Baa Ram U. lays it on thick this year

I got an e-mail yesterday explaining that I’m not getting a raise this summer, again.  (We haven’t had a raise of any kind since 2008, and we faculty only get merit increases anyway.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen a cost of living increase in my life.)  Here’s the boffo list of valuable, money-saving coupons I’m getting in lieu of a raise:

  • “The Board of Governors has approved our recommendation that there be no increase in [Baa Ram U.] parking permit fees again next year.”
  • “Beginning in the fall, we will be increasing the dependent tuition scholarship from 25% to 50% of resident tuition.” 
  • We will be increasing the Employee Study Privilege benefit from 6 to 9 credits per year, starting this summer.”
  • Faculty and staff will now be able to apply their study privilege credits to [Baa Ram U.] Global Campus courses [i.e. online classes], starting this summer.”
  • The uni has purchased new space for expanding the campus childcare center and it has adopted a new policy to accomodate breastfeeding mothers.  (Funny how this is being touted as a special bonus, isn’t it?)   
  • Baa Ram U. will offer Zipcar services starting in the fall term to faculty, students, and staff, for a fee.
  • The Veterinary Teaching Hospital will offer a 20 percent discount on veterinary services to [Baa Ram U.] employees.

Too bad for folks who don’t have cars, kids, or pets and who already have all the terminal degrees they want–they’re really getting nothing.  (Maybe that’s why they’re doing Zipcar this year–is it a sop to those responsible, green, athletic types who don’t have children and already ditched their cars?)

I think that I have remained remarkably cheerful and good-natured through the twin crises of global economic precarity and the continuous political and budgetary attacks on public education at all levels in the U.S.A.  I was just discussing the economy with my senior seminar students last week, and I said to them as I have said repeatedly, “I feel very fortunate to be a tenured professor these days.”  I haven’t had my salary effectively cut by furloughs, or taken an actual salary cut.  And yet–even the Pollyannas among us are growing anxious about these crises being used to justify this as the “new normal.”

Why wasn’t the subject line of this e-mail “Baa Ram U. employees will give each other discounts on their own labor,” because it’s clear that nearly all of this magical list of bargains and benefits are burdens for our own backs?  Re-read the highlighted items–that’s all on us employees.  (And, can you believe what a crummy tuition benefit we had to begin with?  Twenty-five percent?  Jeebus.  That’s an embarassment, especially considering that our in-state tuition is only $7,000 for 2010-2011.  If they’re going to offer an employee discount, let’s push the boat out.)

Oh well:  at least they’re not going to charge me more for a parking space when I drive to campus for the privilege of doing more work for no money.  Maybe I should take the hints embedded in the list above and enroll in the MBA program.  I’m sure no one at Baa Ram U. will object when I resign my tenured position to sell out as a consultant or a banker–after all, as crappy as my stalled-out salary is, they can buy two full-time lecturers with it, and continue the further adjunctification of my department. 

Is that my uni’s vision of its future?  That all faculty will be at-will adjuncts and lecturers, and they’ll all take classes from each other and pursue endless, meaningless degrees infinitely?  Hello, University of Phoenix!  It looks like we’re half-way there already.

27 thoughts on “Baa Ram U. lays it on thick this year

  1. Hey, we got the same kind of e-mail yesterday at QTU! Must be the season for sending out $hitty news disguised as happy news from the neoliberal overlords of higher ed, eh?

    The not terrible news at QTU is that we will not have a fourth year of “temporary” salary reductions. No raises, but everybody gets a “one-time bonus” of $750 — no doubt to help defray the costs of increases in employee pension contributions and the co-pays for prescription drugs. Wooohooooo, kids!

    Remind me again, Historiann: Why is it we do this blogging stuff for FREE???

    Solidarity, girlfriend.


  2. Blogging for free makes more sense than the uncompensated labor we provide for our neoliberal overlords, Roxie. At least we control the conditions in which we work, and we alone decide what kind of work we’re going to do. Also, we don’t have to fill out any forms or report our blogs on our annual evaluations.

    I figured you (sadly) might relate to this.


  3. Our governor just decided to announce that he’s implementing three, count ’em, three new state employee awards!!!1!1eleventy!

    One for customer service!
    One for saving the state a lot of money!
    One for long-serving dedication!

    Three people will get plaques for their wall, while most state employees will take a pay cut and many of us will lose collective bargaining rights.

    We were promised a payraise back in about 2006, but it got cancelled.

    Can I pretend to be your dependent and join you in those on-line classes? (My state school doesn’t provide any employee tuition reduction, nor dependent tuition reduction. Hey, at least we’re screwing the childed and the non-childed the same!

    And did I mention, three new state employee awards!!!!


  4. Quick! Get kids, get pets and get cracking on those new degree plans – you, too, can pursue an exciting new career in something else if you act now! See? Now you have ways to take advantage of all those piddly increases in your benefits. Surely that’s worth it?

    Gah. The smartest/luckiest decision I ever made in my life was to pursue grad studies in Canada so I was well-placed to get this job. My teaching load may occasionally bring me to my knees, but at least my salary and benefits are awesome!


  5. We too are going into another round of zero raises, merit or cost of living. Getting my book out this year will net be exactly zero. Oh,no, wait, if I show up to a little reception I might get a sad campus catering sandwich and a Pepsi. That really takes the sting out of an astronomical rise in insurance premiums.

    At my partner’s “research” uni, they *did* award a small pool of raises – but only for those faculty who exceeded the university’s arbitrary “teaching effectiveness” matrix! That’s right, they managed to turn high student evals into cash! Naturally, the money was disproportionately awarded to tenured faculty, white faculty, male faculty. Meanwhile, the lowest paid member of the department just got tenure – and is still the lowest paid member of the department. On the other hand, they are also getting an enormous jack in premiums, a tripling of parking permit costs (there is no public transport in this town, so it’s bike or drive), no desperately needed expansion in the child care center (literally the only decent child care in town, aside from a few small home day cares). Hurrah!

    I’m so starved for good news that I’m happy to hear about the expansion at Baa Ram’s childcare center + breastfeeding support (which probably = a statement on paper saying: We support breastfeeding! Done!) But you are so so right about these as pathetic carrots that only benefit *some* people.


  6. I’m shocked, shocked, that you didn’t find that list of “benefits” more than fair compensation for your labor! Use of a Zipcar? So much better than monetary compensation.

    In all honesty, though, two things peak my interest. FIrst, the tone clearly suggests that they realize they are short changing you. Almost a mea culpa. Even if veiled. The defensive note seems new. In the past, these emails always seemed more dismissive. Maybe they realize your patience is wearing.

    And as you note, so many of those are “family friendly” rewards. Was this a university wide memo, or just within the college? It sort of seems like they are targeting the lady profs (unless, of course, your male colleagues have been lobbying for more room to lactate). Seems oddly gendered to me. Though I can’t put my finger on it.


  7. Have they expanded gleaning rights up at the university-licensed synthetic corn-pellet farm? Can you still harvest peat over at the bio-pond to keep your kids warm enough to remain at least theoretically educable in the out years? Did they cancel the announced “trial” plan to tack on a three-penny “restocking” fee for each interlibrary loan request? They may be neo-libs, but there’s another possible narrative (theirs, of course) by which they’re heroically defending the “commons” against the neanderthals who they serve one layer up. And then, of course, the neanderthals are grumbling about the few stray allosaurs who somehow escaped the much talked about but never proved “great die-off.” The dinosaurs are blaming incoming asteroids.


  8. “Is that my uni’s vision of its future? That all faculty will be at-will adjuncts and lecturers …”

    In a word, yes.

    About ten years ago, I taught for a while at a SLAC as a non-TT full timer. There were three youngn’s, and by young I mean around 35 to 40, all of whom had recently been tenured. Above them was the core of the standing faculty, who comprised a kind of juggernaut of long-tenured 55 to 60-somethings all heading toward retirement. In 2001, I jokingly predicted to one of the newly tenured ones that by the end of her career, it was just going to be her and the other two plus a rotating cadre of adjuncts and contingent FT hires to round out the curriculum. She scoffed. Cut to 2011. The critical mass of that juggernaut has hit their mid-60’s — the three who hit the early 70’s retired — and guess what? The college has stated they will not be replacing those lines with TT hires. I’m soooo shocked.


  9. Have they expanded gleaning rights up at the university-licensed synthetic corn-pellet farm?

    I am (really!) sitting here laughing out loud.

    Even though the rational reaction would be, “Shh! Don’t give them any ideas!”


  10. Thanks, all, for your funny comments. They’re (sorta) cheering me up!

    ej, if this list of benefits seems gendered, it may be because expectations about volunteer/undercompensated labor are gendered female. Women are the class of people worldwide who are expected to work for free or for dramatically low prices.

    Sorry, d00ds: we’re all everyone’s b!tches now.


  11. We don’t have a tuition benefit (either for dependents or faculty); nor a breastfeeding center; nor a vet school (THAT one I could take advantage of). We do have a childcare facility, but it’s just as expensive as any other — I think the main reason people choose it is convenience of location. Parking costs my household upwards of 1K per year (and I’m lucky because I share that cost with SweetCliffie — for most faculty, it would be that much for an individual, not two). Our health coverage is still pretty good, though not *as* good as it was a few years ago. Our salaries are lower than they were three years ago.

    The good part of all that is that benefits (or lack thereof) are not limited to a particular demographic slice of the faculty.


  12. Yes. It really calls into question what “rights” are if they’re touted as a form of compensation.

    Next year, they’ll inform us that we can use our rights under FMLA, the Civil Rights & Voting Acts of 1964-65, and Title IX!



  13. H’ann – I’m pretty sure the current Congress is working to repeal at least two of those three.

    I have no idea why the idea of my rights being downgraded to compensation makes me laugh so hard, but it really does. Gallows humor I guess. Of course I was bestowed the great favor of family leave, but don’t think for a second it didn’t come with a price tag!


  14. They actually raised the “R” word with you to let you know you aren’t getting one? Northern Clime hasn’t had raises in so many years that I think they’re afraid to use the word for fear it will send us into a frenzy. Instead, they just pile on the annual report evaluation requirements that we have to do every year, just to punish us for thinking about raises. I think we’re now up to reporting everything three times in different formats and with different but equally balky computer programs.

    But yes, I am grateful to have a job.


  15. Perpetua: why do I keep thinking of those old skits from the 1980s and 1990s on Saturday Night Live, Hans and Franz? “Pay me now or pay me later!”

    Undine: yeah, what is it with all of the annual reports we have to file for exactly jacke $hitte? Earlier this year I made the suggestion that the Chair of our department at least put stickers on our annual evals. Kids love stickers, right?

    At this point, I think we’re all just working for stickers.


  16. if I show up to a little reception I might get a sad campus catering sandwich and a Pepsi.

    Ha! I was recently invited to an evening reception at the university president’s home. The president who recently stood up on a stage and told us that if we don’t like the work conditions (he was answering a question to a classified employee but it could have been to any of us), we can quit any time we choose wants me to come to his not-in-reach-of-public-transit home just so he can let me know he cares? Barf.

    I wrote back: I prefer not. I already work 50 to 60 hours a week and adding more to any given day is not my idea of a good time, particularly in light of his well known opinions regarding workplace happiness.

    Now they have hatched a plan to redefine a whole layer of classified employees up into a lowest-level management job description. The point, one must assume, is to strip a big pool of employees of collective bargaining rights and any kind of job protection. It is bad enough for this stuff to come from outside the university but from inside? Horrible.


  17. Cost of living increase reminds me that it seems like only government employees get those now, and even then they are disappearing. I figure the effort to get rid of them and base everything on “performance” is an attempt to make employers no longer responsible for keeping anyone up with inflation. So if you perform above and beyond, you MIGHT eek out above inflation. But if you are only good, or only average, you will slowly lose out to inflation.

    Seems like teachers, professors, and public employees are going to be the first test cases for the worst assault on the middle class since the days of robber barons. To see exactly what they can get away with. I feel ill anytime one of my colleagues asks something like “well shouldn’t they be held accountable?” and I wonder why we are targeting this people first, what makes them such easy targets.

    I say at the very least everyone should get a cat, then you can benefit somewhat. The class thing sounds interesting, but only so much as you don’t pay for it at all, aren’t restricted to taking courses in your field, and actually had spare time enough to enjoy a class on the side “for fun” as it were. Seems to me though like all these benefits should already be there given even with raises academic salaries are so low.


  18. Somewhat to my surprise, I actually got a cost-of-living increase this past year. But I’m a grad student in the humanities, so that increase was $560, precisely. Apparently the graduate school makes it a point of pride to keep us just over some poverty line, which in practice means pushing the grad students just into the next tax bracket, so we pay the highest possible taxes on our salaries.

    “The smartest/luckiest decision I ever made in my life was to pursue grad studies in Canada so I was well-placed to get this job.” –And here I’m doing the opposite, hoping grad studies in the US will help me move back!


  19. Historiann, I just took a break from grading and ran your topmost graphic through e-scan technology, which can dollarize coupons with satellite cams–even with the bar codes turned face down! And the only one of those babies that registered “Ridiculously Huge” [TM] was the Vet Teaching Hospital one, and that only if you stake out about a thousand acres of free homestead and run a ridiculously huge herd of Argentine Brahmas on it along with a few thousand Afghan sheep. Then call the Vet dean and say you want his people out there first thing next week for a battery of vaccinations and to deliver the new lambs. At 20% off, that’s going to put a huge hole in this stupid initiative, while you go Chap 11 and then announce a plan to re-zone and develop the land.

    Taxes on grad. stipends. Ouch, Canuck. When I was back there at BFU, the IRS wasn’t even collecting on those. But that was back there during the Nixon welfare state. Talk about disinvestment in human capital. If anybody takes the Zipcar option, check out the column in the NYT last week about vast coverage gaps in the liability insurance scheme.


  20. I came to my U in 2008, and I’ve had one year of furlough and no raise. Assuming I get through a review this year, I’ll get a significant raise, but who knows? At least our prez’s budget plans include eventually putting 3% a year in for faculty raises…

    I’d take the vet benefit: my cat was sick recently, and it was VERY expensive.


  21. Our system is set up so that almost no one gets COL raises through the merit system. If/when we get merit raises, the top amount is usually 3%. And while inflation hasn’t been that high over the past 3 years… no one is getting merit raises.

    Even our grad admissions process is weighted towards people who get competing offers. There are many reasons I find going on the job market almost every year baffling, but among them is how much time it takes away from the work you are supposed to be doing.

    I’ve finally come to realize that I will make less (relative to inflation) every year I live here. And, really, that’s why I’m encouraging my partner to do a nationwide, non-academic job search. I just don’t care to be in a system that doesn’t value me. I’m hoping to stay around for another 2 years, however, because under normal circumstances the department will want to replace my line.


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