Functioning like a senior scholar with junior scholar prestige and pay


Well, I ain’t got it, anyway.

That’s my life these days!  And it’s why you haven’t heard from me very much lately.  I suppose it’s true for most of us advanced–not to say superannuated–Associate Professors.

I’m trying to get a grip on this friends, but it seems like already I’m swamped with requests for letters of recommendations, manuscripts to review for presses, articles to review for journals, serving on a postdoctoral fellowship committee, and all kinds of worthy work that I want to do, because 1) it’s only fair, considering that I have been the beneficiary of this kind of work from others, and 2) it’s probably the most direct way I can advance feminism in my field and my profession.  By writing letters recommending other feminists for jobs, fellowships, and publication, I’m effectively throwing down the ladder and  trying to pull others on board.

I’m not complaining–truly I’m not.  (The complaining starts below, in the next paragraph.)  I really like this work, because it probably gets me a bigger bang for my feminist buck even than my own writing, whether scholarly or on the non peer-reviewed world-wide timewasting web.

Speaking of bucks:  I want more money for the work I do, because it seems like my university relies on us donating a lot of volunteer labor not just to our professions, but to our research and teaching as well.  And then we can spend our own damn time updating our faculty web pages, so that my university can brag about all of the work I’m doing that they’re not paying for!  Such a deal!

Here’s a sad fact:  the advance I got for my book is nearly a third of my annual salary, which is testament to 1) Yale University Press’s optimism about my book, and 2) how little I earn at my day job.  My university is now undergoing a “pay equity review” for all women full professors–but I’m not yet promoted so I’m sure I’ll miss out on that, too, just like I didn’t get a salary increase for tenure and promotion.  All I got was a $5,000 cash prize, with only my merit increase for that year added to my base salary.  Can you believe it?

How are the rest of you muddling through?  Do you have any advice for how to manage the kind of invisible workload I describe above, which gets folded into the useless, unrewarded category of “service?”  Maybe more importantly, how do you manage the frustration and anxiety of working for twenty years and publishing two books and still making only in the mid-rage of what some recent college grads are making?

31 thoughts on “Functioning like a senior scholar with junior scholar prestige and pay

  1. Historiann, what kind of raise does a person get at your university for promotion to full professor? The lack of a real raise for promotion to associate suggests that differentiating among ranks has not been a priority. My own university has collective bargaining, and our various collective bargaining agreements at least set minima for each rank and dictate certain mimimum raises for each promotion.


    • HAhahahaha!!!!! Oh, how I wish I were on a unionized faculty. You have no idea.

      I don’t know what kind of raises people get for promotion to full. The way it works around here, sometimes you get money in your base, sometimes you don’t. It’s all very out of the back pocket, and dependent on the economy and state revenues.


      • And that’s a big problem right there, independent of the lack of a union. When new full professors are given full-professor salaries only if they are promoted in a year when the planets are properly aligned, then you end up with all kinds of salary injustices and anomalies among the fulls that never get corrected.

        I didn’t mean to imply, by the way, that the best way to deal with associates being underpaid (when they are paid little more than assistants, for example) is to get them promoted to full. Obviously, an associate can be underpaid even if not ready to be promoted to full.


  2. Aside from a meager pay equity adjustment a couple of years ago, there are no raises to be had at Moo Moo U. After a historic budget cut accompanied with a tuition freeze, we are all expected to do more with less. I’m doing my best to see that junior faculty aren’t overwhelmed, but I’m already doing as much as I can. My salary is insulting enough just for the teaching and service I do, and my scholarship–publishing 3 books–means next to nothing outside of my department. (Department colleagues are wonderful.)


    • That’s my situation, too. (Except for the three books!) But my colleagues are supportive of research, and books are important. But there’s this language in our code that books for promotion to full must be “published,” not just under contract or vaguely “in press.”

      At least the rest of us won’t have Scott Walker to kick around any more. (You in Wisconsin unfortunately are stuck with him for another THREE YEARS.) Who will be the next Presidential candidate to compare teachers and professors to ISIS terrorists? My money’s on Two Buck Huck, with his “marching Israel to the oven door” comparison, but it could be anyone, really.


  3. I’d have to second EnglishLitProf’s points about collective bargaining. I have no doubt that this is what has kept our scales relatively high. Faculty unions can have real blind spots about some of the arts and mysteries of academia, though, or even (depending on the structural composition of the faculties in question) reflexively skew toward the vo-tech branches in the same ways that administrations often do, when internal interests or perspectives diverge. On balance, though, I wouldn’t want to not have one. On service activities, some selectivity might have to happen, if only to keep up the worth of the “brand” that makes the letters, peer reviewing, scrutiny of post-doc pools, and the like, valued or sought by its beneficiaries in the first place. Some “softer” dimensions or categories or manifestations of the “ladder-throwing” work you mention are at once perhaps the most gratifying to the bestower, and literally the least measurable–so thus not likely to be rewarded even by more enlightened administrations. As for faculty web pages, I couldn’t find mine, much less update it.


    • I’m on board with moving to Paradise–I hope I don’t have to quit my career, but we’ll see.

      I appreciate the post you link to. One of the things I’ve been noticing recently is the refusal of women to recognize and compensate other women’s work. I went to a yoga in the park event on Sunday, wherein a local yoga instructor volunteers to convene a class outdoors in a local park. There’s no official charge, but it’s customary for people to make a donation to recognize the gift of time and attention that the instructor has offered.

      Well, out of 20 or so students–18 women, one girl, and one man–only two of us that I saw (me and another woman) gave the instructor any dough. Now doesn’t that stink? I brought a $20, hoping to get maybe $10 back, but I let the instructor keep it all b/c of the cheapskatery of my fellow yogis. How can women like the non-donors complain when they don’t feel like THEIR work is compensated fairly???


      • The other half of nicoleandmaggie here. For a long while we weren’t having any raises, and then we started getting raises again and I got an average raise when my work had been above average (we are not allowed to give everyone the same % raise by university policy or state law or something). I brought it up with my chair who determined that the raises were calculated stupidly that year (long story short– the staff business manager determined them!), left a note on my signed annual contract saying I hoped that the process for raises would be more transparent going forward, and made several comments to the associate dean when he stopped by to praise stuff I had done that the way to show appreciation was via my paycheck, “The love language of economists is MONEY.”

        I was pleased with my annual raise this year. I’m still well below my market-wage, but they’ve bumped me up enough that I don’t feel like I need to spend any time on the job market, which is how I start feeling when I feel under-appreciated, even though I love my job and my colleagues.

        I’ve also been contacted by colleagues outside of my school asking if my online posted salary is 9 mo or 12 mo because they’ve wanted to present a full case that they need an equity bump without actually putting themselves on the market. That seems to have been successful in some cases.

        it is definitely easier to be mercenary in my field than in other fields, but at least in my case being loudly mercenary has helped my bottom line. Not as much as changing schools or dropping out of academia or going into administration would, but better than being quiet and waiting for equity to happen to me.


  4. Unions aren’t a guarantee of ‘high’ salaries. In the CSUs there are tremendous pay issues dependent on when one was hired.Years ago I thought I did the pragmatic thing by looking up full faculty salaries of colleagues. And in my naivitee I bumped them up hypothetically by a couple of k, thinking it would be reasonable to make that salary one day. But these colleagues, now retired, had some raises at the associate and assistant level (that were union negotiated). The state’s economy has changed, those raises no longer exist. It is likely that I and my cohort will never reach the salaries that our retired colleagues exited with. During the worst of the CA budget crisis, as I taught larger and larger classes and taught my first on line classes, and endured a furlough, I simply turned down requests for mss reviews and book reviews. For good or ill, I’m mostly off those lists now, and don’t get them so much. But of course have served the profession in other ways.


    • Well, periodically I do look up my colleagues’ salaries. Sometimes I am higher than folks I admire and recently I was not. And in a nice turn of timing, the university shortly after announced a fund for rebalancing equity. I wrote the Dean and asked to be put forward (lots of good work of late) and got no response. Then, less than 24 hours before the deadline I got a note from staff that they needed my updated cv–which I had ready. So, if the system works (and in my past experience it has), then I should get a salary bump to rebalance things. We have a three-year cycle for reviews and raises. Next year, I go for that.

      The process:
      1. Be aware of the situation so you know when you are not aligned.
      2. Be ready to push for yourself when opportunities arise.
      3. Have your cv always at ready.

      You’ll always find people paid egregiously better than you (just go look at the coach), but there are things you can do locally.


  5. While it is not a cure all, a union with a strong collective bargaining arrangement is the best way forward to regular raises and pay equity. Our union in the state system has a good record of negotiating on gender equity issues. Our local has gone to the mat with administration over the use of adjuncts and now it looks like some of those people will be eligible for TT hires. So if you want better pay, unionize.

    (I know, as far as advice goes that sucks rotten eggs. That means you have to also be a union organizer on top your uncompensated labor. But organizing is the only way you can make them compensate you for your hard work. As far as titles go Historiann, “union organizer,” has a certain ring to it.)

    I prioritize service like this: if its good for students, yes. If its good for junior colleagues (peer review and outside fellowships) yes, Everything else, maybe.


  6. I am one of the lucky ones in that our union gives us decent pay, raises, and benefits and protections on the job (as it does for our graduate students and PTLs) I sometimes think that when I retire from teaching I should go on the road with other feminist and activist scholars and help organize faculty unions on other campuses. It seems to me that having the pay and support you deserve (and you certainly do deserve it) will likely only come from creating a broader movement on your campus. To do that you probably have to find the time by doing what someone suggested: helping only junior colleagues and deserving students and setting an absolute limit on the number of tenure and promotion reviews, manuscript reviews, and article reviews you will conduct each year.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I’m in the same system as Jessica, and there were some lean effing years there — a LOT of them. And this was *with* a union: we’ve had two system-wide strike votes in the dozen years I’ve been there (that’s nearly 25,000 full- and part-time faculty who serve almost half a million students threatening to walk out).

    What I’ve done (and no doubt you’ve done the same) is to keep an ear to the ground for when money comes available, and be first in line with my hand out. I’ve also, over the years, learned to describe why I deserve that money in a very firm and assertive way — I’ve become a real advocate for myself. But in between those opportunities, there are long periods where I can only watch cost of living outpace my stagnant salary (no merit raises or COLAs for many, many years). And when you’re in that position — when your uni basically says “Don’t like it? Then leave… if you can” — well, then those are your only choices, really. Your major book contract may help you do that, if that’s the route you want to go.

    And I remember you telling me about the expectations for promotion to full where you are. I think you and I are at peer institutions, wouldn’t you say? “Second book between boards” is reasonable for a school like our old friend Squadratomagico’s, but for you and I? M-F’ers are delusional.


  8. I like BeReady’s advice.

    Let me add the following:

    Choose your service strategically. Because every positive and corrective adjustment to my own salary has come (a) in the context of an external offer or (b) when I’ve been chair or director of something, which gives me a chance to negotiate directly with the dean outside of all other equity protocols and outside of the salary matrix. (Also, [a] has been less successful than [b]).

    And looking at your question in paragraph 2 above, I’d say (humbly and respectfully) that the best way to advance your broader goals isn’t to pay back the field now. Put the ladder away. Get promoted. Get that book out. That ladder you reference will do more work for more people once you are full Prof. H-Ann.


  9. I’m a union member, but since our governor gutted the unions, it can’t do much beyond providing a sense of solidarity. Tenure also got booted from state statute. Getting compared to ISIS terrorists was just the cherry on top of it all. (I really, really hope no other Republican candidate picks up that comparison.)


  10. Alas y’all,

    Historiann is unable to organize a union because the state where Bah Ram U is located is worse than a right-to-work state. It requires two elections (one for organizing and one for maintenance of membership) in order to get a functioning union started here, and as a public employee, the university is under no obligation to collectively bargain with faculty.

    And while this particular ex-Cheesehead certainly thinks that Scott Walker is a disgrace for destroying his alma mater, it’s worth pointing out that the governor here who six or eight years ago vetoed a bill that would have ended that first obstacle described above was a Democrat.


    • I’m at one of the Connecticut State Universities. Our governor is a Democrat as is the majority of the state legislators. Nevertheless, they are just as hard on state employee unions as Walker and his ilk. We’re about to negotiate a new contract and things aren’t looking good.


      • Same thing here in Colorado–Dem control of state ledge for 10+ years has meant nothing for education but cuts cuts cuts. No political attacks, but hell–without the money, who cares?


  11. Thanks, everyone, for your ideas and encouragement.

    I’m feeling a little sheepish that I published this in a fit of pique, but clearly, I need some help!


    • There is no reason to feel sheepish. Actually, I’m glad to see someone pointing out that a particular salary and a particular CV simply don’t go together, even after you take into account the general salary levels at the university. Discussions of salary too often turn into professions that everyone’s salary is too low. There are two people in my department who are absurdly underpaid given their records and given the other salaries in our department. In contrast, I am pretty much where I belong.


      • I appreciate all of the advice and commiseration people have offered–truly i do. And we all know that compression is a huge issue. But, yeah: I’m experiencing a major disconnect.


  12. Historiann can’t get the book out any faster than it will be because it’s already with the press. Maybe raising less corn and more hell is part of the answer. Back when I was in college, and was thinking about becoming a 20th Century U.S. historian, (something I’m not now), I recall the Kolko thesis, that corporations, managements, and other forces for stasis and order during the first half of that century pragmatically or cynically embraced a variety of “Progressive” initiatives because for them they were better than the alternative chaos of localistic disorders and resistance. There were also fewer or no faculty unions, but more than a few deans and other administrators got barricaded in their offices by students with what seemed at least vaguely like the complicity of some parts of the faculty. The key to all politics is figuring out where group alliance boundaries get set. If faculties could dismantle the new saw that they just want to get richer and less worked at the expense of student tuition payers–figure out a way to join their economic interests with those of the students at the expense of the “job creator” classes who never actually seem to be ready to hire new college graduates–something would change. Our bargaining agent is always employing the rhetoric of solidarity with students (and their parents), but for a workforce whose fundamental job is to teach, interpret, and persuade, that rhetoric seems to be a lot more persuasive to ourselves than to anyone else. Maybe it falls flat or backfires, but if things are as bad as many of the comments suggest, where is there to go that’s down?

    Our bargaining agent also “meets” with management for negotiations maybe once every five or six weeks during contract years, which would seem like a pretty slack pace if applied to, say, a class schedule. I’ve never understood what that was about.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I’ve been thinking about this post for the last couple of days and it just makes me angry. The problem with academia is everything is a meritocracy except pay. There is a lot of unrewarded and uncompensated merit out there.

    Salary compression is hell. I am sorry to hear you are getting the short end of the stick Historiann. Have you thought about going on the job market? I think there is a chance another school would poach you from your current employer after the book comes out.

    The alternative is to just work less and do less of that uncompensated labor your institution relies on to function.


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