Ok, so before this day, I'd never looked at the published annual salary report for my institution. I always thought that it would leave me filled with rage to do so, or that it would make me disgruntled or something. I'm not about the whole comparing what other people are getting relative to what I'm getting if I'm happy with what I've got. I'm not sure why I just looked at it (other than that it didn't require going over to the library) but, um, let's just say I'm not disgruntled, though I think I have a better sense of why some other folks (who are the type who like to make such comparisons) are.
Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not making a million dollars or something, in comparison with my colleagues. It is very clear, however, who negotiated successfully when they started and who, for whatever reason, didn't. Now, when I did my negotiating, lo, those many years ago, I sort of felt like I didn't exactly set the world on fire. I only ended up getting a bump of a grand to what they initially offered, and I felt like I was a bit silly even having bothered to ask. However, I now see how that bump has grown so man, any bump you can negotiate to your base is totally worth it.
I also see, as I look at the numbers, that it was probably worth it that I not only went on the market but also that I was open with administrators about doing so selectively, while at the same time I was busting my ass to be as productive at this institution as possible. I never got an offer, but I think that those interviews during a flush budget year (though, let's be real about the fact that I was not calculating this when I decided to put my cv out there) - the same year that I got my book contract (a happy accident timing-wise) - had to have affected my raise in that year, which only widened the gap further between me and some of my colleagues who entered around the time that I did. I think that the raises I've gotten reflected my department's desire to keep me here, though at the time I didn't think much of them (because again, I never asked other people what they got - I just figured everybody's raises were as lame as mine were, when apparently lots of people got much lamer raises than I did). Looking at my salary now, I suspect even if I'd gotten another offer, it would have ended up being unlikely that they would have matched my salary - let alone bumped it higher.
But so now, there is like a 3-4 grand differential in base salary between me and people with whom I went up for tenure this year. Since the tenure raise is 8% of one's base, that gap widens this year, as somebody who's making 50K will only get a 4K raise, whereas somebody making 54K will get a 4,320K raise. Moreover, since there will likely be no actual raises this year, that bump will put me at about the same pay level as about 75% of people who already rank at associate (some of whom who've held that rank for 10+ years - this is what people are on about when they freak out about salary compression).
Another thing that looking at this report has done is solidify my intention to go up for full as soon as is reasonably possible. On average, people ranked at full in my department make a 10-20K more than the people who rank at associate (though obviously some of them have been around for a very long time, so that has to be taken into account). That whole "it's not worth it to go up for full" thing? Totally a stupid move, as again, while it may not be a huge raise at the outset, that raise in base pay clearly makes a huge difference over time. Also, being on the "associate track" - at least in my department - seems to apply mostly to women, which means that I've got just one female colleague who's cracked the 60K mark.
Now, I know that it's not terribly classy to talk about money in this way, but it strikes me that it's a good thing to do, if only because I think a lot of the people who haven't done as well as I have money-wise at this institution have in part ended up in that position because they just didn't know any better. The fact of the matter is, the initial offer that I got - ABD, first year on the market - to work here, was pretty darned good. I know that some of my colleagues didn't negotiate because they just assumed that there would be no room for the administration to pay more. They were just happy to get a t-t job, and a fair offer to boot. My approach (based on advice from savvy mentors) was to ask because the worst they'd say was no. I also think that there is a perception at my institution that research carries no material rewards here, and you know, that's crap. In fact, I think that it's the only thing that merit pay is based on, if the salary report is any indication. People who publish get raises. People who don't, well, even if they do, they are small. Regardless of their work in the classroom or the mountains of service work that they do.
I'm not saying that this system is "fair." It's not "fair," even though I am comfortable that I am worth every penny of what they're paying me. "Fair" would mean transparency about how to achieve a higher base salary and higher annual raises to that base. The fact that I had the confidence to negotiate (and the encouragement to do so and good advice about how to go about it), and the fact that I intuitively did the sort of work that would be rewarded with raises (even though nobody ever stated that "research = money") is a fluke, ultimately. So while I've earned every penny, no, the system isn't "fair." Also, we should totally be mentoring people to full, and encouraging people to go up for full, which we don't do in my department. Instead, we mentor people to tenure as if it's the finish line, and then people (and their salaries) stagnate. It's one thing if people know the facts and choose this path, but my impression from looking at the report is that this is less about choice than about inertia. And the fact that we're all too middle-class to talk about money openly.
So anyway, it turns out that I'm very well-compensated for my work. I always thought I was fine money-wise, but who knew I was this fine?
4 years ago