ASU’s new response still isn’t good enough

In today’s (Jan 23) Inside Higher Ed, Colleen Flaherty reports that Arizona State has decided to give full-time instructors with PhDs a raise in minimum salary from $32K to $36K/year.

That’s not bad news, on its face. The pay was awful for a full-time job requiring advanced graduate training, and now it’s marginally less awful. However, it’s not especially good news either, for several reasons.

For one, yes it’s a raise, but that’s still not nearly enough money to live decently on pretty much anywhere.

For another, it’s only the PhD holders who get the raises. If that’s not a blatant violation of New Faculty Majority’s “Equal Pay for Equal Work” principle, I can’t imagine what is. If your response is to say that people with PhDs bring more training to the job and deserve better pay, there’s a logic to that. But: (1) if the job description doesn’t allow them to use that advanced training to do anything that everybody else isn’t doing, then it doesn’t warrant more money; and (2) the MA/ABD faculty are clearly trained enough to do the job–or you wouldn’t hire them–and as such they deserve equal pay.

And finally: as Writing Program director Prof. Shirley Rose points out in the article, the change in job description makes it more difficult for instructors to participate in governance and professional development.

She [Rose] also expressed concern that the default workload does not include times for service, such as faculty governance or organizing the program’s annual composition conference. She also said faculty members need time for professional development, to learn about “recent research and theory that would inform their teaching or to become familiar with new teaching and learning technologies.”

That’s a harm all by itself, and the damage is amplified when we understand that ASU’s upper management thinks that throwing a few thousand dollars at a fraction of the staff is a viable response to it.

That’s not surprising, of course, given that their explicit, public rationale for making the change in the first place is financial. As I’ve been arguing for a couple of years now, exploiting the contingency of contingent faculty simply to solve financial problems is inhumane. And throwing money at an essentially arbitrarily defined sub-group of the cadre they’re exploiting only shows how poorly they understand that.

It’s not my decision to make whether this offer is acceptable, since I don’t work at ASU. But if I had a voice (more directly than this one), my response would go something like this.

We appreciate that you’ve finally recognized how insufficient the salary is for full-time instructors at the university. This raise doesn’t fix that problem, but it’s a step in the right direction and we acknowledge it as such. However, we see that only as a cure for a problem that predates the current situation–in other words, you already weren’t paying us enough–not a solution to the new problem you created by changing the job expectations into something that harms everybody except the accountants. The pay raise doesn’t solve the problem that adding a new required section to everybody’s teaching schedule excludes faculty from critical aspects of faculty work at a university.

I stand with the instructors at ASU against the change. For more information, keep checking ASU Against 5/5 and sign their petition to university administration.

9 Responses to ASU’s new response still isn’t good enough

  1. Aaron Barlow says:

    Reblogged this on The Academe Blog and commented:
    Seth Kahn on the situation at Arizona State University:

    • sethkahn says:

      Thanks for the shout, Aaron. I imagine ASU’s upper management already realizes that this tactic is transparently wrong, but maybe it’ll help some if they figure out that we all know it too.

  2. Sam says:

    Their offer is just adding insult to injury. Not only does ASU have MFAs who teach, ASU also offers an MFA degree. Are they really suggesting that an MFA degree is not a terminal degree and/or that people with those degrees and years of ASU teaching experience are not qualified to teach, or that they should do more work for free? What does that say about their faith in the MFA-holding instructors and their own MFA degrees? What does it show about their concern for the students who are being taught by these MFA-holders who, apparently, “less qualified” and are therefore fit for exploitation? The whole thing is disgusting. I promise that I, for one, don’t plan to take it lying down. For the record, I hold a PhD, but I won’t allow the department to divide and conquer.

  3. Jane Harty says:

    Thanks for reporting on this. I feel that the root of the problem is that contingent PhD’s are not paid the same per course as their tenure-track PhD colleagues. “Equal pay for equal work” is about that. Pay should be on a grid where both training and experience count, so some contingent faculty should actually make more per course than their tenure-track colleagues. However, ASU should also have the right to hire people faculty who do other things FOR THEM, like committee work (“service”) and research which contingent faculty are not required to do. But their pay has to be broken out for these different job requirements so that it can be matched for contingent faculty. My guess is that non-research tenure-track faculty spend 90% of their time on course work. I would accept that as a long-term contingent faculty with PhD. Would be glad to hear other thoughts.

  4. Amy LB says:

    That’s Seth: Kicking ass, naming names.

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