Thursday, June 17, 2010

Loyalty, Commitment, or Whatever

Historiann asked in this post, "Do we really owe our institutions loyalty?" I'm about to write here isn't a direct response to Historiann, but I do think that it's a relevant tangent.

See, I got an email from the president of my institution within recent days asking me to give money to my institution. My institution that hasn't given a cost of living raise for the past two years. Ummm.*

This is what I think about loyalty. I think loyalty is a two-way street. I think that loyalty means a two-way commitment. I do not think that "loyalty" means me investing in an institution that treats its employees like they aren't worth shit.

I tend to be quite a loyal person. Loyal in the way of a trusty dog. (Shout out to Roxie's World!) But you know what? A dog that you don't feed properly and that you don't exercise and that you don't let in the house isn't exactly going to win the Westminster Dog Show. Nor is that dog necessarily going to do tricks when guests come over. And that dog certainly isn't going to give you money out of her paycheck when you don't give her a basic cost of living adjustment.

Fact: My institution struggles to meet the baseline for salary with CUPA. There are serious problems with salary compression, and (I'd argue) serious problems with equity for anybody who's not white and male.

Fact: At my institution, faculty have to pay to park, and they pay approx. 3x what students pay. We are not in an urban area, and there is no street parking option and there is virtually no public transportation option. In other words, my salary is approx. $300/year less because I can't actually come to work without paying for parking.

Fact: Faculty morale at my institution is at an all-time low, maybe because we don't get raises, because of the parking thing, and because of the hefty chunk that health care costs take from one's salary.

Now, there will be some commenters who will say, "what about a union? you silly people!" And you know what? My state doesn't negotiate with unions. The whole "union" thing? A non-starter here.

So here's what I think about "loyalty." I think that "loyalty" is a very nice concept that assumes that employees are fairly and well compensated. I think that "loyalty" - from faculty to institution - depends on faculty feeling like they are valued, and it depends on resources for faculty to do the jobs that they are hired to do.

And I think that administrators who "encourage" faculty to donate money from their paychecks to the institution that fails to compensate them adequately and that fails to support the performance that it requires of them are tone-deaf in the extreme. You want my loyalty? You want my motherfucking money? Well. Then you might need to give me some things that I need in return. It's not up to me to subsidize my employer. In fact, it's my employer's job to pay me for the very real and specialized and expert work that I do. So, no, I won't be giving money to my university. The fact of the matter is, I don't have it to give since there are no raises.

* And yes, I'm lucky because we haven't had furloughs or actual pay cuts.


Tree of Knowledge said...

It sounds like we work at the same institution. We have a faculty donation drive every year (which mostly results in scholarships), and it gets mentioned at every single meeting. all freaking year. Departments who have a 100% donation rate get a cupcake party with our mascot. I used to have a list of reasons as to why I don't donate (the big one, I don't make enough to be able to give charitable donations). Now I just say that my donation is not eating the damn cupcake.

David said...

At a state-supported institution (or in some cases the total screwing of certain institutions w/in the state, because the state doesn't actually acknowledge that they are in fact a part of the state, but are instead part of a semi-autonomous city-state that barely acknowledges the outside world), I digressed. Anyway, my question is how much does the institution control those levers that are weakening faculty loyalty and how much should the ire of the faculty in fact be directed to their elected representatives in the state legislature . . . those the disloyalty should be aimed toward the state rather than the institution.

Susan said...

At my first job I thought it was strange to be invited to contribute to the big capital campaign, but good friends served on the steering committee....I still think it odd, though I have at times contributed to scholarship funds at the schools where I teach. But that is part of my tithe to charitable causes.

Notorious Ph.D. said...

My jaw dropped when I read this post, and it may be stuck that way for a while. Seriously?

Then again, our faculty union voted for a furlough (read: temporary 10% pay cut) in order to help offset the budget crisis. But somehow, rightly or wrongly, your situation seems worse.

It's insulting.

I don't know your institution, but I wouldn't be surprised if the next solicitation letter comes with an implicit threat of furloughs, pay cuts, or other dire consequences if you don't pony up. And it sounds like faculty know that they don't have a good bargaining position.

And that is not an institution that has earned your loyalty.

Belle said...

Crazy, I didn't realize you taught at RNU! Well, actually, your uni is on the same page as RNU when it comes to balls. I hate these campaigns - and tell anybody who dares ask me for money that I've been subsidizing the uni for years. When they look at me with a WTF look, I carefully inform them that because of lousy benefits & pay, I have had to use my credit cards to pay for meds, medical services and sometimes even food. I also tell them where I fall in regional and national paycharts: since I've been at RNU, I've never been out of the 97-100 percentile. Or even managed 'average salary' for the institution. Never fails to shut them up.

The higher they are on the power ladder, the more silent they become.

Terminal Degree said...

At my previous two universities, I got requests for donations all the time. (I haven't gotten one at my current uni.) The irony is that at my previous two institutions, I was an adjunct. At one of those unis, I paid as much in gas to drive there as I actually made (it was my first job, and I needed the CV line). There were no benefits, of course. And yet these schools wanted me to fork over cash so they could claim a 100% donation rate? No thanks. It was hugely, hugely insulting.

That said, I did know people making what I did who gave donations to the schools. Fine, that's their choice; most of them were wealthier than I (some of them adjuncted in their retirement years for fun or were married to someone who provided them with lots of disposable income).

So in a way, I can't blame the development office for trying, since clearly their requests worked some of the time. But there ought to be a classier way to ask faculty who are already giving a lot (in terms of no COLA, etc). Perhaps a solicitation letter along the lines of the following might go over better:

"We know you already give a lot of time and talent to this university, especially during this tough budget crisis. If you want to help even more, here's how to make a donation. But if you cannot give at this time or choose not to do so, we want to thank you for the valuable work you already are doing here. Please let us know if you want to be taken off of our solicitation lists."

Would a letter along these lines work better, do you think?

Ann said...

Crazy--thanks for the link. I totally grok this. We too are going into our third year of no raises, but at least no furloughs or cuts yet.

David raises a good question about the responsibility of the citizens of the states in which we teach. (Though I still think we're allowed to bitch about the particular responses our institutions make to the Taxophobic States of America. Hello, Athletic Department? Why isn't anyone zeroing out that department and distributing the athletic scholarships for participation in club sports? Hold an effing bake sale if you want team uniforms.)

Yesterday, the president of my uni just announced that families who are Pell grant eligible will pay nothing to send their children to Baa Ram U., and that families who make up to my state's median income of $57,000 will get half price. This is great news--this is what public higher ed is supposed to be. BUT: part of me feels like we shouldn't be rewarding folks just for living here if they're not willing to pay a reasonable tax rate and support our unis! (This is not primarily the responsibility of people who make less than $57K per year, of course, but they need to pay up too if they want nice roads, decent schools, attractive parks, etc. We all have to pay our fair share.)

Interestingly, I have a number of colleagues who make below $57,000. I only barely cleared that hurdle a few years ago myself. And all staff I know make a lot less than that. So, to look on the bright side, perhaps this benefit will accrue to the faculty and staff of BRU after all.

Susan said...

Our university has a plan similar to the one that Historiann outlines where families who make under $X don't pay anything, and going up to twice that pay a sliding scale. The President of the University had not quite figured out that there were faculty whose children qualified for the free ride....

physioprof said...

I think faculty are more like cats than dogs.

Roxie Smith Lindemann said...

Thanks for the shout out, Dr. C. We appreciate and share your indignation about being hit up for donations by our employers. Meanwhile, here in the land of the twice and soon to be thrice furloughed, parking permits for QTU faculty and staff earning over $50K are a whopping $605 a year. And we have to pay for two of those in our dual-turtle household.

Dr. Koshary said...

My blood boils in empathy -- my now-alma mater tried to tap me for alumni donations, since I had earned the MA on the way to the PhD. Never mind that they had cut TA funding pools, and I was involuntarily unemployed while still obligated to pay tuition. Jesus, I can feel my heart rate spiking just remembering it.

Your particular situation with the kickback request reminded me of Leo Rosten's classic gloss for the word 'chutzpah':
"that quality enshrined in a man who, having killed his mother and father, throws himself on the mercy of the court because he is an orphan."

TiredProf said...

I think we must teach at the same institution (we don' we've had furloughs and pay cuts). The scenario you describe is very to park, more money into health plan, no raises for years, money grubbing, and so forth.

Here there's also a departmental tradition of retiring faculty endowing a small scholarship. Considering my H & I have been worked like rented mules during our entire time here (while others have lighter loads because they "weren't very good at" things like committee work and teaching large classes), that we're in a low-paying discipline as it is (arts), and that we won't be able to retire until WELL into our 60s, there's no way in hell this will happen from this household.

rented life said...

I agree 100%. The Private College I used to work at was very aggressive about asking faculty for money and making a big deal out of recognizing those who donated. But I was just barely getting by supporting me and my student spouse while fighting for basics to teach and grow professionally.

Anne Fernald said...

One of the four great teachers of the daughters of educated men: FREEDOM FROM UNREAL LOYALTIES. That's the BIG lesson of Three Guineas.

I refuse loyalty to institutions.

I never give money to my employer.

Beyond insulting. But not complicated.

Janice said...

The province has issued a dictate that once any current contracts come to an end, a multi-year wage freeze will come into effect. So we're waiting for that day with glum foreboding.

Still, working in a unionized environment with a pretty generous pay rate means that I can't complain about financial matters too much. I realize how much better I have it than most others. When my institution asks for donations, I can also take it a little bit more easily than I can for my alma maters who are both rolling in the dough from endowments and other sources of income. Don't get me started on how I refuse to feel sorry for them when the begging phone calls start up! Argh!