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Tuesday, December 18, 2012


People who make more money than you, by a factor of 75% to 200%, will often tell you that money is not that important, and that you have enough of it already. My dad, who was a dean at UCD, when I complained about salary equity, pointed out that he was the lowest paid dean in his university, but that he didn't care that much. That is fine, because once you reach a certain level, the value of additional money gets more nebulously symbolic. So the Letters and Sciences dean makes less than the Vet School dean, but both are quite comfortable. He earned 30,000 less than someone, but I only earned 30,000 period at the time.

The year I was promoted to full professor, I politely inquired about what the raise would be, and mentioned that fact that even with the %5,000 they were offering me I was still way behind where I should be. The dean was furious with me, according to the chair of my department. Of course, right after that, he left KU and took as job as a kind of super-dean at Ohio State. His raise taking that new job was far more than my salary. He earns more than $100,000 more in his new job than he did in Kansas. The Associate Dean at the time also wrote me a nasty note saying that people in the University were losing their jobs, so I had no right to even mention the issue that year. Her salary, of course, is more than twice what mine is. She is a philosopher, the author of a book about oppression.

My point is very simple. You cannot tell a person with a salary significantly lower than yours that money should not be an issue, or to shut up and stop complaining. Especially when you are a dean with a responsibility to make sure faculty members are treated fairly. Yes, I have enough money to live on. I am not oppressed, just treated unfairly relative to some of my colleagues. If you earn less than me you don't have to feel sorry for me. But then, I am not going to tell you that you money shouldn't matter to you if you earn half of what I do.


Tanya Golash-Boza said...

I get the sense that is the culture in particular at KU. When I asked about the possibility of getting a decent raise at tenure, it was made clear to me that an outside offer was the only way that was going to happen.

So, I got an outside offer and then ended up leaving because, once I thought about it: What was I doing in Kansas anyway?

So, it's bad policy. KU risks losing someone of your stature because once you get an offer, you might just take it.

Jonathan said...

Right, that's exactly it. They encouraged you to get another offer to prove your worth. It is like telling your romantic partner to prove his / her attractiveness by seducing someone else. Not exactly a recipe for loyalty, is it?

Contingent Cassandra said...

The same also applies, of course, down the line: while I make enough to get by (just; as my car and body and various other things age, money,or the lack thereof, is getting a bit distracting), I find it very frustrating that, after over a decade at my institution, I don't make as much as an entry-level Assistant Professor with the same education and much, much less experience in the classroom. And adjuncts with similar experience are even worse off; they don't make a pro-rated portion of even my salary, and don't get benefits (and one of the saving graces of my job is fairly decent medical and retirement benefits -- and very good library privileges).

At our institution, administrators tend to point out that they're on 12-month contracts, which justifies their salaries being at least 30% above those of faculty on 9-month contracts. But a good many salaries are more than 30% higher, and this reasoning also raises the issue of whether, given the teaching/administrative load, faculty can really do the amount of research and writing they need to accomplish for tenure and promotion in the 9 months included in their contract. If not (or if they're doing service/local administrative work -- or, in my case, course planning/prep -- during the 3 summer months), then all that argument does is highlight the fact that faculty work unpaid over the summer. Some of us also work for pay in summer classes, of course (usually because we need to), but I don't think anybody actually takes the whole time off, or devotes it to entirely non-academic endeavors.

Jonathan said...

I have no problem with administrators earning a bit more than 25% or 30% above the equivalent full professor / non-administrator. If a full professor in my department has 100,000, a Dean should be around 175,000. I object only to those with much huger salaries than that telling us we don't have right to the issue of our own compensation.

Of course, the nine month contract is a bit of a fiction. I do a considerable amount of my research over the summer. Now I find myself teaching summer school to make up for part of the deficit in my salary. That pays only a "contingent" style salary and I wouldn't do it if I didn't feel as least some financial pressure of the non-symbolic type.

Adjuncts have it worse than I do, so I would never "explain" to them that they should be happy with their lot. That would be the same as the dean telling me I should keep my mouth shut. Hang in there!

Anonymous said...

My father and J P the 18th century person used to go on endlessly about how, if salaries became decent, the "wrong kind of people" would go into academia. I think the opposite.

Institutions in my state, even the private ones, all have that Kansas culture and the point so far as I can tell IS to push people away. This way the endowed chairs can go to natives and nepotes, you see!

If I get promoted the raise will be $600 per annum, last I checked ... although it will also be a good opportunity to ask for an "adjustment" and when they say it is mean of me to ask (and that I should think of the starving children in Belgium or Africa) I will just laugh.

Not having to spend so much time thinking about money really frees up time and energy for work, as I know by experience. The most I made was when I was a VAP at these R1s in points north. At one, health insurance was free for anything, at any licensed practice.

At the other, my salary was so high I had hundreds left the last week of the month. One time my car had trouble in that week and without doubting, I went down and got it fixed, paying with cash. It was a total non crisis and I did not have to miss a beat. And public transportation was so good I just zipped around in the meantime without having to ask for rides. The car issue had no negative impact on work at all, which is why it is cost effective to pay people decent salaries.

I felt like such a grownup at those places, and I also felt so supported and appreciated by the institution. To have been placed in a position to be able to do those things, not to have to say I'd have to miss a meeting or something. To make enough money to feel autonomous in life. It was really, really good for mental clarity because they also did not ask you to pay in other ways, e.g. with spiritual loyalty or something (a requirement I have also experienced in academic jobs).
They figured you were being compensated for work and did not owe other forms of compensation for the compensation.

It is the same with the library. Right now I want $100 in library materials, at least, because I have to teach Peninsular next and we have not bought a book since 1999. There is $3515 in a slush fund but I used $250 of it on a speaker this semester. Normally I would ask for $100 for library materials but I am risking a shaming answer, how dare I spend so much when there are other starving faculty (?! I also support their using the fund!). This will put me in a bad mood for the class. So I am thinking of just buying the library stuff and putting off car service. Putting us in this sort of conundrum is not good for the institution, one would think, but actually it is: it is weakening, and that serves their deeper purposes.

Anonymous said...

P.S. That term deansplaining is a good one and should be disseminated. It is how they attempt to get people to internalize oppression.