The Jan. 29, 2019 Faculty Forum on Faculty Salary Crisis drew faculty from all ranks, from NTT to Full Professor, and all career stages from recent hires through the retired and can’t-afford-to-retire. The Forum’s purpose was twofold: To hear how faculty salary stagnation and decline have impacted individual faculty members; and to discuss action steps. The Forum began with four faculty members, two NTT and two TT, who shared their own stories and concerns.
Faculty members in attendance then began to share their own stories. Full professors who thought they’d be able to retire by now. NTTs who have given their heart and soul to this institution, for decades longer than any top-level administrator has worked here–not only by teaching students but also by raising big money for the institution to help it grow and raise its profile. Associate professors who have experienced such salary compression as to be, after many years here, still earning less money than they earned as K-12 teachers or as assistant professors at previous institutions.
Amidst these stories emerged some common themes:
- That we used to feel like the institution valued students and the role faculty played instructing and mentoring students, as well as creating new knowledge for the public good, and now we don’t.
- That we used to feel like faculty and administrators had shared values and were all on the same team. And yet when we think about how upper-level administrators have seen their salaries continually go up, including our Chancellor whose salary is 10 times higher than many of our Senior Lecturers, now we don’t.
- That we used to like coming to work, and now we don’t.
Here are some detailed testimonials that faculty shared with us, anonymously:
Faculty Member 1: As I write this I have holes in my shoes, 1/3 of the buttons on my coat, and the car I drove to campus today is held together with duct tape. I drove here from Ashe County because my wife and I, and our two children, cannot afford to live in Boone or nearer to campus. I need new glasses, but can’t afford the eye exam. I am a photographer, but am currently selling my photo equipment to help make ends meet. I work as a consultant to make extra money for my family, as well as conducting workshops and finding and selling old photo equipment online. We have recently started shopping for groceries online so we can more closely monitor our budget and remove things we can’t afford. We have $500 in the bank. I am an associate professor, and am considering a part-time retail job. There is a budget crisis, and it is indefensible to claim otherwise.
Faculty Member 2: Due to some health issues, I elected to switch from the regular 70/30 plan in 2018 to the premium 80/20 plan in 2019. That will increase the amount (pre-tax) deducted from my salary by $171.78 per month or $2061.36 for the year. Last year I paid $682.88 per month for health care, which is $8,194.56 total. This year I will pay $854.66 per month, or $10,255.92 for the year. These health care expenses amounted to around 15% of my gross salary and over 22% of my net pay last year, which are already extremely high numbers that will only increase this year given my change in plan. This means that health care costs will add up to around one sixth of my gross salary and one quarter of my take home pay in 2019.
Faculty Member 3: I was making over $80,000 as a veteran public school teacher in Chicago (and we went on strike to keep our rightful pay and benefits). I made far less as a grad student, but we also went on strike to preserve our minimal remuneration. I took a major pay cut from public school teaching to come to ASU, and the health “benefits” for dependents, on top of high costs of living, are squeezing my family’s budget, to an egregious degree. At this rate, ASU faculty would be more than entitled to withhold their labor.
Faculty Member 4: I joined the faculty at Appalachian State in 2009. As a senior hire, I was able to negotiate a reasonable initial salary based on my position at my previous institution. Since arriving here, I have experienced salary stagnation like my faculty peers. More important, I have witnessed the failure of administrators to use my negotiated initial salary – and those of other external hires – to address issues of salary compression on this campus. I have repeatedly asked why compression issues remain unaddressed and I have not received an explanation.
Our faculty salaries–across all levels– would need to increase by 10% this year just to make up for cost of living increases.
So, what to do? Don’t stand idly by. Show everyone this is a central issue by attending the special Faculty Senate meeting to address faculty salaries on Mon, Feb 25 at 4pm in Parkway Ballroom of Plemmons Student Union. If you teach at that time, write your departmental Faculty Senate representative. Tell that person what you want them to share on your behalf. Demand action. This is not simply a matter of the NC legislature not giving enough money to Appalachian State. We don’t get enough money, that’s for sure. But it’s also about our own institutional priorities and academics, and the faculty whose work is so central to academics, taking a back seat.