Faculty anger is growing over comments made last week by Vice President Biden suggesting that faculty salaries are in part to blame for increased tuition rates. In a talk at a Pennsylvania high school, Biden said that "salaries for college professors have escalated significantly," and that colleges are spending a lot on salaries because there is "a lot of competition for the finest professors. They all want the Nobel laureates." In fact, faculty salaries haven't kept pace with inflation in recent years, and furloughs have amounted to de facto pay cuts for many professors.
The New Faculty Majority has organized an online petition -- signed by 619 people as of Wednesday night -- drawing particular attention to the minimal pay and benefits offered to non-tenure-track faculty members. The petition is addressed to Biden and says in part: "We are deeply troubled that you are perpetuating this dangerous myth. In fact, the majority of college and university professors in America, commonly known as adjuncts, now work as perpetually temporary, part-time academic laborers for poverty level wages, little to no eligibility for paid sick leave or health benefits, and almost no access to the basic tools of the profession, such as offices in which to meet students or computers on which to do their work.... Their average pay is $25,000 or less per year for having the same teaching loads and teaching responsibilities as their full-time colleagues."
On Wednesday, the American Association of University Professors also released a letter to Biden, praising the Obama administration's overall higher education policies, but taking issue with the vice president's comments on faculty salaries. Depending on the type of institution, the letter says, tuition rates have grown by 3 to 14 times the increases in faculty salaries in the last three years.
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