally lower paid. Gallaudet is a well-funded institution, charging tuition in line with other universities in addition to drawing a large annual federal appropriation and holding significant endowments. These austerity measures will hurt the University’s mission by making it difficult to recruit and retain faculty.

A cursory glance at the IPEDS database shows that the conclusions of the salary analysis defy common sense. The median faculty salaries for Washington, DC institutions are $154,527, $107,919, and $91,906 for full, associate, and assistant professors, respectively – far higher than Gallaudet’s median salaries for the same ranks. Additionally, public school teachers in nearby Montgomery County, MD, earn as much, or sometimes more than our faculty.

We have three major issues with the salary analysis and the webinar. First, the analysis did not consider that Gallaudet faculty are not only experts in our respective fields but are also ASL/English bilingual and bicultural individuals; many of us are Deaf role models uniquely matched to our students. Gallaudet would not be able to replace us from the open market or from Ernst & Young’s comparator institutions. In fact, Gallaudet would be forced to hire faculty without bilingual or bicultural competencies and would need to hire expensive interpreters to support these new faculty in teaching and engaging with students. And even with interpreter support, these naive faculty would still not have the cultural and linguistic capital to be effective in mentoring our deaf students. The analysis ignored this critical aspect.

Second, no explanation was given for how those comparator institutions were selected. Only three of the comparator institutions shared Gallaudet’s Carnegie R2 classification despite the administration’s pressure on the faculty to compete for and maintain R2 standing. Instead, historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs), and small religious colleges made up a large slice of these peer institutions. Faith-based institutions are usually low-paying, and HBCU faculty earn, on average, $18,000 less than faculty at non-HBCU institutions. Using HBCUs as benchmarks is ethically troubling: using the salaries of one disadvantaged group as a benchmark for the salaries of another disadvantaged group perpetuates inequality in salaries and codifies pay discrimination for marginalized people across the board. It does not achieve the equity and justice for the deaf community that is explicitly Gallaudet’s mission. 

Finally, the administration was not transparent in conducting the analysis or the webinar. Transparency is the heart of shared governance. The administration held the webinar during a time when many faculty teach. It was not allowed to be recorded, nor was a transcript made available for faculty who could not attend. A link was disseminated beforehand with the slides used for the presentation, but not in a downloadable format. Holding the webinar during this time fits Gallaudet’s pattern of releasing bad news on Fridays before a break.

The administration’s decision to stand by a weak methodology, its concessions to Ernst & Young to refuse to release a transcript of the webinar, and ongoing irregularities in practices related to salary do not inspire faculty confidence in the leadership’s commitment to the Gallaudet Promise. As stewards of the institution, focusing on future recruitment and retention of both students and faculty talent, we, the faculty, issue the following challenges:

We ask the administration to revisit its commitment to the Gallaudet Promise, reconsider the quality of the Ernst & Young analysis, and resume regular and timely merit increases and general pay increases for inflation, as was the practice in the decades before 2009. These were the assurances made to us when we were newly hired faculty. These practices are essential for recruiting and retaining faculty and staff and for productivity. We also implore that faculty, staff, and administrator salaries are all held to the same benchmarks. There cannot be a different logic for determining administrator salaries than what is used for faculty and staff.

We encourage all faculty members to join our newly-recognized chapter of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP). United, we have the collective power to protect shared governance and drive passion for excellence at Gallaudet through solidarity. To join, click here. We also invite faculty to join the Frozen Turkey Collective – Gallaudet AAUP Facebook group, where we discuss current issues and post meeting agendas and minutes.


The American Association of University Professors (AAUP), with over 50,000 members and 500 local chapters, champions academic freedom, advances shared governance, and organizes to promote economic security for all academic professionals. Since 1915, the AAUP has shaped American higher education by developing standards and procedures that uphold quality education.

This letter was lightly revised for clarity on Jan 14.

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