Monday, October 25, 2010

Department of Economics: Observations On The Lack Of Raises and Thinking Out Of The Box

As if you didn't know
We are in a prolonged period in which suppressing faculty wages is the preferred solution (after firing the staff) to "controlling" the costs of higher education.  Although paid better than many colleagues at state institutions and community colleges, for my two decades at Zenith, the faculty has come to the depressing conclusion at the end of each year that we are more or less at the bottom of our so-called "peer group" of liberal arts colleges.  One year, in an attempt to raise our position, our peer group was adjusted:  several larger research institutions were removed and they were replaced with smaller liberal arts colleges.  This helped our ranking for a bit, but of course, university rankings -- whether they are compiled by U.S. News and World Report or by the AAUP -- don't pay the mortgage.

At age 52, I make slightly more than 107K, 16K less than the median salary at my rank at Zenith and, adjusted for inflation and health insurance, less than I made three years ago.  The actual number of my salary tells you little, since I am quite sure that salaries vary wildly at Zenith and that I make more than some people who have worked there for longer (colleagues are invited to contribute their own salaries, anonymously if they wish, in the comments section.)  What I also know is that we don't get meaningful raises any more, and that it seems unlikely that the wage gap will be closed except through the retirement and departure of better paid colleagues.  Two years ago, Zenith finally locked on to what the public and state schools have known for a long time:  pay your faculty less, and there isn't a damned thing they can do about it.  Year before last, we received no raises; last year I was pretty much at the top of the chart at slightly less than 2%; and this year's overall pool will only be increased by 2%.  Simultaneously, insurance costs and co-pays have risen, and our health insurers are reimbursing less than they did, mostly by fu@king up our paperwork.  Conference stipends no longer come close to covering the costs of conferences (sometimes they cover the plane ticket and that's it.) The teeny raises also mean we are getting smaller institutional contributions than we expected to our retirement savings and -- for those of us in our fifties who are at what we were led to believe was to be our peak earning capacity -- beginning to address mid-life financial responsibilities for our families with a diminished ability to meet them.

The only way to make more money is to work more:  we now have multiple opportunities to teach more classes, and be paid adjunct wages to do so.  This is called, for those of you unfamiliar with labor history, "speed up."  The idea is this:  the university needs more revenue, so regular faculty teach an extra class in our extension program, for which everybody in the class has paid $2,130.  Regular Zenith students pay $2600 for summer courses, plus a housing charge for dorm space that would otherwise be vacant.  The faculty stipend for any of these courses is around 6K (which is about 1K more than an ABD adjunct wage at Zenith and 2K less than what grad students are paid for their own courses at Oligarch); there are 15-20 people in the class.  You do the math here:  are Zenith faculty being paid a fair wage for this work?  No.  They are being paid a market wage -- and, my guess is, twice what adjuncts at the local state schools are paid.  And yet, increasingly, faculty are getting squeezed into doing this as their salaries flat line.

Here's the bottom line:  I am not unsympathetic to the financial problems in higher education, or to the important restructuring that is long overdue at my own institution.  But I refuse to sell myself for less; I refuse to sell myself for less than I am worth; I refuse to contribute to the casualization of academic labor; and I refuse to do what is essentially volunteer work for my employer.

As an aside, this also leaves your Radical -- who is, in fact, a devoted teacher, in the curious and ironic position of being asked to reverse priorities that were just recently reversed.  Having had a huge career crisis resulting from the error of over-invested in the institution to the detriment of my scholarly pace; having reversed that formula following my big crisis and entered into one of the most productive scholarly periods of my life; having had my salary suppressed as an associate because I did not publish as others did while I was institution building; guess what?  Faculty are currently no longer being rewarded for their scholarship -- unless it can be leveraged into an outside offer.  Instead, the only way to get a decent "raise" is to increasingly take on work to the detriment of one's scholarship.  I have more or less missed the train of history on this one, which is a stunning discovery, to say the least.

And yet, it is also potentially liberating and -- not to be mysterious -- it is a problem I am working on, because if I can't control the financial priorities of the institution, I can control my own choices.  If I am no longer really working in hopes of improving my economic condition, what am I working for, and how should I imagine what "a better life" means? What would it mean to exercise more choice over the job I am underpaid for, and simply create priorities that are independent of -- or selectively dependent on -- the priorities of the institution?  To do less institutional work for my flat lined salary as compensation for not getting the raises I should be getting for my accelerated scholarly activity?  To do another kind of institutional work that is wholly and completely chosen, and which gives prestige to Zenith in exchange for Zenith giving me my freedom to define my own priorities?

Or even to imagine leaving academia entirely and becoming a writer, full-time?  Stay tuned.


Anonymous said...

The questions that you ask at the end of your post - with the exception of the one about leaving academia altogether - are *exactly* the questions that I've spent my sabbatical asking myself. I have a funny feeling that my institution is not going to be in love with my answers....

John said...

You raise important questions, but your current salary may undermine your argument because a number of people will see it as both 1) much more than they currently make and 2) "enough" for a faculty member.

In my second year at a liberal arts school I am making just over $58k.

Tenured Radical said...

John: In my second year at Zenith I made 39,500. True, some people might see my salary as too large, but some people also think the minimum wage is too high too. I don't think the perception of me as overpaid does much to undermine anything, unless someone can tell me why.

Thanks for the salary contribution: let's hear from more of you out there, particularly you Ivy League folks.

rachel said...

Making anything at all sounds good at the moment. Working 13 years 24/7 at one church left me with nothing because the good folk could no longer afford the 40k package. Next one could no longer afford the 20k. My suggestion is to have well laid plans before you leave any field that pays.

Anonymous said...

I think it's interesting that people seized on the dollar amount you offered in the initial comments, TR. This led me to take a gander at a cost of living calculator, to compare what you'd make if you lived where I do adjusted (only ~77K) and how I would fare if my income were adjusted up for your location (mine, adjusted up, would be ~84K, and I'm at a totally non-elite regional state uni).

Talking about the dollar amounts only makes sense if we take location into account. Basically, for where you are in your career and for the kind of institution you work at, you make peanuts. I'm willing to grant that even though in terms of dollars you're taking home nearly 50K more a year than I am.

But really I am interested in the ways in which faculty can conceive of their positions as being freer without the carrot of the raise held out in front of them. In some ways this would place further burdens on faculty pre-tenure, as well as on contract faculty who fear for their jobs, which exacerbates some of the inequality that the general public perceives between tenured folks and people in "regular" jobs. I don't know. On an individual level I think that shaping our priorities to please ourselves as a kind of compensation is a good thing, but I wonder at how that works on a community level.

Tenured Radical said...

Good point, Crazy. At Zenith, of course, several years back the mythical "bar" was raised on tenure and promotion. The outcome of this is that the high emphasis on promoting scholarship at the assistant and associate ranks has pushed the bulk of institutional labor into a full professoriat rank that is shrinking. So I am *so* on the wrong side of history at my own institution: institutional labor has followed me like the proverbial $hit on my $hoe.

That said, it is a question of planning and management: I'm not even altogether sure that Zenith desires some of the outcomes I have described here, but like many colleges, they don't have a grip on them either.

Anonymous said...

I am in my first year of a tenure-track humanities job at a top SLAC in the south, and I earn 67K. I know that a tenured Humanities faculty member who's been here for 15-20 years makes in the range of 130K+.

So, yes, I would say your salary is below average.

Delurking said...

In the interest of salary transparency: I adjunct at an Ivy, not one of the ultra ultra rich ones. I was able to see the standard salary scale for all extra or summer teaching. Full profs. get $8400/course, assoc. $7800, asst. $6100, adjunct with Ph.D. $5300, and grad students $5050. While I expected the differential between faculty and adjunct, I was really surprised at the differential between faculty ranks. Perhaps it's to actually discourage asst. profs from taking on extra teaching?

Anonymous said...

107K sounds enviable to me, especially for living in suburban CT. I am, like you, a middle-range associate (one book, several articles), but I live in California and work in the UC system. My salary is about 74K.

Anonymous said...

I'm the same Anonymous as Anon 11:44, and wanted to add: I made an assumption that you were still at the Associate rank, but perhaps you are a Full Prof. I was basing my assumption on the fact that we probably have published at roughly similar levels, and I am an Associate. At my institution, a second monograph is required for promotion to Full, but I know that is not the case everywhere.

Anonymous said...

Posting anonymously for what might become obvious reasons:

I am a TT Assistant Professor in the Arts/Humanities at the R1 "flagship" university of a big box Western state.

I received my PhD from OligarchU and, in my 4th year here at BigBoxU, I make a teensy bit more than TR did in her 2nd year at Zenith. In addition to the ever bloating deductions, my pay has actually decreased since I started. Due to an alleged state budget crisis and constant recissions mandated by our ever increasing ranks of Vice Presidents, there are no raises of any kind AND no research support within my college, department or university. No cost of living adjustments either. Even classroom supply purchases and copy machine use are being audited by the chair.

But I offer my money woes only as context for my actual observations.

At BigBoxU, faculty rank is no protection against the demands of administrative duties. At the behest of my department faculty, I have served on every graduate committee but one in the last three years. I have been charged -- by my chair and my dean -- with the task of rewriting curriculum and other sundry "reports" required by our number-obsessed upper admin. When I press back, reminding my chair/dean that service only counts 20% and that my colleagues elsewhere (nationally and institutionally) don't typically shoulder such an admin burden until later in the process, my chair/dean scoff and say, "That's just the way we do it here, fancyboy." (Yes I'm an IvyPhD but I'm also a native of this BigBoxState, a queer, a minority -- and, I recently came to understand, the lowest paid Assistant Professor holding a PhD at BBU.)

So I continue to teach my courses (which enroll more than all the courses in my department combined), win teaching awards, get elected to positions of respect within my national professional organization, and do my best to do everything well. I continue my work toward further publication and toward tenure. I'm also on the market.

BUT even though I love to teach and love "my work" -- I'm ever more cynical about what the "job" of a professor is anymore. From my vantage point, the teaching and the research are increasingly perceived to be the "fun" we get to have as we do the "work" of institutional advancement.

And, for the life of me, I can't see how it gets better.

The one upside? I make so little I can see fairly legible ways to leave the academy without giving up the schedule flexibility I still like about the Uni life. So that's the plan: work toward tenure but don't forget to chart an escape route.

Anonymous said...

I make 51K as an assistant professor in a humanities discipline. I live in a rural college town that, because it is a college town, has a peculiarly high cost of living for a rural town. I have been here 4 years, and there have been no raises. The last year there were raises was the year before I came. New hires make more than I do, and thus I am the lowest paid tenure-track person in my department. Some people in my department make three times what I make. Because I would still like to be tenured, all research, teaching, and service engines are on at full blast. I am also trying to use that productivity in ways that may be rewarding not to my institution but to me, i.e., by strengthening my cv for the job market, which may produce a better offer from another place, which may produce a counteroffer from my place. I don't feel a pang of guilt about it, as I'm not the one who decided that playing the market would be the only way to avoid income stagnation.

Anonymous said...

TR, I think you are putting too much blame on Zenith. Most folks are making less than they were three years ago -- we have been in the worst recession this country has seen in a long time. And, compared to many smart, talented people in your field, you're not doing too badly--at least you have tenure, an increasingly elusive goal for folks today. And you get to teach young people, a great privilege.

It seems to me that higher education is going through a transition similar to what American business has been going through, and it will never be the same as it was just a few years ago. Chronicle Review this week is devoted to "The Making of Corporate U", and I think the topic is very timely. The Middle Class in general has been losing out lately, and Academe is no longer exempt from the general malaise.

In any case, as a long time fan, I hope you will take the advice that Rachel set forth above.


Nicole said...

You're more experienced in life and university than I... but I'd still like to recommend a book. Your Money or Your Life (the personal finance one, not the healthcare one). It's good for helping to think about these questions that you're going through at any stage of life in any career at any salary.

Anonymous said...

Assistant Prof in the humanities at a regional campus of a state university in the west; $45k. No research support; I pay out of pocket to photocopy handouts.

I feel pretty hopeless about the possibility of raises in the future, given the economic climate in the state.

Anonymous said...

I'm a scientist at a comprehensive college. After five years, I am paid 56k, of which 10% is paid directly into my retirement fund. So, the take home amount is more like 51k. We have had some modest raises in the last few years, but nothing big.

In contrast, when I was a postdoc, I made 50k free and clear, and had additional money for healthcare and research expenses.

The ironic thing is that the citizens of the area think we are vastly overpaid - an editorial in the newspaper claimed that we should make no more than the median income for the city we are in, which is about 44k.

jason fossella said...

I'm in my second year of coursework for my PhD, and I SO should not be reading any of this; it's depressing. I long ago came to realization that I will probably never have a TT job, and if I do, the wages will suck. I'm actually considering doing something else after my degree is done (no reason to stop, since it's paid for anyway, and my stipend is fairly generous).

I've found myself wondering if it wouldn't be possible to organize a university as a co-op or collective, so that faculty actually own their own labor. That seems like the only way out of casualization.

Anonymous said...

Chiming in from the UK.

I am the equivalent of an Associate Prof, and 10 years post PhD. I make £49k, which is about 77k in dollars.

I am unlikely to make significantly more than this, even if/when I make full prof, unless I move institutions.

I can live comfortably, although far from extravagantly. I could not, for example, afford to live in the 'nice', middle-class bits of town. Luckily this doesn't bother me too much. I probably earn about twice what most of my non-academic friends do, so it is hard to feel hard done by.

philosoraptor said...

I'm getting a little unclear about the purpose of the salary comparisons (even if we control for different costs of living, disciplines, seniority, and so on). Isn't the MAIN point here supposed to that it's challenging for academics -- and, really, all employed people -- to find motivation to do extra work that won't be rewarded by a salary increase? I take it as already granted that very few of the commenters are going to say that they feel adequately paid. The question is, GIVEN that you don't feel adequately paid, and that you don't see the prospects for adequate payment on the horizon, how do you respond as a conscientious and dedicated professional who is also part of a particular institutional "culture"?

Anonymous said...

I am a full professor of history at a large public university and I make less than you do and have working conditions that would shock you. I have a colleague, recently promoted to full professor, who has published 2 prize winning books who edits a major journal, had a Guggenheim and an NEH, and who makes $59,000 due to our wage freeze. Our athletics department recently got an $13.5 million infusion due to a budget shortfall while 12 union contracts were abrogated due to a financial emergency. Our football coach makes $2.5 million--relatively low pay I'm told. So, for anyone who wants to stay in academia but have a decent salary I'd say: learn to coach!

Robert said...

Stepping back to look at the causes of your situation and those of many of us,it's not the economic downturn per se, but the downturn in the context of the corporatization of higher ed. I don't want to paint the past as some sort of rosy utopia, but I do think there was a time when many faculty and administrators cultivated a worldview that emphasized their relationship to one another in the service of scholarship and teaching. Insofar as colleges and universities saw themselves as families, we could easily identify the ways in which they were at times dysfunctional. Still, faculty who focused upon building the community were responding to the value structure of higher ed. The increasing emphasis on the bottom line -- with its Taylor-like measurement of productivity via assessment -- forces many of us to reconsider our relationship to students, our colleagues and institutions. As the culture of higher ed administration has become more managerial and less relational, we're all thinking along the same lines. They wanted rational economic actors, and that's what we've become.

LouMac said...

I just got tenure in a language dept. at a large state university - the "flagship" in our state. After 3 years of raise freezing (and raises of 3-4% in good years), I make about $56,000. We have a huge wage compression problem, meaning that current starting salaries are significantly higher than what I make now after 8 years. Most of the funds that would have been used to make counter-offers to try to retain faculty like me have been frozen, so even if I did go on the market, the dean would likely just call my bluff and say "see ya", rather than try to retain me. I gather the compression problem is rife in the business world, too.

LouMac said...

Following on from my previous comment: I live in a major west coast city where the most modest houses still cost well above $350K, and my university considers itself a tier 1 research institution. Reading these comments is eye-opening: I knew my salary was low, but now it's starting to look like thievery. (I've been here for 8 years, helped rebuild a dying unit, yada yada.)

Tenured Radical said...

Wowee. These comments are great. A couple quick things:

Being public about salary is really important.

Bigfuckingape? What can I say? "And a little child shall lead us." This is a right on idea, and I'd be in with you on this project.

Where did the "you should feel so lucky to teach you should do it for free" mentality come from? You know, even Teach For America, the folks I love to criticize for their role in creating the teaching romance, believes in paying well and paying good teachers more. Even Michelle Fucking Rhee, the all-time Free Marketeer, think you should pay good teachers really well. And how did teachers get so blessed as the professionals who are so lucky they don't deserve a professional salary? No one says, "You must have so much fun on Wall Street it should be against the law to pay you!" It's very weird -- we have utterly privatized the public sphere, and yet "public" work is viewed as a calling that is a reward in its own right.

Hell, learn to coach? Learn to install garage doors and you will do better than the mid-50K range.

Anonymous said...

Well, TR, it should be obvious that many folks really love teaching and are willing (though probably not happy) to do it for but little pay -- look at all the adjuncts around you. Yes, they are being taken advantage of, but surely they love teaching.

And you are right -- there are still a few blue-collar jobs you can make good money at -- electrician, plumber, etc. But watch out for skilled blue collar workers from over the border if you are in one of these jobs!

Tenured Radical said...

Um, all the adjuncts around me are really angry. If you read this blog and other academic blogs, they all mostly feel cheated and hopeless.

Who in their right mind -- who is not independently wealthy -- would be "happy" teaching at 2K to 8K per course with no benefits? Are you insane?

Anonymous said...

Just to add another data point: advanced assistant prof (5th year) in the humanities, who went to grad school with Anon 12.17. I teach at a regional comprehensive college in a pretty affordable part of the country and my salary is ~$58,000, though I've clawed and scraped to get it there.

We're unionized, so all our salaries are standardized and (most importantly) made public; I get a mailing every year that lists ever single person's salary. So far we've been continuing to get our contractual raises, and there are small incentives for scholarly productivity. But who knows whether that's sustainable, or for how long.

Anonymous said...

I'm about 2 years out from finishing a PhD in a humanities field and getting into the "despair" stage already (I read, depending on your perspective, either too much commentary on higher ed issues, or about the right amount.)

I actually got as far as writing up a proposal for a faculty co-op model SLAC which assumed student labor to help keep the place running. So I agree, it's a great idea :)

missoularedhead said...

I'd love to make that kind of money. I'm one of those adjuncts who teaches for …wait for it… yeah, a whooping $1860 per course. PER SEMESTER. So yeah, it's not great. And no, I don't love doing it…but beats not eating.

The food stamps help too.

Anonymous said...

You folks are having the same discussions that the folks at GM and GE had a long time ago. Welcome to the real world of "creative destruction".

gwoertendyke said...

Public disclosure is so important--so:

--3rd year on TT at big public R1 in the south;
--no union
--salary freeze (3rd year)
--increased course caps

To anon @ SLAC: first year @ 67k??? Wow, I screwed up. Go you!

Anonymous said...

Another data point: 56 years old, full prof in humanities at UC, I make $104,000 a year (now that the furlough is over). No raise since I came here 2 years ago -- our raises are associated with merit reviews, but otherwise, nothing. Health insurance is twice as expensive now as it was when I arrived.

One good thing about the publics is all the salary information is public.

random guy said...

Maybe it's my working-class background, but I can't imagine complaining about 100K+ a year-unless the local cost of living is sky-high.

I date a 47 year old tenured professor from the college I attend; I believe has 15 years at the institution. She jokes that the not quite 100K a year she earns is probably too much considering her small teaching load.

Dorothy Potter Snyder said...

I make 30K a year teaching Spanish freelance. I have no tenure, paid for my own health insurance until I got married two months ago, and pay into and organize my own retirement fund. I teach who I want, when I want to, with the books I want to, and have turned down not one, not two, but three adjunct positions at local community colleges because in addition to the insulting pay, I would have had to use their icky course books and teach their material their awful way. My private students pay me $65/hour and I am worth more, so the thought of taking 5K to be nailed down to a whole semester just seemed like a terrible idea to me. I have absolutely no security. But then, security is a bit of an illusion anyway, no?

I am with bigfuckingape. Organize it and we will come. Especially if it's someplace warm and sunny.

Sisyphus said...

I'm getting paid 22K for my postdoc, teaching 120 students in 4 classes. My student loan bill is 300 a month.

I know the adjuncts here get paid less per class than I do, with no benefits and a lower class cap (3 classes instead of 4)

I know that there are as many history postdocs as there are English ones, and presumably as many history adjuncts as in English as well.

I'm tired and grumpy and feel no impetus to put in any "extra" work towards service or even assistance in retaining students. Hell, I don't even really feel like doing the minimum mandated amount of work I'm supposed to be doing right now!

Magnify your concerns about the value and reward of your labor tenfold and you see why the adjunct-ification of higher ed is a huge problem for the quality of student experience. Or as my former union colleagues put it more succinctly: our working conditions are your learning conditions.

Anonymous said...

I'm an associate professor at a southern public university making 48K. No raises since 07, and there probably won't be more until 2013. I'm looking for another job.

Anonymous said...

"It's very weird -- we have utterly privatized the public sphere, and yet "public" work is viewed as a calling that is a reward in its own right." Word, TR. I love how free market folks believe in free market salaries for those on wall street, but not professors! The market shouldn't dictate our salaries, oh no!

I'm at a flagship state u & make $57000. At my previous job - also at a flagship state u but in a poorer state, I started at $47. I know the only reason my salary has increased is because I got a new job. Salaries don't keep pace with inflation, rising costs, or the salaries demanded of new hires - this results in compression, which is another huge problem at universities. For example, at Job 1, I was in my first year making about $500 less than a colleague going up for tenure. And that's when raises were still on the table.

For all of you contemplating a move or grad students on the market: for the love of GOD negotiate for a higher salary when you get an offer. Women do less significantly less often than men, and it shows in our salaries. Please don't make the mistake of not asking - 90% of the time they will bump you up something, and believe ME you're going to need it considering we're all taking a pay cut for the foreseeable future (the pay cut that results when we get no raises or our raises do not keep up with the cost of living).


Anonymous said...

More data:

--2nd year Humanities prof at a Midwestern rural private SLAC;

--$59,000 salary with high out-of-pocket health care.

Anonymous said...

For something on the demand (as opposed to the supply) side, see Richard Vedder's article today in the online Chronicle of Higher Education.
An excerpt:

"Over 317,000 waiters and waitresses have college degrees (over 8,000 of them have doctoral or professional degrees), along with over 80,000 bartenders, and over 18,000 parking lot attendants. All told, some 17,000,000 Americans with college degrees are doing jobs that the BLS says require less than the skill levels associated with a bachelor’s degree."

Looks like college is losing its glitter for consumers as well as producers.

Anonymous said...

Oops--Vedder's article is in the October 20 edition of the Chronicle.

Comrade Svilova said...

I'm trying to decide whether to go to grad school and these numbers are actually ... encouraging. My current jobs (a bunch of part-time gigs are all that one can get in my area) result in about $20,000/year with no benefits, no health insurance, and also a lot less job satisfaction than I hope I would get if I was doing something I liked (cashiering is okay, but has no intellectual reward). I can't imagine making $40K a year and possibly having some benefits as well. That sounds amazing.

I understand intellectually the problems with university's approaches to faculty salaries (especially given the insane salaries of administration) but the anecdotes I've read here and elsewhere indicate that if I went to grad school I'd at least be no worse off than I am now in terms of salary and benefits (ie even as an adjunct making $20K without benefits I'd at least be doing something more interesting than I'm doing now -- with the exact same salary and health insurance situation).

This is not to say "the working class has it hard and you don't understand" but more to reflect upon the idea that it *almost* sounds like by pursuing a Ph.D. I could probably at least be in a similar position to that which I "enjoy" now.

Historiann said...

Wow, TR: I'm sorry I missed this yesterday. You sure are singing a different tune than you were back in 2008, when you were all about the shared sacrifice and the privilege of being a tenured professor.

Here's something that might cheer you up. I make $60K, and sadly, I'm not underpaid by comparison to my colleagues. (That's how dramatically underpaid we all are.) 13 years of tenure-track employment, and that's as far as I am.

I will never make $100K a year. I've found a way to make heterosexuality pay, as you know. but even Dr. Moneybags is looking at a major pay cut these days too. (And his income only helps me until he dumps me or dies, so it's not a strategy I'd recommend to others.)

Anonymous said...

i realize this is a conversation i can not, largely, take part in, as another grad student stated somewhere in these comments.

yet, as a graduate student at one of the very rich ivies extremely close to zenith, i can say only this: complaining about not having travel funds for conferences or limited travel funds for conferences strikes me as utterly absurd.

you are a full professor. your career does not depend at this point on how often you present, and i'm assuming (perhaps wrongly but assuming nonetheless) that many of the conferences and speaking engagements you attend are those you are invited to and that you must get some kind of honorarium in addition to having your plane ticket at least periodically reimbursed?

i might be nitpicking, but try being a grad student on a grad student stipend (even one as notoriously generous as mine) without conference travel funds at all (oh, excuse me, we get a ONE TIME FUND OF $400 AFTER OUR THIRD YEAR). try building a career on that.

we *all* work hard. we all want security for that work. we all, also (hopefully?) love what we do. we should not sell ourselves for less than we are worth. obviously wage labor needs to be reformed, across the board, not just in higher education. you raise the point that staff are being cut BEFORE faculty pay; where is the voice for the staff people in this post? i'm sorry, this just strikes me as entitled and ridiculously crass. martyrdom stinks almost as much as money.

Historiann said...

You know, Anonymous above makes a great point. Tenured Radical and the other tenured faculty here (like me, too) never went to grad school, never had to live on a grad stipend, and never adjuncted. We were magically placed in tenure-track jobs when were 28 years old! So we shouldn't talk any more about the casualization of academic labor and the role we play in it. After all, we can't relate AT ALL to any of the concerns expressed above. We never had and don't have any problems--we should just devote our blogs to talking about the concerns of only one segment of higher education, graduate students and the terrible problems of living on a graduate stipend. (Or worse yet, NOT living on a graduate stipend but paying tuition and the bills on borrowed money!)

It's really too bad that blogs written by tenured faculty never do anything for grad students or address their concerns. What a waste!

Susan said...

I agree that in the abstract $100K is a good salary; but academics are the only professions (5-7 years grad school usually) who would think that this, after 25 years in the field, is fair remuneration. Lawyers mostly start out here, most docs earn twice as much, and .... So it depends on whether you think the focus should be on comparisons within the academy, or to other professions.

What adjuncts are asked to do, and what sis is being paid, are both scandalous, and show that we do not value learning, so we don't value teaching.

Anonymous said...

"anonymous" above simply wanted to make a point about the many forms privilege takes.

obviously you've all done your time as grad students.

obviously that's a particular broke-ass rite of passage we all get to go through. lucky us!

my larger point is that there are ways to discuss the structuring of higher education and pay without making some of the patently offensive claims TR makes in this post.

Historiann said...

"Patently offensive?"

Examples, please. Is it the part where she takes pride in being a devoted teacher? The part where she describes having taken on administrative work in the service of advancing her uni's stated goals? The part in which she frets about her retirement contributions, so that she's not a burden on young people like yourself? Or the part in which she notes that she's paid 16K less than the median salary for other full professors?

I guess you expect someone you call "patently offensive" to do care work for you, for free! How funny that you call her out for her sense of entitlement, but whine that she's not addressing YOUR issues. I'm sorry that you still need your mommy, but TR isn't your mommy.

Start your own damn blog.

Anonymous said...

And it's crap like this that makes me feel glad I didn't go into academia...

Anonymous said...

More data:

3rd year T-T in the humanities at a "peer institution" of Zenith (we are also in the NESCAC)

same salary I started with as there has been a salary freeze since I arrived.
$1500/year conference support

I think that for a stable job this salary would be OK. Yes, we are severely underpaid as far as the time we put in, and certainly as far as sacrifice of earning potential while in grad school. It took me 9 years to get my degree (about average in my field), so any talk about wages for faculty *has* to take into account the fact that we live on beans and rice while sleeping on dumpster-found futons during the decade when we could be working the same hours for Goldman, making 150K/year. But I digress.

We complain about how stretched we are, and how institutional work is undervalued. Well, we have nobody to blame but tenured faculty and admin.

You mention the invisible "bar" for tenure. There is *no good reason* that it now takes a university press book in print, 4 or 5 articles in top-tier journals, and a second book project in the works to earn tenure at institutions like mine, and like Zenith.

But tenured faculty are complicit in the raising of tenure expectations for junior folks, and so long as these expectations rise, we all will run this out of control treadmill. And, because it is abundantly clear to me that institutional labor is basically valueless when it comes to my own interests (i.e. keeping my job), such labor gets foisted on a small group of suckers (mostly female faculty, alas).

So, when you tenured folks make hiring decisions, review decisions, and tenure-file decisions, you have opportunities to slow the madness. But you don't. You keep on asking us junior folks to jump ever higher. Higher than you had to jump, higher than many of you can jump now, after X decades of a career. All this even though the day still has only 24 hours in it, last time I checked.

I hear you, Radical. You are justifiably pissed. But think of how your life would be different if "expectations" for faculty had not gotten so out of control in the last decade or so. Imagine how institutional collegiality would be different if the newly-hired at Zenith felt that actually being collegial, and concentrating on teaching, while informing teaching by research, was properly rewarded.

I'd love to live in a world where salary compression didn't exist, and where faculty could actually help each other, but senior scholars have basically made such a world impossible by their overwhelming attention to "research" instead of the things that make our institutions work. It is no wonder we have such dysfunctional institutions that offer all the wrong incentives.

Comrade Svilova said...

Just to clarify, I *completely* understand the problem in the disparity between what we pay teachers and what we pay other educated professionals. My comments was more of a personal reflection that for me, personally, the pay of a professor -- even an adjunct professor -- is either equal to or much, much better than the other prospects that are available to me at the moment, none of which include law, medicine, or the other highly paid professions.

Anonymous said...

Does TR's pay sound pretty good to me? You betcha. I'm in year 8 at a major southern state U, have two books out and make 57K. I got recognition for the books and several teaching awards so I'm an engaged, productive scholar. No start up funds but a requirement to present at a minimum of one "national meeting" per year. Ask me about my cc debt!

Those who are year 2-5 on the t-t here? All make more than I do and all got generous "start up" packages for research and travel. The recent elimination of our 200.00 new "travel" funds after this first year of availability has them hysterical. I say: "welcome to my world."

Needlelover said...

I find Comrade Svilova's point very interesting. Is a possible consequence of current and future wages for academics in fact a more socially-diverse body? The usual counterargument is 1) that anyone smart enough to go to graduate school and get an academic job would be seriously tempted to earn more in another profession, and 2) that a talented person coming from a lower-income background is more likely to value higher income (from a non-academic profession) over the benefits of being an academic (especially given how eroded those benefits are, and how great the risks).

Having seen my friends actually enjoy their careers in law and finance in ways to which I was quite oblivious as an idealistic undergraduate, I can say that knowing what I do now I wouldn't have gone into academia for less than a 60k starting salary (this past decade) and regular raises leading to a 80k and 100k average at assoc. and full ranks respectively. I feel both lucky and a little guilty to say that I have at least started out on that scale (though being untenured I may of course be unceremoniously dumped from it at any point!). But from the vantage point of 2010 I can see many possible worlds in which I'm not in fact an academic. In short, I don't mind taking a hefty cut from potential earnings to do what I love, but I have my limits, and those limits will seem pretty high to most people. Comrade Svilova's anecdote suggests that the academy (and I) might be better off with my middle class ass working for Cleary Gottlieb. I can actually see a certain logic to that. But I can't shake the feeling that if I came from a lower-income background there's no way I'd take a chance on a 'career' in academia. Let's face it, if I left I'd just be replaced by another mildly dysfunctional, middle-class idealist.

Military Prof said...

TR-As always, a well-reasoned, interesting discussion. I always find it amazing how many comments any discussion of money provokes on here.

One data point in the opposite direction:

Military school for mid-level officers located in the heart of Dixie.

4 years out of PhD, received from an R-1 state school with one of the top military history programs in the nation.

Upcoming promotion to associate professor begins in fall 2011.

1 book out, 1 out in 2011, 2 under contract for the next couple years-research done, writing underway. All from top-notch academic presses.

90k plus federal benefits, additional merit bonuses. I teach a total of 6 graduate level courses per year, with research time from April until October and a substantial research/travel budget. Oh, and the awesome feeling that comes from having a daily impact on officers in the U.S. military-who show up to every class, do all of the reading, participate in all discussions, and produce some fantastic original research. I have yet to dread a day of work at this institution.

All I had to do was get over the condescending eye rolls from colleagues at conferences when they see where I teach, and the assumption that I'm not a "real" historian because I've taken the king's shilling, so to speak. And yes, I get those looks at every conference I attend, even from graduate students who would kill to be in my position but still think the socially acceptable thing to do is to maintain academic pretension, rather than showing any interest in such a position. (You know who you are, oh great "I'll only apply to R-1 institution" readers. I was there, too, at one point!)

I worked my tail off to get here, negotiated hard, and continue to work like a madman to keep moving up. Criticize as you see fit, but also, keep institutions like mine in mind when your graduate students have trouble finding positions. It's amazing what you can do with a PhD if you allow yourself to look in unexpected places.

Come to the dark side. We have cookies.

Anonymous said...

Another data point here:

First year on the tenure track, history, regional public university in a western state: $49K. And I'm told I'm being paid the highest salary ever in my college for the step I'm at. I don't expect to get a raise until tenure.

I took this job when I saw the writing on the wall at my public university in California; in a staff job there I was making $57K before furloughs and two years of pay freezes. Plus I was adjuncting to the tune of $4.5 to $10K/year, depending on how many classes I picked up. A colleague with the same job duties, plus a few years more experience, was making $84K.

And no, the difference in cost of living doesn't offset the salary cut I took to come here--not even close. Plus I can't adjunct here. But I am considerably happier, so I suppose there's that.

thefrogprincess said...

I have commented routinely on your blog and Historiann's blog about the issue of class privilege but, on this issue, I'm with both of you (and I'm a graduate student). Susan says it best: I agree that in the abstract $100K is a good salary; but academics are the only professions (5-7 years grad school usually) who would think that this, after 25 years in the field, is fair remuneration.

Right on.

I did not join this profession to take a vow of poverty, nor do I think I should. If I wanted to top out at 50k, I could have done so without the additional 10+ years of schooling.

Again, I think this gets down to how we view what we do. I've noticed among my colleagues that those who think it's fine to be poorly paid generally view being an academic as being their calling, the only thing they could possibly do that would give their life any meaning. Those of us who view it as work expect to be paid according to our education levels, our ranks, and the work that we do. I think the language of "love" is really dangerous here, b/c it provides more reasons for universities to pay us less.

I'm with needlelover. I came from a lower-income background/minority background and because of it, I have higher expectations. From my vantage point, academia was one path to a middle-class life. I was clearly wrong (that's a whole 'nother discussion). But I have high standards of what I'm worth and so do my parents, to be honest, and all of my friends. Or else what the hell have I been doing over the past several years instead of working, getting benefits, and building up retirements savings.

Historiann and TR, y'all are right on.

Anonymous said...

In response to anonymous 12:45, I agree that climbing tenure requirements are both at least partially self imposed and entirely unhelpful. For the data, I work at a SLAC (very very small) am in year 2 of a TT and make 47K, but here's the catch: every professor in year 2 makes 47k. Every professor in year 10 makes 55K - we have a flat salary scale and there are no merit deviations (part of this is the very very small thing.) I think one effect this has is greatly reducing the pressure on new faculty from older faculty as well as drilling into us a sense that our boats can only rise together - if people want pay raises, we have to work towards it together which has so far tamped down rising tenure requirements as well as any particularly egregious back-stabbing politics. This isn't the co-op model mentioned above (I would totally work at that sort of place, though), but it's a slightly different solution to the system - perhaps something between unionized (and therefore public) state pay scales and the co-op system.

Teacher said...

I love the salary-flaunting! I make 66K, as an associate prof, 2 years past tenure, with books, articles, and a sabbatical year Fulbright. I teach at a private non-profit 4 year arts institute in the midwest. We have a tiny AAUP chapter and per the Yeshiva ruling, FT fac can't unionize. Sigh. I like organizing, so I keep doing it, but I am feeling sort of fried.

Anonymous said...

Yes it was a while ago, but my dad, a tenured professor, died making 35k. This was the most he made, with a family of four children. Yes, 35k then had a bit more value than it does today, but not really that much. This was when "the politics in academe are so vicious because the stakes are so low," resonated. 107k blows me away.

Anonymous said...

I teach in a humanities field at a land-grant institution, and I make 53,000. Last year, I went on the market and got a slight bump in salary (and some other perks).

When I was looking at the different salaries from online databases of universities that put that stuff online, I noticed a really interesting trend and made a purely anecdotal analysis. In my field, we're pretty aware of who's teaching where and who's on the market, etc. I noticed that in several of the departments that I looked at, the (often much younger) faculty that (I knew) had gone on the market or that had taught at more than one institution before tenure made significantly more than the "lifers." It says something about how administrations consider our worth that we might consider in evaluating our own worth: we need to constantly look at the market, and define the value of our work there.

I think TR should make more than 107,000, if she thinks that she should make more. In what other industry (in this obscenely free-market hypercapitalist culture) do people suggest that someone's desire to be better valued for their work is presumptuous or inappropriate? It's how OUR administrators are making upwards of 100K, by moving from institution to institution, by making themselves SEEN as valuable.

I guess my point is that what I'm learning as an untenured assistant prof is that I'm going to be on the market all the time because this is the only way I WILL get valued for my work, the only way I will, as TR mentioned, be able to send my kids to college, unless faculty cohere and stop capitulating to those awful fat cat adminstrators making twice as much as we are for telling us we need to spend less money.

gravitysrainbow said...

Here's some data on international academic salary comparisons from BU. Your neighbour to the north comes out on top.

"When it comes to salaries for entry-level professorial faculty, Canada tops the list with an average monthly salary of $5,206 (all international comparisons converted to World Bank Purchasing Power Parity Dollars). By comparison, faculty in the United States earn only $4,589 on average -- more than $600 less each month -- with Australians next at an average of $3,810 per month."

Anonymous said...

Full professor of social sciences, State Flagship U. Salary: $61,000 after 23 years of loyal and productive service to SFU. Three years ago we hired a new faculty member in my research area straight out of graduate school at a higher starting salary than I was making after 20 years on the job. Demoralized? You bet.

Our dean went on public record saying that the only way to get a decent raise is to get a competing offer. I'm not mobile, so I'm not willing to play that game. We haven't had raises in 3 years, but it's hardly noticeable as our typical raise when we got them was in the 2-3% range.

I'm eligible for retirement after spring of 2012. Am I taking it? You bet.

Miranda said...

Hi there--Associate prof at a third tier slac in the midwest. I make 47,000 a year ( I started at 37,000). No raises for a while, very high health care. The economic picture is very glum. If I could get hired, I would make more as a k-12 teacher (but no district would want me because the phd makes me too expensive). My husband lost his job, so I will be teaching summer school at adjunct wages this year to make a few more dollars. I think this discussion about money is very important, even if it brings out some problems.

Anonymous said...

Assistant prof in social sciences at regional university. I make $45k and have since I was hired. No merit raises available within recent memory, and no cost of living adjustments for at least the past 3 years since I've been here. No travel funds, no research funds. Our student:faculty ratio is over 100:1. I'm on the market.

Anonymous said...

Wow. Just wanted to say that making 107K is not "peanuts," to cite a comment above. Unbelievable.

Anonymous said...

With utmost respect, TR, you're completely blind to your own privilege. Salary-worth aside, you're forgetting cultural capital. You're forgetting (or just ignoring?) the intangible benefits of this profession. I'm not just talking about the relative security of tenure, the remarkable flexibility of our schedules, and the autonomy we enjoy in our teaching and research (not all of us, but so many). I'm talking about the other reality of our lives as educators: we do something meaningful, something with more of a purpose than punching keys, balancing budgets, and managing programs.

I'm reminded of one of your earlier posts wherein you railed against being forced to accommodate the schedules of colleagues with children. At least, I'm having the same visceral reaction to you now as I did then (and, for the record, I am not a parent, and I make nearly as much as you do.)

I agree that people should make what they're worth, but worth is and will always be in the eye of the beholder. You believe you're worth more than your paycheck, fine, I might agree with that. But then, follow-through. Leave your job so someone else can come along and enjoy the privileges you seem to have forgotten.

Tenured Radical said...

Anonymous 11:26: my first response was to think, "Oh, bite me!" But that didn't sound like I was open to dialogue. Telling the lefty white girl she is blind to her privilege, and assuming that will shut her up, addresses none of the structural issues that are being raised here, not does it address the implications of the current environment for the vast majority of faculty.

At what point, as you move down the salary scale documented in these comments, do employees cease to be privileged enough by the joys of academic life to be justified in valuing themselves above the wage their employers can get away with paying them?

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this; I've had many of the same thoughts (for reasons which will be obvious from the details below).

I'm a full-time, non-tenure-track prof in the humanities at an R2 that really wants to be an R1, teaching mostly gen ed courses. Local cost of living, according to a calculator I consulted, is 30% higher than around Zenith. 20 years after first entering a classroom, 10 years after arriving at my present institution, and 8 years after completing a Ph.D. at an Ivy-League institution, I'm making just over 41K a year (plus good health insurance and a 10% TIAA-CREF contribution whether I contribute myself or not). It's very tight. I used some inherited money to put a downpayment on a studio apartment, which helped stabilize my housing costs, and gave me access to the mortgage deduction (I'm also under water, but can rent the place out for the carrying costs, so that's not disastrous, but I'd certainly have trouble saving up another down payment). I have the opportunity to teach up to two summer courses, at a salary of about $4100 each (10% of my salary). Our adjuncts make substantially less than that per course (and my tenure-track colleagues, who start at c. 60+K, make more for summer teaching, since the base salary off which the percentage is calculated is more). At this point, I have to teach summer classes in order to meet basic expenses, which means I have even less time for research than I did before (my load is 4/4, with neither research nor service included or rewarded; however, we do have a fairly generous allowance for conference travel).

My department makes efforts to make things more equitable (e.g. the distribution of travel money, and of raises), but there's no way to erase the basic wage disparity at the department level. And, realistically, the tenure-track members benefit from contingent labor, while at the same time building capital, in the form of publication, that would put them in a better position to look for a new job than I am (admittedly, none of us would have an easy time). We haven't had raises for several years, and what raises we have had during my time here have been insignificant -- a few % at most. The largest bumps I've gotten were when the university decided to up the minimum full-time pay for Ph.D.s to 30K and then 40K, in the name of being "competitive."