The task force's creation was announced in the October MSU Faculty Senate meeting, but its first phase does not begin until Jan. 1. MSU Faculty Senate Vice President Jerry Emison said the task force is specifically designed to address a phenomenon called salary compression.
"When people are hired ... at assistant professor levels, our compensation for those people is (less than) what peer universities average.
"As people get promoted to associate professor and then to full professor ... the amount of pay is not keeping up with the average of (the Southern Universities Group). This is referred to as compression, that there's a squeeze on the payment of compensation."
The Southern Universities Group, also known as SUG, includes the Southern Regional Education Board and 31 public institutions, spreading as far north as Delaware and as far west as Arizona.
"Dr. Keenum has recognized that this (compression) puts MSU at a competitive disadvantage with other universities to both retain professors and recruit them," Emison said. "He has directed this group ... to look at ways of reducing that compression."
Emison said MSU Provost Jerry Gilbert is leading this task force. MSU has not been able to give faculty raises consistently in recent years, Gilbert said, resulting in the current compression issue.
"We (had raises) the last two years, but we did not do it the last four years before that," Gilbert said. "When you compare the average salaries at different levels ... our largest difference is at the full professor level."
Gilbert said full professors' salaries at MSU are at 83 percent of the SUG average. Associate professors' salaries are at 93 percent of the average, he said, and assistant professors' salaries are at 90 percent of the average.
The university has committed to spending $500,000 per year in 2013 and 2014 to raise these salaries, starting in January, Gilbert said.
This past Sept. 1, he said, MSU also adjusted any staff salaries that were below the market minimum up to the market minimum.
"The philosophy behind addressing these is our commitment to our new strategic plan," Gilbert said. "This fall was when we put (the strategic plan) in place. It's a five-year plan from 2012-2017."