We eat Ramen noodles, too: even prestigious grants are self-funded fellowships

Exellence without Money, round bajillion and one:  (my previous posts on this topic are here.)

This is a question for all of you faculty-types out there:  when you win a grant or fellowship to fund your research, do you get a salary match?  I had thought salary matches were a pretty normal thing.  I even got one from my former university–and get this:  the Dean even agreed to pay my rent in Fellowship City, as he understood that Fratguy and I had just bought a house, and that Fratguy needed someplace to live as he wasn’t able to take a 6-month sabbatical from his job!  That university was a mid-tier sectarian private uni, too–and it proudly called itself a “comprehensive” university, not an R-1. 

I was shocked to learn last year that my college at Baa Ram U.–which is officially an R-1 uni–doesn’t match our salaries when we win grants.  Accordingly, my colleagues who have won fellowships to do research recently have eaten a major pay cut (even with our craptacular salaries.  Most humanities grants top out at $40,000 or $50,000 a year, which is less than most mid-career faculty are earning even in my woefully underpaid department.)  On top of this, many of them also have had to fund, plan, and execute complicated international travel.  It has not always been like this:  a colleague of mine said that when she asked for a salary match 15 years ago to take a residential fellowship, it was approved within the department–it didn’t even have to go to the dean’s office. 

What does the college do with all of those salary savings?  I’m told that they help fund the regular sabbaticals for other faculty, but that’s a really $hitty way to solve the problem of not being able to fund sabbaticals for all faculty.  This means that those who compete for and win national and international grants are having their salaries kited to help those who were unsuccessful in winning outside support for their research. 

Does the college or the university understand that it’s hardly an inducement to apply for grants and fellowships if this is the price we must pay?  Even Assistant Professors have things like mortgages, loan payments, and dependants–and those of us at mid-career usually have even more complicated lives. 

Here’s my two cents:  if the college is happy to run like a community college, we should probably revisit our standards for tenure and promotion.  I see no evidence of our R-1 status in my department outside of the achievements of my colleagues.

45 thoughts on “We eat Ramen noodles, too: even prestigious grants are self-funded fellowships

  1. My university does this, although I am not sure whether they do it so routinely as they once did. Last year I had a major national grant, and they supplemented it up to close the level of my normal salary.

    College budgets in the liberal arts generally rely on a certain number of faculty every year having outside grants or fellowships. It’s not that the savings thereby necessarily go directly into a particular pot (funding regular sabbaticals), but it’s part of the overall budget. It’s a question of how financially strapped a given institution is and where they put their priorities for the funds they do have. I’m grateful that my college is walking the walk as well as talking the talk about wanting to maintain excellence in research. But they don’t have as much money as they did; they had fewer research leaves to distribute this year through their internal process.


  2. Congratulations! You have hit on my Number 1 issue!
    My Large Western University claims they give assistance with travel costs and with “topping off” your salary (the diff between a long-term fellowship stipend and your regular salary). In reality, they have failed to do so for the last 3 awarded because of “budget problems.”

    My latest colleague who won a major year-long fellowship was fortunate to have personal funding resources. She was given a one-year-unpaid-leave to take it, the adjunct was hired for her classes at a very low rate and the rest of the salary just went into operating budget lines. It does not go to the “paid leave” pool at my place. Now most wait up to 3 years past tenure to “win” one of the one-semester-paid-leave awards here…

    They now demand evidence of “successful outside funding” for T&P—or at least evidence of constant attempts to get outside funding. I fear I’d get one and have to figure out how much (more) debt I want to be in. I just finished paying for the last of the bills from researching my “tenure book.” Now, in our frenzy to get R-1 status I’m supposed to rev up the credit cards and start again.

    Now, if I had been smart enough to concentrate in “History of my current state,” that 800.00 per year for travel/research would fund both the required one conference appearance and some research. Or, as the guy who is in that field so often says: “I think our travel money is just fine!”


  3. Hah! I got a sabbatical and *two* internationally-competitive grants one year and the provost-general graciously let me take a third semester off as unpaid leave. The two grants just barely got me *near* full salary level over that stretch, but I had to COBRA the health thing because our collective bargaining agreement specifies that. (The union is partially complicit in this because some of our vo-techy disciplines don’t even *have* research components, much less “fellowship” opportunities and going off on leave is viewed as a kind of vacation). As for this penurious practice funding “regular sabbaticals,” I think that language isn’t even capable of having meaning, as dollars are not really shepherded around in budgets that way. It helps fund the bursar’s notification to the state treasurer that the management “team” has met its “numbers” again this year so please send those big raises up here.

    My proposal: they should draw up a list of about a hundred prestigious awards, worldwide, and if anybody gets one a “manager” has to take half the year off unpaid to bone up on household work-flo (r) techniques, with the freed-up dollars going into the award winner’s WAM!! (walking around money) Fund. This would be the dollarized equivalent of throwing a softball to knock the U. prexy into the dunking pool at the annual school fund-raising carnival, only even more fun to contemplate.

    Of course, “topping-off” usually involves running the stipend itself through the university’s whirlpool, which would only reopen an argument we had here one time about whether us humanists should pay an “overhead” tariff to keep the u/v lights on over the fungi trays at the bio building. I think I’d rather be kited intra-discipline.

    Lastly, bless your dean for paying your rent in Fellowship City. That’s as nice as a gesture as it even is as a concrete economic benefit, and I think unusual.


  4. Salary matches of a sort used to be common in in my Division but maybe not so much anymore. (I say “division” because I am quite sure the calculation is different in the Division of the Physical Sciences than in the Division of the Social Sciences where I am.) When I have won external fellowships, the Dean of my Division has topped off my salary so I don’t have to take a pay cut after I cashed in all my sabbatical. In one case, he ponied up $10K because I hadn’t accumulated many salary credits. In another instance, I was $3K short and he found the money. (I had several years of credits accumulated then.) In the latter case there was a bit more back and forth because the Golden State’s budget had begun to crater by then. I suspect that salary matching would be very difficult right now.

    Even during the flush days of the early 2000s, however, I was told by senior colleagues that full salary matches were uncommon on their level. As an assistant prof the Dean could reach into his bag and find money to match but he wasn’t will to do the same to give a full salary match to higher ranking associate or full professors.

    What I am glad about is that it appears (from my experience) that the process seems to be somewhat standardized, making case-by-case evaluations less variable. Though I think your Dean’s decision to pay your rent was admirable, I am always wary of administrators making any budget decisions like this based on personal circumstances.


  5. When I took my fellowship year, I had two combined fellowships that got me up to the level of my salary, so “topping off” for my university just consisted of paying my benefits. But I realize that my experience — that is, having enough grant money to cover 100% of my salary — is highly unusual, and something that I don’t expect will happen again. And as other commenters pointed out, the situation now is very different than it was 10 years ago. Who knows what will happen next time?

    But I keep applying, and will take the hit, for the same reason I went into credit card debt up to my eyeballs to finance my dissertation research: because the research needs to get done.


  6. In the engineering, physic, medical related research and similar fields funding starts from tens of thousands annually to heavy millions to multi-investigator multi-year grants. Your typically pay yourself three months summer salaries, have enough for travel and minor equipment. The university gets about 50% off the top.

    Research assistant are almost always involved. Typically they are paid about 50% salaries during the academic year and 100% for summer research. This amounts to about $20,000 annually. (This differs widely.)

    The competition for grant money is stiff. There are many bright scientists and the resources keep getting scarcer. Except for major stars, a typical faculty member has to write many grant proposals to have one funded. That is a substantial burden.

    Many departments and schools will not grant tenure without a decent grant record.


  7. Now, if I had been smart enough to concentrate in “History of my current state,” that 800.00 per year for travel/research would fund both the required one conference appearance and some research. Or, as the guy who is in that field so often says: “I think our travel money is just fine!”

    Ain’t it the truth? I guess we should all just become the Departments of Local Recent History. Forget all of that rhetoric at my university (and I’m sure at your universities, too) that the education we offer is “global.” As if!

    John S., I agree that the dean’s payment of my rent was ad-hoc and unfair. It benefited me, but you’re right that a process should be worked out and applied fairly. The thing is that I think I got lucky because there WAS no system for figuring out how to handle faculty research grants, as I was the first person to win one in recent memory, at least in that department! (It wasn’t an R-1, remember, but it sure heck treated me well in that instance.)

    Notorious, I think you are just a more dedicated scholar than I am. I really enjoy my work, but I’ve been doing some major recalculation about how much of it I really want to do on a volunteer or overtime basis, let alone on a credit-card debt basis. (That, plus the fact that residential fellowships don’t really fit into my lifestyle right now, make it unlikely that I’ll be winning support for my work any time soon.)

    The Canadians call it “work to rule,” which is a more polite way of saying “strike,” but I think this is the way we should go. If we all continue to take unpaid leave and publish without university support, what’s the incentive to treat humanities faculty any better? Research should not be seen as something we do for free, any more than teaching and service are. We are, after all, contractually required to spend a certain portion of our time on research.


  8. Not even topping off here. Or, if it happens, it’s not a policy and very under the table. We get the right to apply for sabbatical (not an entitlement) every seven years (so the sabbatical is the eighth year. Sabbatical pay is 1/2 pay for a year, or full pay for a semester. If we get grants that take us above what we’d earn, I think we keep them all, but then it’s sort of assumed we need that extra for travel, etc.

    Get a grant, prestigious or otherwise, in a non-sabbatical year? Leave without pay. I think our benefits continue, but I’m not sure. So yeah, get that Fulbright, or Humboldt or Newbury, but if you’ve had a sabbatical in the last few years, don’t expect that SLAC will help you take advantage of it.


  9. Well, part of my position on this is that my life circumstances aren’t much different than they were when I was in grad school — and prioritizing research is both the cause and the effect. For example: I’d love to have a pet. But then I think, “Well, but that would be completely irresponsible, considering that I’m away from home 4-6 weeks straight every summer.”

    Another example: When I went on a one-semester sabbatical that included three months abroad, I negotiated a temporary rent reduction with my landlord — something that someone with a mortgage can’t do to cut their costs.

    In essence, it’s a trade-off.

    But what you say here:

    If we all continue to take unpaid leave and publish without university support, what’s the incentive to treat humanities faculty any better? Research should not be seen as something we do for free, any more than teaching and service are.

    I agree with you in principle. In practice, however, a negotiation like that only works if we are truly willing to walk away. And when I think of that — of walking away from research until they cough up the dough (which, face it, may be never) — something inside me curls up and prepares to die. My output has slowed since things have tightened up around here, but even if they took away all the money and all the research requirements for promotion, I’d probably still do it.

    Does that make me a scab?


  10. Comrade, grants in the humanities (and some of the social sciences) work differently than in the sciences. You get a grant, it funds your lab, and you’re still on campus teaching (though perhaps with a reduced load). We get a grant, and it’s for us to go away and research and/or write, which means we’re not in residence. As Historiann points out, most grants in the humanities fall far short of our base salaries. So “salary match” or “topping off” are ways of saying that the college makes up the difference between the amount of the grant or fellowship and the cost of our salary and benefits.

    Why should they do this?

    1. They want us to be productive scholars, and it’s hard to crank out a book when you’re also teaching 3-3 or 4-4.

    2. Big grants are something that the college can put on its brag sheet: “Look at how smart and recognized our faculty are!” X number of NEH grants; Y number of Fulbrights or Guggenheims [NB: I wish!]

    3. The cost of replacing us in the classroom is lower than the cost of our salaries: I leave for a semester, and they have to pay someone to cover my three or four courses. But the person they pay costs $4K per course, plus benefits, which, when you add it up, is significantly less than the cost of my salary for the same semester.


  11. Yes. The cost of hiring lecturers or adjuncts to teach our courses is so lamentably low that the university could top off our salaries AND STILL MAKE MONEY. That’s the truly galling thing.

    I’m very interested to learn that Baa Ram U.’s policies are closer to ADM’s at SLAC than they are to John S.’s or Ruth’s joint, which are other R-1s but are above my uni’s station. (Mine is not a Ph.D. granting department, but we have a M.A. program.) That’s a very useful data point, ADM. Thanks! (And, I’m sorry.)


  12. It’s interesting to hear about this from the TT perspective, since, in my quest to either write my way out of a full-time, multi-year-contract contingent gig (in other words, a situation better than most contingent ones), or at least find ways to maintain my employability (and my sanity_ over the long haul, I’ve been looking into fellowships, and noting that most do, indeed, seem to assume that there’s some sort of home-institution match (sabbatical/research salary or outright supplement) available. The most common, c. 40K, award wouldn’t replace even my term-time salary (which is in the low 40s, with absolutely necessary, but not absolutely guaranteed, summer teaching bringing it up to c. 50K; we are, however, in a very high cost of living area, so that isn’t as good as it sounds; TT faculty rightly complain that starting salaries that hover around 60K, also with summer-teaching opportunities, are inadequate). If the fellowship were prestigious enough that the university would be happy to have its name associated with it (I work for an upwardly-striving, and hence publicity-conscious, R2), I *might* be able to talk them into continuing my health insurance for the year, but it might also turn out that there is simply no mechanism for doing that (I do seem to have the right to unpaid leave, but that’s about it). Ditto for being allowed to teach in the summer even if I don’t teach during the year (which would negate some of the effect of the break, but is a compromise I could live with). I’m not honestly sure how certain my TT colleagues can be of negotiating salary matches, but my sense is that it’s still a possibility, if not, perhaps, as certain a one as it once was. So it sounds like this is a growing problem for many TT faculty, and a pre-existing one for contingent faculty, whose existence most of the fellowship structures don’t seem to envision at all. There are, of course, “post-docs” out there, but they tend to carry even lower salaries, and assume a flexibility that contingent faculty, too, may lose as they age and build normal adult lives. Not only having a full-time salary and benefits, but also working for a single institution from which I can actually take a formal leave, puts me in the relatively privileged category there, too, as does having a mortgage that could actually be covered by renting out my home.


  13. Oh, and speaking of cost-of-replacement: we’ve had some very preliminary talks about creating the equivalent of leaves for non-TT faculty at our institution, most likely to allow work on teaching-related projects/pedagogical research, since we don’t formally do research. but they’d almost certainly turn out to be load reductions rather than true leaves because it actually costs *twice* as much to hire adjuncts to teach a contingent faculty member’s usual 4/4 load as to teach a TT faculty member’s typical 2/2 one.

    The two-tier research/teaching/service vs. teaching, TT vs. non-TT system has some very interesting unintended (or perhaps intended?) consequences.


  14. A colleague and I were just discussing this again. He reminded me that we have to pay COBRA on medical and the full cost of other “benefits” if we take an unpaid leave to take a prestigious fellowship that the U will then advertise as part of their neverending: “Push to Tier 1” promo material. So, you have travel, two households, added “benefits” costs, and less income that year.

    He suggested that the motto be:

    “Excellence with MY money”


  15. This is enough to make me never consider moving to the States! In an R1 equivalent in the UK, you get a semester of sabbatical in every 6 or 7 semesters (numbers vary depending on institution, but you would typically expect a semester for every 3 years service). And, it’s paid like normal. The only difference is that you have no teaching during that sabbatical, and ideally minimum service (although MMV depending on the service you do). You do usually have to submit a request asking for a particular semester and you have to say what you are going to do research-wise, and theoretically, if you don’t produce what you say (without a reasonable excuse) you can be either asked to pay some money back or be refused a later sabbatical, but this is very unusual. In some places, your sabbatical entitlement is part of your contract; in others, it’s just policy. In Oz, it’s pretty much the same. The places I know about allow you a semester a 3 years or a year after 6 years service, and this is paid. The difference appears to be that you have to ‘apply’ for your sabbatical and the university have to decide whether you application is of good enough quality – but it also says that sabbatical should not be unreasonably refused. So, I am not sure whether this is pretty much identical to Britain, or whether it’s a bit tougher.

    In addition, to your wage, there is usually a pot of money that you can apply to to cover some research costs. Most staff are entitled to some money anyway- £300 a year is typical – so enough to pay a single conference registration, if not the travel. In addition, there will be a larger pot that you can put in to for travel and research costs (and you can apply for this whether or not you are on sabbatical). This will not cover a major project in any meaningful way. It might cover travel to some archives or help towards some conferences. In Oz, you can also apply to this pot for money towards teaching relief, which is awesome! This might not get you out of teaching your course, but it might give you someone to run your tutorials for you etc.

    So how do dept’s manage this? Well, the idea is that each department would always have somebody (several people) on sabbatical at each time, and the absent staff’s courses just aren’t offered in those semesters. Where they do the big team teaching courses at level 1 or 2, those responsibilities are meant to rotate anyway, and so they just work that out. So the sabbaticals are just built into the system.

    In addition to this internal research support, you can apply for external grants. Now in both the UK and Oz, the major humanities funders are large govt research councils. They are extremely desirable as they pay Full Economic Costing, which essentially means that in addition to funding your research, they pay as much as 50% on top to pay towards ‘core costs’ like the library, office space, etc. And this goes straight into the University central budget and keeps those people happy. Part of your grant might be a teaching buy-out, where you are given salary costs for someone to come in and do all your teaching and related admin. This is not an adjunct position; it is a full-time but temporary job and is where most young academics start their careers. You might also get positions for research fellows, who either do your research for you, or do their own related research (or some combo of both). Again, these are fulltime, if temporary jobs. Even if you don’t have full teaching buyout, you will usually get some course relief to allow for the management of staff, and you would also be able to apply for your sabbatical during that period, if you were otherwise due it.

    There are also many other smaller grants and visting fellowships etc. And, you can use these to negotiate for things like, perhaps an early sabbatical, or you could take unpaid leave, or you can just convince them that this is really prestigious and to suck it up and pay your wage. However, in most places, academics would negotiate with the expectation that they wouldn’t lose their wage whilst doing research activities.


  16. I’m at a mid-level public university, with a 3/3 teaching load. That said, I’ve been told salary matching for grants is standard. They also offer people in the humanities ‘start up funds’ so maybe they are unusual.

    Of course, it pales in comparison to the compensation that people in science and education are getting for grants, which at times leaves me literally speechless. I say compensation, because my husband (in a STEM field) gets extra pay for grants, in addition to course reductions and his current salary.

    It really is a different world.


  17. I don’t think I’ve even heard of salary matching before. I think LRU has the same policies as ADM’s school. Still . . . it might be worth asking, if I get the fellowship I still haven’t heard about. It could be a case of if you don’t ask, you don’t get.


  18. I teach at a west coast comprehensive college (3/3 load) that does not do salary matches as a policy, but I assume they have occurred in the rare instances in which faculty take them; we have to apply for sabbaticals, though %80 of the time we get them when we want them (every six years); on the other hand we have shockingly good travel funds (though we have to apply for them). Until recently people have treated sabbaticals like vacations. Recently our academic vice provost mentioned that ze wanted to raise the research profile of faculty –so that we could get more institutional funding–that is, the administration has suddenly woken up to the idea that a faculty that does research can get more grants FOR THE COLLEGE. I knew I was not at a research institution when I signed that contract, but my college has never really understood why faculty do research in the first place.


  19. Having been here only 4 years, I have twice seen salary matching denied because of politics. It is supposed to be policy. When I applied for (did not get) my first ACLS grant, I got the match in writing by working with OSP. At least at my school, OSP required it. It almost made it worth the effort of dealing with OSP, who did not get things like “the grant does not allow you to take overhead.”

    OSP = Office for Sponsored Projects = the people who help with grant paper work for the sciences, etc. They don’t have a single person with time officially dedicated to my college, and my college (my whole college) did not have a single person who knew what to do with them. It was the collaborative research grant, and we went through OSP because one of my collaborators is a lecturer and needed guarantee of employment to get paid leave. It was very complicated, and annoying, and I will totally do it again after witnessing an acquaintance get pushed out as chair, get a Fulbright, and get denied salary matching. This effectively cut her salary by 2/3rds since she lost the chair “bonus” and the rest of her salary for the year.



  20. Dame Eleanor: yes, ALWAYS ask, and good luck with your fellowship application!

    I really appreciate all of your comments and shared experiences, so I hope you’ll understand my point when I say that I find this whole post and thread depressing. (And yes, I know–I STARTED IT!!!)

    What I’m getting from ej’s, wini’s, and the earlier comments yesterday (and my own experience!) is that those of us at mid- or lower-tier R-1s are worse off than those of you at comprehensive unis. Research may be a bigger part of our jobs, and instead of facilitating that, our unis are using that to squeeze us further.

    It’s the same story I’ve seen throughout this Great Recession: the folks with the capital are using that to squeeze the remaining workers who haven’t been fired. It’s what hospitals are doing to physicians, it’s what unis are doing to faculty, and it’s what large corporations are doing to their professionals, too. The people who allegedly are producing the value and fulfilling the mission of the institution are the ones getting screwed by the manager-overlords.


  21. Yes – I got a major grant one time that I had to turn down since as it turned out, I couldn’t afford to take it, so now I don’t apply for certain kinds of things. Is the university wilfully underdeveloping me, I say yes – one could say it is just incompetent and shortsighted, but I refuse to make that excuse for it.


  22. Feminist Avatar’s account almost makes this Pennsylvania Farmer want to write a series of pamphlets calling for the repeal of the Declaration of Independence. Really, if the Queen only thought she’d be having to re-absorb thirteen leached-out East Coast polities, we might be able to sneak the entire nation state back into the Commonwealth and get in on this (relative) gravy train. Thomas Paine once asked, rhetorically, who ever heard of a continent funded by an island? As they say in the New York State lottery ads: hey, you never know.

    @ Wini: our equivalent of OSP circulates monthly notices of funding opportunities “appropriate” for the arts and humanities that almost invariably turn out to be “build a multi-institution consortium to advise the U.S. State Department on monitoring the emergence of civil society in Oman and Krgystan.” Proposals due: late next week.


  23. “Prestigious” funders who expect something for nothing are a major part of the problem.

    Plenty of STEM researchers similarly leave campus and are thus unavailable to meet University duties.

    The difference is, their funders almost always pay for the percentage of faculty time actually devoted to the project, at the rate (including benefits) that is normally paid to the faculty member.

    Of course, STEM faculty receive grants (clear exchange of funds for effort), not “fellowships,” which require one to eat prestige.


  24. When I applied for (did not get) my first ACLS grant, I got the match in writing by working with OSP. At least at my school, OSP required it. It almost made it worth the effort of dealing with OSP, who did not get things like “the grant does not allow you to take overhead.”

    Yes, it does tend to work out for the best to get these arrangements clear at the front-end, eh? Also easier to muscle the department head/dean into the salary match requirements at the application stage (to enhance the proposal, when the money is purely theoretical), rather than at award time, when the only person whose neck has been stuck out is the faculty member’s.

    It was very complicated, and annoying, and I will totally do it again after witnessing an acquaintance get pushed out as chair, get a Fulbright, and get denied salary matching. This effectively cut her salary by 2/3rds since she lost the chair “bonus” and the rest of her salary for the year.

    Sounds like this means it’s actually a little more than “almost” worth the effort of dealing with your OSP, eh.


  25. just wanted to say that even for some tenured folks, 40 or 50k is not very different from what we make annually anyway. I’ve been at Crisis State U for 10 years, tenured for two. Salary inversion is such that a $50,000 grant would only represent a tiny cut from my regular salary. Current TT starting salaries look princely to me. If onLY i could quit and reapply for my own job at the assistant level!


  26. If one wants to perform research but doesn’t wish to personally fund it, it’s a wise move to develop one’s ability to push/pull various political levers in the workplace.

    Humanities professors often skirt the research office* at the application stage because they don’t “have to” go through it in order to apply for fellowships. While most research grant applications require institutional signoff, most fellowship applications do not. (Golly, I wonder why this is so…)

    Certainly, since the fellowship can be in your name personally, you CAN avoid the “red tape” of your university’s central services, as long as you’re not promising the benefit of university resources in your application.

    On the other hand, if said “red tape” fundamentally consists of the long, complicated and contentious process of forcing all parties involved to be upfront about what resources they will and won’t commit in furtherance of your research agenda, one presumes that there is a reason for it?

    Forcing a department to either pony up or to admit that it is too broke to pay you to properly do your job is a valuable thing. Particularly if, on those occasions when the department (honestly) can’t afford to pay out, the same question is posed to the central university people, who are then forced to pay, or to explain why they can’t use their not-inconsiderable research award funds to stake a potential prestigious humanities prizewinner.

    Doing this after the prize is won strips all institutional pressure and leverage. By submitting an application that didn’t make any contingent demands of your institution, YOU SAID MORE MONEY WASN’T NECESSARY. Why should they pay it when times are tight? Because they’re good people who want to do the right thing? Please!

    * where a research office is available and has some level of power, money, and competence/interest in being useful – I fully realize this is not the case everywhere.


  27. I mean, I hope some of them are good people who want to do the right thing.

    I just don’t understand this world in which, on the one hand, the deanlets and other administrators are greedy bloodsucking unnecessary pondscum, and on the other, they can be expected to exhibit true chivalry, charitably distributing resources in situations where all internal institutional incentives are aligned toward denying your request for an ex post facto salary guarantee.

    You see your request as not-charity, because you understandably believe your effort to be worth your salary (at least!).

    But when you don’t demand, up front, that you get an hour’s wage for an hour’s work, people and institutions start to view your salary as negotiable.

    THAT is where the real “strike” lies. Demands upfront, or no application.


  28. That’s Grantastic: I think you make a really good point, but I’ve never, ever been instructed to go see the OSP or grants office before submitting an application. This is not something I’ve picked up from the general culture–I’ve attended grant and fellowship writing seminars run by the Dean’s office, and I’ve never, ever been told that this is S.O.P., or that it’s even possible, let alone advisable. If what you’re saying is true, then yes, I’d say that puts administrators in the greedy schemer pile if they’re encouraging faculty to apply for grants that will necessitate self-sponsorship.

    This is clearly something I’ll look into in the future, but my sense is that if it’s not a multiple-hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars type grants, our office doesn’t want to deal with it. Here’s where I want to be clear about what you’re saying: have you personally assisted humanities faculty with grant proposals for personal research projects for the NEH, ACLS, Guggenheim Foundation, the Huntington Library, the Newberry Library, etc.? (As prestigious as these grants are, none of them top $70,000, and most are in the neighborhood of $40,000-$55,000 for one year of research leave.)

    I’d like to hear from someone who has applied for humanities research grants/fellowships and who has recieved assistance from their OSP, because this is something that I’ve never been encouraged to do, to look into, to hope for, let alone to expect.


  29. This isn’t helpful to you Historiann, but for almost all fellowships in the UK and Oz now (really any kind of money that will require you to change your work duties in anyway), we have to get signed off by our OSP equivalents. Because of this, you usually have internal deadlines set by the Uni for most major grants, so they can deal with the number of requests that get submitted for each thing in time for the deadline. The bit they do really well is the money. First, they will tell you what to put for things like salary costs or overheads, and they will give you some advice on researh costs (where it’s not too specialist), i.e. a typical laptop is costed at x, a typical conference is y, etc, you can claim z for subsistence per day (which can sometimes include tax advice on how much you can receive towards that sort of stuff). They will also tell you what institutional support you will get as match-funding (very often this is just an office, library access etc), but a) it’s a good place to get your salary assured and b) can also be a useful contract if your dept get a bit antsy later.


  30. Salary matching? People get that? Really?

    We get one semester at full pay or a year at half pay. That actually seemed kind of OK to me until I read this post. Now I’m upset that I can’t afford to take the full year, although the university to kick in some money for research expenses (but I had to compete on campus to get that). If I do get any of the nationally competitive grants that I’ve applied for, I know for certain I won’t get another dime.

    Around here I can’t imagine anyone even thinking to ask. I’m just grateful that the entire concept of sabbaticals still applies to me. Such is the curse of low expectations.


  31. Sorry for the abbreviations, am away from computer. Yes, I have, personally…but very rarely since I only had one humanities dept on my own caseload. Stilll happened tough, filling in for absent coworkers. We also handled much smaller amounts than you mention whenever circumstances warranted. Battles over who was putting up resources usually warranted. Also, if you’re looking for a good departmental bargaining doc, google texas a and m’s policy on course buyouts. All of the fellowships you name are listed there, I think.


  32. Um, TG!, you might want to tone down you assumptions a bit. You seem to be taking a lot for granted, even if you note that many of us work at places with no OSP.

    For example, some of us teach at places with relatively low research requirements, but in order to keep ourselves marketable, not to mention our self-respect, and the respect of the people we’d like to work with in future, or even to GET the grants, or resident fellowships, we need to do research. And frankly, I don’t know what the hell you think humanities grants look like, but in my field, they *might* be enough to pay for airfare and a small stipend in addition to lodgings at a dorm. They are seldom equal to my meager pay. There are a few: the Humboldt is set up so that faculty can spread it over several summers, and it will pretty much cover airfare and cheap lodging. DAAD is all right, but at my level, it’s an exchange, and my uni would have to match to a German professor’s wages. I doubt it. Harvard women and religion? pays more than I earn in a year, so if I could get that, I could probably take a year’s sabbatical, but not a year without pay, because I have a mortgage and Cambridge is far more expensive than Dabbaville.

    Do I think the administration of my SLAC are evil or greedy? Not really. Do I think they screw people in the Humanities (AND undergrad STEM disciplines) to pander to people in Business and some of the health professions? Oh hell yes. But I also think they are doing it because they genuinely believe what they are doing is necessary to the survival of the institution. But in terms of lever-pulling? Sometimes there simply is no leverage. If I don’t apply for grants, I’m the only one who suffers. The university doesn’t care. They know I’ll figure out a way to do research on top of being responsible for nine or ten different preps AND developing new courses. And they know that some people will do just enough. They know that all of the faculty are replaceable. They also are fairly transparent about the budget. Fairly. I know the dean has some discretionary funds, but given that we don’t get merit pay and we have not had a raise of more than 1% in the last five years, not to mention the salary compression, topping up or matching even one salary would mean cutting as much as 20% of his non-earmarked budget. And that means taking from our colleagues.

    It’s all well to talk about taking a stand, but there are an awful lot of colleges out there that are like mine. The college president makes about four times what I do. I think the senior administrators all make about six figures, but not much more than that. If there were something to strike over, I’d be all over the picket lines. But turnip & blood. At this point, I’m just glad the only change they’ve made to sabbatical policy is to require some sort of documentation for how the time was spent.


  33. You’re irritated and presume I’m clueless. Message received.

    What I don’t understand is why you decided to assume that my post about navigating university politics and making the research office work (for its money) was intended to have any bearing on you whatsoever, if you’re at a broke SLAC with no research office.


  34. I offered very practical, constructive advice for certain kinds of researchers. If that advice isn’t for you, don’t take it.

    Similarly, those who don’t want to strategize any ways to apply pressure to the funding system in an effort to change its functions, but rather believe that a) the cause is hopeless; or b) commiserating about the injustice of the funding distribution will somehow cause the moneyholders to have some collective come-to-Jesus moment, can just go ahead and skim over my posts.

    How’s that for a bigger, better, broader caveat?


  35. Two of the three public, R1 universities where I have had tenure-track / tenured positions require ALL grant and fellowship applications to go through the Office of Sponsored Research, and both of these do offer salary top-ups. A few years back I had a year-long residential fellowship that paid a good deal less than my annual salary, and my former university did top it up, and they continued my benefits during the fellowship year (I still had to pay my own contributions to insurance etc. as normal, of course). The process of filling out all the OSR forms was complicated, and much of the procedure didn’t apply very easily to humanities disciplines, but at both universities there are humanities “specialists” in OSR who are available to help.

    The first public R1 university where I was on the tenure-track did not offer salary top-ups. However, my salary was so pathetically low that many of the fellowships for which I applied would have offered a salary increase (yes, as a tenure-track faculty member, I was making just over $30,000 a year less than a decade ago; my husband made significantly more than I did as a public high school teacher–frankly, I think that should probably always be true, given the demands of high school teaching, but it never had been the case where we lived before and hasn’t been the case since). Insurance would not have been an issue, because I was covered on my husband’s policy, which offered better benefits than those offered by my institution as well. I didn’t get any fellowships during the time I was at that university, but I wasn’t even sure they would have given me unpaid leave to take one had I gotten one, because humanities faculty were meant to be in the trenches, cranking out the student credit hours. Humanities fellowships and grants were really not an institutional priority.


  36. I went through my OSP because I was told we have to.

    [enormous chunk of text redacted]

    Ooops. Guess I’m still a little bitter about that experience. Short version: if we want any chance of keeping our benefits during a fellowship year, we have to go through a process that actively discourages us at every step. In the end, I keep applying out of pure spite.


  37. Jonathan Rees, you’re talking about sabbaticals, not grants. You can get grant funds to supplement sabbatical pay.

    Grantastic and H’Ann, thanks. Yes, chairs and deans in Humanities tend to tell one that one doesn’t “have to” go through OSP or even that one doesn’t “get to.” But, I’ve found OSP to be quite good on other things; I’ll try this.


  38. I teach a 3/3 load at a regional comprehensive college in a big (but generally well-funded) state system, and we match salary. I didn’t even realize that such a thing existed in the world when I was applying for grants that were considerably less than my salary. Luckily, our grants office put me straight.

    But like some other commenters, my sabbatical would be one semester at full pay and a year at half-pay, so I’m really trying to pay down debt in the hopes that in a couple years’ time I could afford to take the full year–even if that means reaccumulating some debt.


  39. Sorry to be off-line so long: hellsapoppin’ around here in RL.

    That’s Grantastic, I really appreciate your perspective, although it seems like using OSP is *not* a standard practice across the humanities. I take your suggestion that it should be, and for those of us who have OSPs, we should see what they can do for us.

    However, I will report on my investigations so far with the OSP at my uni: I checked out their website, and clearly it’s laid out for science and tech researchers. There is no link to any humanities fellowships/grants, and the language that guides the site seems to be clearly targeted at people who need IRB approval & the like for their research projects. That won’t deter me next year when I start applying for grants again, but the message that I’m getting is that our OSP is not geared to humanities scholars or fellowships. Clearly, I’d need to have an in-person sit-down meeting with some people in this office to understand more clearly their mission and what they might do for humanities scholars like me.

    I find it really interesting that those of you who teach at comprehensive unis are getting salary matches, when many of us at R-1s are not. Excellence with Our Money (as Dutchie said, wayyyyy upthread) indeed!


  40. Agreed, using OSP is not a standard practice across the humanities.

    Not trying to overpromise, that’s for sure! OSP is very unlikely to be able to “do” very much for you outside of forcing entities to sort out who pays what in the event you’re funded.

    And it’s quite likely OSP will think sorting out your dept/school funding relations is a lot more trouble than it’s worth to them (since your project will only cost their unit time and effort). BUT. If you stay strong and are not deterred, they will have to officially punt the decision to deal with you.

    Then, the fight goes like this:

    OSP: This researcher is tying up our resources. Researcher, do you want to just do your own thing here?

    Historiann: no.

    OSP: OK. Well, Dept., we’re trying to help her secure the permissions she needs to apply. What’s the problem.

    Dept: We can’t pay. Ask the college.

    OSP: A&S?

    A&S: We’re not paying for this. Really, it’s a research expense. You pay it.

    OSP: We thought we gave you indirect cost return so that you could fund researchers in need of more resources in order to continue their projects.

    A&S: We thought you took “our” money away so that you could create research slush funds that funded projects like this.

    OSP: We don’t even want to deal with this application. The researcher doesn’t “have to” go through us, you know. Sort it out yourselves.

    A&S: If you’re not going to fund our faculty and submit their applications, why do you take money from our grants?

    And so on. Eventually they tend to find a split that allows you to submit. It requires a lot of tenacity.


  41. Step one: make a project budget that details the full cost of what you would do for the fellowship project. Full salary. Benefits. Travel. Supplies. Related conference presentation. Everything.

    Then show what the fellowship would pay, if awarded, and start asking people how you can find funding for the rest. Ask (at first) like you’re naively seeking information about a second, simultaneous grant.


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