A Philosopher's Blog

Diminishing Pay

Posted in Business, Philosophy, Universities & Colleges by Michael LaBossiere on September 27, 2011
University of the Pacific Arthur A. Dugoni Sch...

When I first started teaching, the expectation was that my salary would gradually increase at a rate that at least matched the cost of living increase. After all, if everything costs more, then my services would seem to fall under that. Also, if my salary were not increased to match this, then my salary would be less, although the number would remain the same.

I did get a few increases here and there, mainly from promotions. However, cost of living increases have been non-existent. There have been some bonuses, but these are taxed at 35%, so they amount to very little and have been one shot deals. Not surprisingly, my insurance costs have increased, thus lowering my take home pay. Recently, the “Tea Party” “war” on state employees and education resulted in a 3% cut in my take home pay and a loss of my summer class. As such, I actually will make significantly less this year than last year. In fact, I can expect that my effective salary will be reduced with every passing year.

At the same time, enrollment has increased at my university. Since new hiring is out of the question, the remaining faculty are expected to handle this. For example, my Introduction to Philosophy class used to cap at 35. Last year it capped at 60 and this year I have over 70 students at last count. My other classes have 36, 36 and 46 students. I have no minions-so all teaching and grading falls on me. Despite having so many students, my classes only count as 80% of my workload-so I also have additional duties including being the unit facilitator, chairing a search committee, advising, publishing, serving on a major university committee, and so on. Naturally, last Spring I was forced to defend the productivity of myself and my unit (whose classes are always overloaded) to avoid being cut in order to save money. We are, as you might guess, supposed to be grateful to be employed. After all, faculty and staff have been fired and it seems likely that more people will be on the chopping block in the next rounds of cuts. Education is a favorite target.

However, it is not the pay that keeps me working in education. As foolish as it might sound, I am a believer in the value of education and believe that members of a good society should make sacrifices for the general good. I could, obviously, make far more money in private industry. However, I get a more important return on my efforts than mere money, namely being able to help people improve. Obviously, I should have my values and my head examined.

As you might imagine, when I hear people argue that we need to cut the budget so we can lower the taxes on the job creators, because people will not be motivated if they are over taxed, I think about people in situations similar to mine. After all, if the job creators will be broken in spirit by a minor tax increase, one can only imagine what the salary situation is doing to educators. Of course, we are presumed to be valueless parasites on the system who only serve to educate the very people who will be creating and occupying jobs. Obviously, the research that we do is also without significant value, and the prestige of the American university system that draws students from around the world has no value whatsoever. Needless to say, bright and talented people should be encouraged to not go into teaching-rather they should focus on what clearly truly matters-racking up more money than one could possibly spend in a meaningful way. What could possibly go wrong with 1) creating intense dissatisfaction among current educators and 2)  discouraging people from becoming educators in the future? After all, what matters is ensuring that the job creators hold on to every possible cent.

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5 Responses

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  1. ajmacdonaldjr said, on September 27, 2011 at 6:29 am

    A good post, albeit a sad one. I read an article recently about a high school teacher who, like you, has been forced to deal with classes that are becoming too large and student who continually disrupt classes. Having exhausted all means to redress these problems he walked out, although this was not his desire.

    It’s unconscionable that we are 1) wasting lives and money fighting Israel’s wars overseas and cutting education and social services here at home. Like you said, education is the only means of creating good citizens.

    The original Tea Party was anti-war and was co-opted by the warmongering, Israel-loving Republi-cons long ago, and so we are left with the warmongering Teao-cons and the warmongering Republi-cons, who now have the momentum of a juggernaut, which the leaderless Democrats, who are also Israel-loving and serving and who have continued the wars, are powerless to stop.

    In short, our Washington politicians are ruining America for the sake of Israel, murdering millions in our name, and will get us all killed if they are not stopped.

    Teacher walks out: http://articles.latimes.com/2011/sep/24/local/la-me-0924-banks-20110924

    A good broadcast that explains well the serious problems with face concerning politics, Israel, and the worsening wars: http://theuglytruth.podbean.com/2010/11/03/the-ugly-truth-podcast-nov-3-2010/

  2. WTP said, on September 27, 2011 at 8:59 am

    Consider society’s need for widgets. What is great about these widgets is that they increase the quality of other products society needs. Early on, widgets are valuable because there are not enough of them. As the demand for widgets increases, the value of them increases, thus drawing more widget creators get into the business. Eventually, many people realize that they too can create widgets…partially due to the efforts of early widget creators. But over time, the secret to creating widgets is spread far and wide by a new discovery that makes widgets easier than ever to produce, brings in a more diverse population of widget creators, and makes the previously cumbersome distribution of widgets is as simple as clicking a button. While widgets still have value, the variety and ease of acquisition of better and more unique widgets drives down the demand and price for most individual widgets. And given that distributing high quality widgets is just as easy as distributing low quality widgets, the low quality widgets demand drops much faster. Should society continue to pay those who produce low quality widgets? Or should more of society’s wealth move toward encouragement of production of high quality widgets? Of course things are a bit more complicated than this, but that’s the general idea in one paragraph.

    As Thoreau wrote: Every man is my teacher, that I may learn from him.

  3. WTP said, on September 27, 2011 at 12:31 pm

    BTW, not to be a jerk or anything, but that’s “Diminishing” not “Dimishing”.

  4. T. J. Babson said, on September 27, 2011 at 2:51 pm

    Ha! Even gay nudists in San Francisco are beginning to sound like Tea Partiers…


    It is more shocking to read about San Francisco residents wanting less government busybody interference than about gay nudists, but that’s Frisco for you.

    The Castro district, home of the gay rights movement starting in the 1960s, which included desiring more government involvement in securing their rights, has a contingent who don’t always think they should be told to wear pants. Maybe that is why gay marriage got voted down in California but not New York – no one in New York is going to insist they can attend church in the nude, it’s too darn cold nine months out of the year.

    “It’s just another form of prejudice,” says Woody Miller, an elderly nudist who is hopeful conservatives against more laws and bureaucracy win out this time because, you know, San Francisco is so intolerant. Scott Wiener, the district’s newly elected member of the San Francisco city council (and a Democrat, though it seems sort of redundant to mention it) wants nudity gone. Well, not gone, what he wants is rather mild legislation but gay nudist progressives have suddenly discovered the slippery slope of big, heavy-handed government when it is turned on them; Wiener thinks you should have to cover a park bench before you sit down and officially be required to wear clothes in a restaurant, in a ‘no shoes, no shirts, no PANTS, no service’ kind of way.

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