Many universities now have pay freezes or even nominal pay cuts.  Under the circumstances, several professors have told me that there’s little point in doing faculty evaluations.  If there’s zero – or negative – money for raises, why bother saying who’s doing well and who’s not?

It amazes me how much these remarks take for granted.  Suppose a department is 5% over-budget.  It may be obvious that it needs to cut total compensation by 5%, but it isn’t obvious that any particular professor’s salary needs to be cut by 5%.  If raises can depend on performance, so can cuts!  If a chairman normally gives a 0% raise to his worst performer, and a 5% raise to his best performer, why not respond to fiscal austerity by simply changing the range from -7.5% to -.2.5%?

I guess you might say that professors resent equal pay cuts less.  But I doubt that.  Yes, under-achievers resent them more, but they frankly don’t contribute much even when their morale is high.  And I bet that over-achievers would feel a lot better about pay cuts if they know that their good performance was still rewarded at the margin.

If there’s any good argument against merit-based pay cuts, I can’t think of it.  Anyone?