I, at least, ain’t got the do-re-mi

The good news:  I got a raise for the first time in four years!  The bad news:  my total raise for all four of those years was $1,860.  Yes, that’s right:  I am worth exactly $465 more per year, if we average that out over four years.  In those four years:

  • I have taught 5 6 new courses and co-taught another new course, meaning that six seven out of sixteen courses over the last four years were entirely new.
  • I have written and published 2 essays in peer-reviewed journals, one book review essay, and one non-peer reviewed essay, plus a bunch of miscellaneous shorter essays.  I have also written seven conference papers (two of which were article-length and precirculated; all the while making progress on a book manuscript too, about three and a half out of six or seven chapters.)
  • My book won an “honorable mention” for a prize awarded by the Canadian Historical Association and the American Historical Association.
  • A chapter from my book was excerpted in Women’s America (edited by Linda K. Kerber, Joan Sherro DeHart, and Cornelia Hughes Dayton).
  • I have given four invited talks or lectures at four different universities in the U.S.
  • I have served on a search committee and put in three years on the College of Liberal Arts’s Tenure and Promotion Committee.
  • I reviewed four book manuscripts (one of them twice) and four article manuscripts (one of them twice) for publication.

At this rate, I might break into the high five figures before retirement!

As commenter ej said to me over e-mail when I shared this news with her:  “Personally, I’m surprised they didn’t waive the cash and just give every member of the faculty a gun instead.”  Stylish and practical, here in the 6,000 Round Centennial State.

38 thoughts on “I, at least, ain’t got the do-re-mi

  1. *And* I bet you had to write a huge whacking report documenting your achievements every year because they promised you that you would be rewarded for your accomplishments down the road; *and* I bet this year you had to summarize your accomplishments for all four years; *and* I bet your raise was determined by some kind of across the board percentage in the end.

    Fortunately, however, I hear that it is possible to survive in the Body-Armour state by just eating the good, clean air.


  2. Right on, TR. It’s like you were there, too! (And I think you were there, as are most faculty these days.)

    I would gladly have forfeited $465 per annum if I could just avoid filling out the forms and submitting the paperwork for the “annual salary exercise.” That would have bought me back a day of writing even more of the book chapters, articles, conference papers, and other essays.


  3. You chose the wrong vocation. You have too many vacations. You don’t work hard. We can replace you with recorded message. Stop complaining.

    I got a raise last year: $95. I went to dinner without her.


  4. A friend of mine, in the California state system, recently got a Friday-afternoon faculty memo that recommended a 2-5% reduction in everyone’s salary this year …


    And, seriously, her professional activities list has got to be about as long as yours, not to mention having just completed an additional degree.

    It’s amazing what institutions feel is possible in the name of “efficiency” …


  5. Outrageous!

    Over the years I’ve gradually refused to touch forms unless I understand the point of them. I do fill out the annual-accomplishments form because for me it’s not a waste of time: After I fill it out, my year looks better than I’d thought. And there’s no other way to keep a record of what I’ve done.

    If I thought it was a waste of time I wouldn’t do it. And in general whenever I don’t see the payoff of complying, I just don’t. So far the results seem okay. I think a couple of well-intentioned admins think I am high maintenance or eccentric. Fine.


  6. “I got a raise last year: $95. I went to dinner without her.”

    Oh, koshembos. You totally crack me up, you old crank!

    annajcook, I know several people in the Cal State system, and you’re right: they’ve suffered furloughs and cuts already. But you know, I think there’s a place for highlighting “raises” that are just insults, too.

    My record is by no means the most distinguished in my department–I just wanted to point out that innovation in teaching and forward movement in research is not something that stops with tenure. I think I hold my own, but honestly, I fully understand why several of my colleagues have resigned to take positions elsewhere. And the people in my department are definitely moving up the food chain: Chicago, Toronto, Morehouse, Utah. Maybe it’s time for me to get serious about this, too. I think that’s what writing this post has led me to.


  7. Historiann,

    This subject is particularly interesting to me as we ultimately work for the same people. We can compare detailed notes at another time, but I have a series of related questions that have enough broader ramifications that others might find it interesting:

    Did everyone in your department get $1860? Did everyone at Bah-Ram U get $1860? In other words, how is our friend Tony dealing with equity issues, both across ranks and across departments?


  8. I feel fairly certain that if this discussion were part of a wider discourse, the response would be to berate you for complaining. Considering the economic difficulties we are experiencing and the scarcity of t/t jobs in the Humanities, you should be grateful that you have a job. How dare you demand to actually be compensated fairly for the work you do!

    Cheeky Historiann!


  9. We’re supposed to get “merit” raises too this year for the first time in years, except I don’t get to have one because I got tenured this year and only get the standard “you got tenure” promotion raise. Next year when we’re back to not having raises, I won’t get one then either. But the folks getting tenure next year will get both the this year raise and the “you got tenure” raise, and everyone who got tenure last year (or in the previous X year we didn’t get merit/COL raises) will get both raises. I’m already making less than the new hires because of salary compression. And less than folks who were getting percent raises based on their associates salaries back when there were raises. Basically, I’m the lowest paid tenure-track person in the department because of these mechanical issues.

    I talked to admin people about it and basically it came down to I need to go on the market if I want more money. That’ll be a difference of about 23K based on what new hires are getting rather than the under 3K they’re denying me.


  10. smalltown prof: yes, the one and only Morehouse, in Hotlanta!

    nicoleandmaggie: you really should take this up with your Dean and Provost as an equity issue. (Not sure if they were included in the “admin people” you consulted.) You should also hit the market, too. Sometimes just getting an interview is enough to knock some sense into Deans & get them to make a retention offer. Make the argument based not on XX status but on your particular research and teaching strengths and challenges. Show them how much you mean to them. Sometimes, administrators do the right thing.

    I will say this: if you go on the market, you should be prepared to take the better offer. At my uni, the Dean has not been making retention offers in the last few years, so it’s either farewell or “please sir, may I have another,” which is what you’re effectively saying if you agree to stay in your current job under current working conditions.


  11. It’s funny: administrators complain about faculty primo dons and prima donnas, but they’re the ones who make them by insisting that faculty go through a job search process and threaten to leave, instead of undertaking a fair evaluation of a faculty member’s record of achievement.

    It sure would save everyone a ton of money, and it would avoid pissing off other deans and departments who really do want to make a hire instead of merely to help a job candidate get a retention offer.


  12. I like to talk about raises in commodity equivalents. As in, this raise will buy me two dozen bagels. Or, this raise will pay for 1/10 of a hernia operation.

    The administration insisted that part of the COLA be split off for “merit” increases in our last round of bargaining. These are divisive and we argued against them but lost. Now we have to dust off our departmental merit review criteria and bring them into compliance with the provost’s office’s interpretation of the contract language. Primary in that interpretation is that no department will divide its merit pool evenly. I tried arguing the mathematical flaw in that scheme (excluding a possible outcome biases what they pretend is an objective process) but didn’t get anywhere. There must be stars, the argument goes.

    My plan now is to apply standard deviations to the merit scores in my report. I expect this to demonstrate that we are indistinguishably meritorious. I further expect to be called up to the dean’s office for a chat about whatever it is that is wrong with me. So it goes.


  13. COLA? A Cost Of Living Increase? Ha. I’ve never had one of those in my entire professional life. Baa Ram U. in particular gives only merit increases to faculty.

    When you’re dealing with such small amounts of money, why do they make you go through the exercise of “merit?” In a former department of mine, one of their moments of managerial sanity was one in which the Chair demonstrated that the merit increases for the most meritorious and the least meritorious would differ by something like $7, and so they voted just to split the (pathetically small) pot of “merit increase” money equally amongst themselves.


  14. The admin here get very upset when you call a “merit” increase a COLA. Even when everybody gets the same % raise that matches exactly the inflation rate (or used to, back when we had, you know, raises). This year they’re saying what truffula is saying… they refuse to allow everyone to get the same size merit raise, even if we’re all awesome (another reason to give me 0%, I guess).

    Yes, talked to the dean and assoc. dean about all the different kinds of raises I cannot get, including “equity.” Retention is the only one they have any wiggle-room on, they say.

    Right now the places that are interested in me are all places with bad weather close to family… I’m not sure I would take that. But if my salary keeps compressing they sure do get more attractive. The problem is that the places I’d like to live don’t have academic jobs for me and the places that have academic jobs aren’t places I want to live. But as the salary differential gets larger, I might be able to sacrifice. In the mean time I’m applying for grants and publishing.


  15. A Cost Of Living Increase? Ha. I’ve never had one of those in my entire professional life.

    You need to organize.

    If you don’t have the ability to withhold your labor, you will never win a substantive argument with the boss. There is a Colorado Conference of the AAUP but no collective bargaining, is that right (Jonathan Rees knows more than I do here).

    why do they make you go through the exercise of “merit?”

    They do it to make sure you know your place (and perhaps also to keep the rabble arguing amongst themselves). University administrators use merit raises in the same way capitalists everywhere use such schemes, as a means of creating class divisions. I know, I’ve been in the meetings.

    …all the different kinds of raises…Retention is the only one they have any wiggle-room on, they say.

    Don’t believe them. Again, I’ve been in the meetings.


  16. I will not break into the high five figures before retirement at the current rate. We have not had raises in four years and more operating costs have been passed on to us. I will be surprised if we ever get raises again. If current policies continue certain people will get “salary adjustments” and the rest of us will stay flat, to be replaced by instructors, adjuncts or taped messages when we leave.


  17. Just…wow. In the same time period (4 years), I’ve received a salary increase of $2060, and I’m a grad student! It’s a cost of living adjustment, but…still: it’s scary to think that I’m getting higher raises than tenured faculty in kinds of jobs that I’d hope to get once I finish. Just to add some perspective, I’m a grad student in the humanities at a private university in the central USA–my university is nowhere near the coasts, nor is it in an area with a high cost of living. While obviously my stipend is still a small percentage of the salaries of the tenured folks commenting on this post, it’s downright disturbing that, as far as salary increases go, I’m in a better position.


  18. Oh, H’Ann. That BLOWS. A few things:

    I got lucky that in the first year of no raises (2009), that it was the year that I earned tenure/promotion, and in our faculty handbook, it is written that faculty who get promoted (to associate or full) get an 8% increase. (This is relatively new: my Colleague Friend who got tenure just a few years before me got something jacked like $2500.) Hello, salary compression.

    Then there were no raises until last year (2011), and there was a 3% pool. Our raises are officially “all” merit, but we are allowed to vote as a department to make half of that amount across-the-board for all meritorious colleagues (which only addresses compression for low performers, frankly, because it’s always decided that everybody is meritorious), but the other half has to be based on work (at least in theory). I got lucky in that my current chair (this was the first time he actually had control over raises in his time in the position) really did give more money to people who did more (though let’s note, it was my service that got me more, not my research, although it far outweighs that of most of my colleagues). In addition, I got even luckier because the dean somehow had found a pool of money to “retain faculty” who had done exceptional work, and chairs could apply for that money for individuals who they felt were most deserving, and I was lucky that he felt that I was, bothered to apply for it for me, and that my dean agreed. Which meant that my raise last year was just about twice yours, which, frankly, shocked me.

    This year, no raises. Only “merit pay” – a one-time allotment that I’ll get in my August check, which after taxes, will amount to about the cost of a fancy iPad, and I got a “good” merit pay amount – I suspect others did not do so well. I wonder if we’ll ever actually get a “raise” again – maybe my base salary will be the same forever, given the “climate” in publicly funded higher ed.

    EXCEPT: this is why I’m so motivated to go up for full. I seriously think it’s the only raise I’m ever going to see for (at least) the next 10 years. According to Talk of the Nation on NPR today, I suspect that might just compensate for the rising food costs that will result from this year’s drought. At least for a little while.

    And: My institution has a long history of losing faculty to institutions who make better offers. If you try to use an offer for leverage, the most frequent response (especially for women) is, “Good luck in your new job! See ya later!” As you would say, AWESOME!!!!

    This is one of the reasons that I’ve made a commitment to forgo time-consuming service in favor of grant-seeking. At least then I have a *chance* of making some additional money. And it doesn’t hurt that this sort of work actually improves my cv in ways that thankless service doesn’t. Because while I have no intention of moving right now (I love my house, I like my students, etc.), I am not counting that out. At all.


  19. Just to make you all jealous, this year at my institution downunder, we got a 7% COLA rise, plus I get an increment rise (because we automatically move up the salary scale each year until we get to the top of our bracket). Merit rises come in to play when you’re at the top of the scale, I think. Coming from the UK where we are no pay rises and some pay drops, not to mention redundancies etc, it’s like a miracle. Yesterday, I sat in a Union meeting as we have came to the end of our collective bargaining period, so we need to go back to the table and they’re going to ask for another 7% raise per annum in the next agreement (what they’ll get is another thing)! Plus and more importantly in my mind, 50% of teaching here is done by casual staff and they want 20% of those contracts made into continuing on a 70% teaching, 30% research basis, with people progressing to permanent (20, 40, 40) after being in 3 years of continuous! Let’s see what happens…


  20. I would agree with truffula: organize. Because I’m looking at the figures that Robert Townsend published in the May AHA _Perspectives_, and (while I’m in a state that is–I think–less economically dynamic than Historiann’s) if those are accurate our “right to bargain” climate has kept the aggregate numbers up. This is mostly on momentum and fumes, it must be said, as we’re in an expired contract “hold” now and nobody seems anxious to go to the table and deal with demands for various givebacks and cost-shares. And it also should be said that if you organize, don’t expect a university-wide union to have too much of a clue about a wide range of non-economic academic issues that vary by discipline and broad knowledge sphere categories. There are no “merit” raises here, whether by scale or exercise. Research and growing rutabagas for entry in the late-August County Fair are broadly viewed as equally virtuous uses of “off” time. Everything is uni-wide, and it’s just not in the culture to pit somebody’s book chapter or book prize or even Fulbright against somebody else’s assessment webinar or breakfast powerpoint to the county economic development conference.

    One of the ironies about administrators’ compensation advances is that they are neither COLA nor “merit” based. Rather, they’re premised on the fantasist notion that they are needed to “retain” “talent,” as if there would be a line of industry recruiters waiting to pick them off if their salaries were halved by international treaty or something. There would not.


  21. Long time reader, first time poster… I would like to add to Feminist Avatar’s discussion of the Australian situation, and also in support of earlier posters, that our situation down here is all about strong trade unions. We are in good shape, because we are organised. There is no other magic going on, we have high rates of union membership and we take collective action when necessary.


  22. I have to say I am among the lucky ones. How raises are calculated at my institution is a secret better guarded than Coca-Cola secret formula. But they do exist. As a matter of fact, next year I’ll be making 10K + than when I was hired (Fall 2007). Getting the envelope in March that announces your salary for next year is always a guessing game. The worst year the raise was $420, the best year, it was $2800. At this point, my salary is very competitive. The same is not the case for tenured professors (i guess they are less worried about losing them). I know salary compression exist (the best paid Full professor in my dept makes $25K more than me), so I will probably not be as cheerful in 7 years. I also know that competitive salaries are a very new policy in my university (an Associate professor, a single mother with two kids, told me that 6 years ago she went to the president and told him: “I just want to let you know that if I were making 5K less, I would qualify for food stamps. Do you really want that kind of publicity in the local newspaper?”). I hope the new policy lasts.


  23. I think the near-universal problem with salaries at most universities (esp. public ones in the US) is compression at the associate level (and perhaps advanced assistant). It’s the inevitable result of rising salaries at the assistant level (offers are always going go up) and no raises. My uni seems to have zero interest in improving compression. I’ve never seen a raise cycle, so I don’t know how those are handled. At my previous uni, the departments administered their own raises via the executive committee, which looked at merit, but also compression in order to put the money where it was most needed as well as deserved. Here (where for the past 15 years, 9 have been raise-free, including COLA, so you can imagine that if you’ve been here for 15 years, you might be making LESS than when you started), the only way to be an associate and get a raise is to get an outside offer. Then the money can really roll. Someone I know was offered a matching salary (matching to the offer), which meant an $8 k raise; person was close to tenure and at tenure would get an additional 10%, so in a couple of years ze was going to the equivalent of $15 k raise. Pretty impressive, and pretty undemocratic, if you think about the effect that that would have on compression in the department. I’m happy for ze, but I hate all that outside offer nonsense. It’s a waste of everyone’s time and money. Universities could actually spend LESS if they took their outside offer cash and their “hiring stars” cash and applied to small but steady increases, and retain more faculty through you know, making them feel valued, rather than requiring validation contingent on outside offers.


  24. Yes, organization is really the only long-term solution. I’m not sure if this would be possible in my state, as I don’t believe there are any state employees represented by unions, and my state has passed a bunch of anti-union legislation in recent years. We’re not “right to work,” but maybe only one step up from that.

    Honestly, right now it seems like a better use of my time to work towards winning some major fellowship to help me finish up this current book and to get to work on the third one. That was one great thing that came out of my trip to the Huntington Library last month: I formulated an idea for my next book, which really has motivated me to get to work to finish my current project. As a senior scholar once said to me long ago, “Historiann, you’ll never finish one book until you have an idea about the next one you want to write.”

    I know it’s selfish, but I feel like I have at least some control over my scholarship and career, whereas becoming a union organizer in this state would seem to be a bigger and much less certain suck on my time and energy. Also: we are the old A&M school, so mine is a engineering, sci/tech, and business heavy campus, and I know from a previous effort in collecting signatures for a petition that there are several departments that refused to sign and/or faculty reps who just refused to even ask their faculty if they were interested in signing. I’m afraid that it would be only humanities scholars who are interested at all in organizing.

    If any of you know of any faculties that have recently organized, I’d like to hear about them. My sense is that the vast majority of organized faculties were organized in the 1950s-60s, when universities were growing and the union movement was still strong.


  25. recently organized

    This year is pretty recent.

    Thinking about it department by department on my unionized campus, the humanities are leaders for sure but so are faculty in economics and the professional schools, and the sciences; two of our science departments have very strong radical traditions. The engineers are less excited but they participate. They have issues too. We still hire at market-driven rates but when we negotiate contracts we have the opportunity to deal with compression and to protect health care and other benefits. The important thing is that people must recognize that they really do have common cause and that raising everybody up benefits everybody.

    We have common cause with students and classified staff as well. Leaders in student government were great allies in our last round of bargaining. We support other unions when they are negotiating.

    There are problems, of course. I have a number of colleagues who are opposed to graduate student organization (because it is a “different” kind of job, they say). That’s paternalistic and in my view wrong. But then, I treat students working with me differently than those folks. I expect there is a real divide between humanities and sciences on the topic of student unions. Scientists who manage research programs are bosses and that can certainly change a person’s attitude.


  26. “Historiann, you’ll never finish one book until you have an idea about the next one you want to write.” That applies to a lot of things, procrastination as well as unfinished projects. Good advice.

    Dr. H., what the heck does AAUW do? It’s not a union, it doesn’t really support just faculty or staff, so what purpose does it have?


  27. AAUW is, I believe, an advocacy organization for women universities. They collect and analyze a lot of data, and that’s a valuable service. I would say that the information they collect and the studies they publish are of use to women in universities who want to make use of them in order to advance policies or procedures.

    I think they also have some scholarships for undergrad and grad students, too.


  28. Update: They somehow got permission to give me a higher raise than the 10% they’d told me was the best they could do without me going on the market. I am now no longer making less as a newly minted associate than our new hire straight from grad school. (They’re still saving money from what they’d have to give as a counter-offer if I went on the market, but going on the market is now less attractive.) And they gave me a little 1x kick-back from the overhead out of the grant I got this past year.

    I feel both valued and that sometimes complaining in advance works.


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