An Argument Against Merit Pay for Faculty

Dave Hoffman

Dave Hoffman is the Murray Shusterman Professor of Transactional and Business Law at Temple Law School. He specializes in law and psychology, contracts, and quantitative analysis of civil procedure. He currently teaches contracts, civil procedure, corporations, and law and economics.

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6 Responses

  1. anon says:

    I would add that resentment is caused not only by merit-based pay, but by the lock-step (or whatever the alternative to merit) pay too. Take two scholars. One consistently publishes 5 high-quality papers a year, speaks at multiple conferences, organizes workshops at home school, gives workshops elsewhere, serves on boards of professional organizations, referees peer-reviewed conferences and journals, and is a highly visible figure coveted by many higher-ranked schools. Works 70 hours a week on scholarship and teaching. He/she has a colleague who merely teaches classes and then goes home to play tennis or do outside consulting or whatever. Works 20 hours a week on scholarship and teaching. Why should they receive the same, or even similar, pay from the school? How is it “fair” to give them the same pay?

  2. Jason Mazzone says:

    I understand that some law schools pay a bonus to faculty members who place an article in a top journal (according to a list determined by the Dean at the beginning of the academic year). So that is something of a compromise. I wonder what effect it has on productivity, sociability, and other factors? One could imagine other possibilities. How about $1 every time your article on SSRN is downloaded? (10 cents if your last name is Solove)

  3. Orin Kerr says:

    Peridier is right. The answer is to pay every academic based on minimum wage. This would free up an extraordinary amount of time currently wasted on measurement, and lead to much more productive faculty members.

  4. David Zaring says:

    If there’s one thing there isn’t these days, it’s measures of faculty quality. Peridier is right – it would be way too hard to develop, say, a ranking system or a system based on citations….

  5. Edward Swaine says:

    I completely agree with the arguments in your post, and disagree with the letter (though at the end, it seems to reserve a margin for merit pay, so perhaps the issue is simply one of scale). No merit pay system, within academia or otherwise, is entirely successful at defining and quantifying merit, and all such systems impose substantial costs; I’m surprised to hear anyone who has been through the process within a corporation claim to the contrary.

    Were you more tendentious, you might have titled the post “A *Faculty* Argument Against Merit Pay for Faculty,” “A *Tenured Faculty* Argument,” or gone still further. Honestly, if the alternative is to let each faculty member judge himself or herself along dimensions like “generosity, energy, attitude, idealism, ability to learn, leadership, intellectual humility,” etc., I think we would each somehow emerge with equal and stunningly high scores — starting, of course, with humility.

  6. TRE says:

    On a side note: The system for determining “merit” of law students imposes significant costs that harm the educational mission.