At least, that’s what I’m trying to keep telling myself.
Money and salaries in academia are hot topics right now, as the AAUP just released its annual salary report. My institution  has a couple of things they can be proud of: a high percentage of both full-time and tenure-track faculty (over 75% full-time, rather than the other way around) and over 90% salary parity between male and female salaries. But, as the chart shows, we are “far below median” when it comes to salaries at all levels.
But I was mostly struck by how high the instructor salaries seem to be. Did that include benefits? If not, how was it that the average salary was so high, or rather, so much higher than my salary? I was under the impression that there weren’t raises for instructors for merit or promotion, nor have salaries risen over at least the most recent past. Does that mean that the base or starting salary stayed stagnant when raises were awarded? Or that there is, in fact, a tiered system, even at the instructor level?
I know that salaries are a hot topic on our campus, even before the AAUP numbers were released. Faculty and the administration are trying to figure out how to pay faculty at a level that is on par with similar institutions, despite the cuts in the money we are receiving from the state. But I wonder where instructors fit into the discussion. How are we rewarded for the work that we do?
Because I work for a public institution, all salaries are public, but that doesn’t mean that they are easy to find. Thankfully (or perhaps not), one of my husband’s colleagues showed us where we could easily search a database of salaries at our institution  (as well as other state universities). Turns out, I’m the third-lowest paid faculty member at the university. I say this because I know that the support staff make even less. Look for yourselves.
On the one hand, I can understand as I am one of the latest hires; but on the other, I was led to believe that we didn’t get raises based on seniority. My issues aren’t with my colleagues or even my institution; it’s the lack of transparency on issues of salary, over-all, in higher education for those of us who are off the tenure-track. The Adjunct Project  shows that there is a need for this kind of basic information, but there also needs to be information on how raises are awarded, base salaries are decided, and whether or not there is any room for negotiation. Has experience been taken into consideration? Degrees earned?
Instructors are in a strange position: on the one hand, we’re supposed to be grateful that we’re not adjuncts, thankful for benefits, etc, etc, etc. But we also stay silent on how much we make, almost as though we believe that any incremental increase we get may be discovered and taken away. Many people worry that talking about salaries will breed resentment, but that’s used to keep us in the dark about what’s going on, salary-wise, at our institutions.
Right now, I’m really coming to terms with the fact that I work too. Damn. Hard.