Thursday, January 26, 2012
In response to the “rejection” post earlier this week, one commenter suggested that ageism is rampant in faculty hiring. S/he offered no particular evidence for the claim, but stated it as a sort of “everybody knows.”
Like many “everybody knows” claims, I haven’t seen it. Over the past several years, my college has hired faculty in their twenties and faculty in their sixties, with many in between. The processes for screening applicants are rigorous enough that it’s hard to imagine that kind of bias making itself felt very often. At my previous college, the same was true.
That’s not to say that my own experience is universal, obviously, but it does make me wonder about the pre-emptive certainty of the claim, and the purpose served by asserting it. Presumably, if the practice were ubiquitous, I would have seen it by now. Instead, the charge gets thrown around, but without proof. It’s hard to prove a negative, of course, but the charge feels a little like working the referee.
If anything, I’d think the valid concern would go the other way. With colleges adopting “tiered” benefits packages based on date of hire, newer employees will never get the level of benefits of their elders. That sure smells like age discrimination to me...
In reference to yesterday’s post about cost (among other things), a commenter asked how I could assert ever-rising costs for colleges in the face of flat salaries for faculty.
That’s an easy one. Costs include much more than salaries.
The elephant in the room for any discussion of labor costs is health insurance. When the cost of employer-provided insurance goes up, then labor costs go up, even if salaries remain flat. The employee might not feel it, but the employer absolutely does. From the employer’s perspective, an increase in the cost of benefits is no different than a raise.
This is why I pull out what little hair I still have whenever I read the New Faculty Majority’s advocacy of the “Vancouver model” for paying adjuncts. Vancouver is in Canada. In Canada, health insurance is not attached to employment. If you don’t account for that, then you miss the point. Establish single-payer health insurance in America, and we can get a handle on the adjunct compensation issues. Until then, we use adjunct compensation to get a handle on health insurance.
The IHE survey of provosts made for fascinating reading. The two findings that jumped out at me were the Lake Wobegon effect and the provosts’ views of unions.
The Lake Wobegon effect -- “where every child is above average” -- applied both to academic standards and the effects of funding cuts. Substantial numbers of provosts reported that grade inflation and declining academic performance are major issues, but only at other places. And funding cuts will reduce quality on their campuses, even though they haven’t yet.
Many commenters took those responses as evidence of denial. That may be, but there’s also a sense in which they have to give those answers. A chief academic officer with a conscience would resign if s/he thought that academic standards had declined on her watch. But if you don’t deploy the threat of decline in the future, it becomes hard to argue against further cuts. So you adopt a seemingly contradictory view.
The responses on unions were portrayed as negative, though I read that as a function of the question asked. If you assume that unions exist primarily to benefit their members, then the answers given necessarily follow. That doesn’t necessarily imply that unions are objectionable; it just means that their first priority is their membership. (The same argument holds about the claim that corporations exist primarily to make money. Of course they do. The relevant question is whether they accomplish a broader social good anyway.) I don’t see the contradiction between saying that unions exist primarily to serve their members, and that they’re generally positive anyway. Are they helpful, or self-interested? Yes. Just like corporations.
there's your example.
Every time contract negotiations start here, the government makes a big deal, in public, about how the major cost of education is salaries, and greedy teachers are the reason education costs so much. They did that while our salaries were frozen for a decade. (I'm in Canada, so health insurance isn't a factor.)
So for my particular circumstances I sympathize with the original commentator. I teach more students for less money than I did a decade ago, and yet I am being publicly blamed for the cost of education going up.
Something doesn't add up — and I know my numbers are right…
During this same time, my salary held constant for three years, despite my receiving a change in rank promotion which should have helped offset the increase in health insurance costs as well as the other regular cost increases in things like daycare, property taxes, etc.
So yes, I agree with the original commenter as well.
That's not always what happens, but I've seen it more than once. The insanity of the system is enough to make a man go stabby. It's even more screwed up than you think it is.
If you are replying to the Anonymous comment above about the health insurance premiums changing midstream, that is fine. However, I would also guess that in the private sector, many people have either received a (1) cost of living increase in the past few years, (2) some type of holiday bonus (not saying in the thousands, but even some sort of token) or (3) at the very least, some type of increase in salary when they receive a promotion. My promotion was awarded in April 2008 and went into effect that September. I'm still waiting for the $1000 that goes along with that promotion. I can't imagine that is how things are routinely handled in the private sector.
I'm still going to agree with the original commenter. It's not fair to blame faculty salaries as the reason the costs of higher ed are so high. I'm not seeing it at my CC.
So, we are working much more now, and enjoying it much less. All this talk about the recession ending 2 years ago is bunk. Still, no one here has quit. Everyone is grateful to have even a crappy job.
Meanwhile, our local public school system continues to hand out raises, which will be factored into generous pensions. I know lots of folks who wish they'd gone into teaching. The amount we are spending on education is not sustainable.
First of all, those folks could get a teaching degree.
Secondly, I'd like to see how those folks manage even a week in our high school. Maybe they could sub a few days to see if they're really up for it.
Thirdly, I don't know where people get the idea that teachers make so much money. My husband has been teaching full time for 11 years and makes $31,000. I'm only in my 4th year, so I've yet to break the $30,000 mark.
Lastly, whatever jobs those folks have right now (unless they're politicians) are probably not the punching bags for everything that is wrong in society. The continuing demoralizing attitude towards teachers is terrible. It makes me feel like ranting anonymously like I have here, because I feel like teachers should fight back against how we're portrayed.
Our CT politicians have opted for a zero-growth approach to the state economy (manage the decline, ramp up taxes and regulation, encourage business outmigration). In this environment, teachers begin look like a protected class, and taxpayers footing the bill wonder about shared sacrifice.
Second, the US spends 5.7% of it's GDP on education. This is significantly more than some countries that whomp us on standardized tests, like Japan (3.6%), and significantly less than other countries that whomp us on standardized tests, like Denmark (8.5%). I see no evidence it is an intrinsically unsustainable number though (unlike our health care).
Fascinatingly, the highest correlate with higher % of GDP spent on education? % of working mothers.
That could mean several things... but I am inclined to not Freak Out about how much we spend on education if the way to get that number down is to take women out of the workforce.
On a broader note, I know very, very few people, whether in academia, the public sector or the private sector, who have received bonuses or raises (even basic cost of living adjustments) in the past few years. It's grim all over, and rising health insurance costs, are a big part of it.
Oh yeah and my colleague is also young, and her position won't get renewed, after she did everything they asked. It's easier for them to higher another new person (and cheaper) than to just let us actually GROW in a position.
I put 13% of my before-tax salary into my 'generous pension'. I don't know anyone in the private sector paying 13% into their pension plan, for all they complain about my 'taxpayer funded*' plan.
*It's not taxpayer funded at all. In fact, back when the government controlled it they bought government bonds that paid less than the rate of inflation, and borrowed huge sums from the plan to cover operating expenses. When we got control we had to 'forgive' this borrowing — it was that or have the government declare the entire pension fund government assets. Apparently neocons only consider contracts with companies valid and unbreakable — their own employees can go copulate themselves.
Yes I'm bitter. About 30% of my pension fund vanished, and that was before the stock market meltdown.
[Sorry for the rant - I am just so sick and tired of listening to unsubstantiated teacher-bashing - and I am not a teacher!].
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As for what a different CC Prof wrote on IHE about pay and cost, even the cost of health insurance varies with region and the size of the "group" that makes the deal. Maybe DD (and other leaders) need to do what our college does, which is distribute info on total compensation so their faculty know what is going on with their budgets. Sadly, they don't have (or won't share) that data over the last 30 years for comparison to our total budget per student.
My problem with what CC Prof wrote is that the context was far from clear. Was the statement about CCs or large universities or private colleges?
Costs at my CC have gone up, of course, but so has the number of students. Tuition has gone up because state funds have fallen drastically, not because of any "cost disease". I know I am more "productive" than 10 years ago. But one cost area has grown drastically, as we recently added a half dozen or so non-teaching professionals to the cost side of the ledger without adding anything on the income side.
In that last area, we are emulating the large universities where it is clear the cost of education has far outstripped inflation in the period I looked at (from 1970 to before the '08 depression) for one school. Only a small fraction of their tuition increase was due to cuts in state funding. Some of that is definitely faculty salaries, as they competed for top research faculty, but administrative support for research and new buildings also played a role.
(Using 2.5% annual pay increase, 4%interest, and an online immediate annuity quote site.)