The administration moved this fall to remedy a discrepancy in the salaries of several athletic coaches.
A series of studies last year indicated a gap between the actual salaries and the expected salaries of a group of full-time athletic coaches, most of whom coach women’s athletic teams.
Provost of the College Stuart Crampton said the reason for the discrepancy is not easy to explain or understand.
“It is not a simple thing,” he said. “It is not as though somebody just did something wrong.”
He explained that the primary reason for the gender discrepancy is that many of the women coaches who were hired recently were hired at relatively low salaries, and that salary differences have compounded each year as coaches receive similar percentage raises.
Crampton added that the College has attempted to correct the problem by creating a model that plots the salaries of all athletic faculty against their effective experience (including how long they have been at Williams and experience before coming to Williams). The graph enabled the College to come up with an “average” salary amount when considering salary versus experience.
The College then raised the salaries of those coaches who fell below the average, and compensated them for the past three and a quarter years by the amount that their salary had fallen below the average.
Statistics from a Gender Equity in Athletics Disclosure Statement revealed that the average salary of a head coach for a men’s team for the 1995-1996 school year was $45,677, while a head coach for a women’s team earned on average $39,146. However, the following year the average salary for the head coach of a men’s team jumped to $51,584 (almost a $6,000 increase) while the salary for head coaches of women’s teams increased by about $500 to an average salary of $39,698. For the 1996-1997 athletic season, the average salary for head coaches of men’s and women’s teams differed by almost $12,000.
Associate Professor of Biology Heather Williams, a member of the Faculty Compensation Committee said it was a sense of these discrepancies that prompted the investigation into the salaries.
“Women in the athletic department have felt for years that they were getting paid less and they were always assured that things were okay,” Williams said.
Lisa Melendy, the head coach of the women’s soccer program, approached Williams about the issue of gender equity in the athletic program in the spring of 1997.
Last winter, the College hired outside consultants, including a lawyer for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, to investigate the issue. The consultants recommended that the College create the model that Crampton described earlier.
Administrators and athletic coaches agree that the salary discrepancy was not the result of a gender bias, but instead came about because the College did not have an established system for determining athletic salaries.
“What the consultants discovered when they looked at the data was that there really was no structure to the salaries and considering that the College has always tried to treat people equally when we hired them…it is disturbing that the structure of the salaries didn’t reflect the kind of equity which we thought there should be,” Crampton said.
Williams added that while there is “no evidence of willful discrimination” it seems apparent that the “salary structure in the athletic department was not based on any rational system.”
“We found in the end that the gender disparities in the athletics salaries were real but of marginal statistical significance,” said Dean of the Faculty David L. Smith. “More fundamentally, the system of salary setting that had developed over time did not produce a clear structure.”
Smith said the administration decided that the perception of unfairness was a serious problem that impacted the morale in the department.
“We decided to put a real salary structure into place and to make the necessary salary adjustments,” he said. “Consequently as we look toward the future, we will be much better able to recognize if real disparities occur.”
Coaches and administrators had mixed responses to the College’s response to the imbalance.
Associate Director of Athletics Bud Fisher said some coaches were irked when they realized they had been under-compensated.
“[The corrections] have reduced some tensions, but they have created others although not knowingly or on purpose,” he said. “For example, for people who have had their pay affected in a positive way there was a tension created by the fact that they needed to have their salaries corrected in a positive way.”
Melendy, who is a standing member of the compensation committee, said the salary discrepancies have caused some tension in the department and coaches have varying perspectives on the issue. However, she added, “I felt that those of us involved with the correction were pleased with the College’s efforts and where things are at this point.”
Williams did raise concerns that the College has not fully corrected the salary discrepancy.
“I think the current salary structure, after the increases were put in place for this year, is equitable in terms of Title VII and Title IX,” she said. “I and the majority of the other members of the Faculty Compensation Committee felt that the retroactive correction in salaries should have been more complete.”
Specifically, Williams said she believes the College only back-compensated the coaches whose salaries they raised for half of the amount they should have. Crampton could not be reached for comment on this issue last night.
Director of Athletics Robert Peck said he believes the College response has been appropriate.
“I think it has been fine,” he said. “They have addressed some perceived inequities and not only gender adjustments were made. I think by and large the faculty in this department are pleased.”