Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Doing More with Less

Or, as Dr. Crazy puts it, "Excellence without Money." I've appreciated greatly the conversation going around the blogosphere that Dr. Crazy links to surrounding the issues of asking faculty to take one for the team. In some cases, that means no raises, cutting travel funds, or increasing class sizes. Sometimes it means giving up a percentage of salary. Dr. Crazy analyzes this situation quite well, and I agree with her attitude that this job is a job and she shouldn't have to give the blood of her first born to help out her employer. I can't find the references now, but a whole back, there was a whole conversation about how academics struggled with this perception that their campuses were like their families. Some even brought out a priesthood metaphor. I think all that rhetoric about families and priesthood is used to cover over the fact that many faculty are not properly compensated or appreciated. I agree with Dr. Crazy that there's only so much belt-tightening that one can do.

On the staff side, when things get tough, the situation is even grimmer (and perhaps this applies to contingent faculty as well, but my experence is the order of layoffs is staff, part-time contingent faculty, full-time contingent faculty). Dr. Crazy acknowledges that she's in a position of privilege as a faculty member. The janitor, whose job gets outsourced, not so much. As Dr. Crazy said, someone earlier in their career hurts more when the raise doesn't come. For many staff, the lack of a raise is the difference between being able to commute to work or not or between paying the heating bill or not. Most staff (and I'm guessing faculty too) have seen their real incomes decline over the years. I experienced a downturn in my first 6 months on the job. I got no raise the first year and only a paltry one the second. The 3 years after that were fine, but still, overall, I saw my salary decline. Add into that that faculty have the opportunity for merit raises--a sizable one when getting promoted to associate or full and yearly ones based on teaching, research and service accomplishments--while staff do not and you end up with some real inequalities that cause some serious pain during hard economic times.

I'm not putting forth this information to say to faculty, you don't know how good you have it, but to say that I think staff, too, should not take on more sacrifice. Too many of them do. They look at themselves as part of a family or team or whatever and put in extra hours without pay or offer to donate to the college(!) or suck it up when they go without raises for a couple of years. I was pretty hard-nosed about my work hours. I went in at 9 and left at 5. Although there were a handful of times I worked extra or at odd hours of the day, it was truly rare and I often took an extra hour or day off to compensate. Most policies include a phrase about "working until the job is done." That means as a salaried employee, you're expected to get your work done even if it means working 50-60 hours week, bringing your actual hourly pay down to just above minimum wage. You can really only ask that of workers for so long before they say, "Do your own damn work."