Professor’s pay wages

Mathea Durica, [email protected]

On top of teaching four classes a semester at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville, professors are expected to advise student organizations, advise students and conduct workshops all in their extra time.

Depending on his or her position, instructors’ annual salaries can range from $40,000-$80,000, stated on the university’s Redbook budget publication.

“UW-Platteville faculty are paid significantly less than faculty at comparable institutions,” Vice Chancellor for Administrative Services Rob Cramer said.

Full professor of Media Studies Robert Snyder said that he is considered to be paid on the lower end of the tier within the broadcast system of universities with programs similar to UW-Platteville’s.

“One of the professional organizations the department belongs to is the Broadcast Education Association, and every year they do a salary survey for teachers that teach broadcasting, and I participate,” Snyder said.

The salary survey encompasses all types of institutions ranging from small, private four-year liberal arts colleges to major public universities. Results from this year’s annual BEA salary survey, based on 24 responding schools, $60,666 was considered a low salary for a full professor, $88,075 the median, and $203,574 was considered high.

“There is nobody in the department that’s even near that median,” Snyder said.

The difference between the teaching loads of UW-Platteville instructors and other UW System instructors is due to the difference in types of institutions.

“At UW-Madison I would earn nearly double my current salary,” full professor of Biology Beth Frieders said.

The University of Wisconsin-Madison is a research-based institution. If an instructor were to be working there, their salary would be significantly more than what they are receiving at UW-Platteville.

“UW-Madison’s expectations are different. They kind of expect you to be a big time researcher, and spend a lot of time getting grants,” Snyder said. “At many schools, tenure track and tenure faculty at public universities have three classes a semester, where here the load is expected to be four.”

Many professors advise student organizations in their free time, such as Dairy Club or the Equestrian Club, as well as advise students, meet with prospective students and conduct workshops on top of teaching four classes a semester.

“There is some expectation that faculty members get involved with student clubs or organizations if they can,” Associate Professor of Dairy and Animal Science Tera Montgomery, said. “The Pioneer Dairy Club was a natural fit for me which helps me to get to know my students outside of the classroom which is valuable when writing letters of recommendation and serving as a reference for jobs.”

A number of faculty and staff that serve as student organization club advisors do so on a volunteer basis.

“Some people ask why I stay here if the pay is terrible, and the answer is that I am a professor because I love what I do, not because I wanted to get wealthy,” Frieders said. “Every job has good and bad components, and low pay comes along with this one, but the rewards are numerous.”

On June 30, 2013, Gov. Scott Walker signed the state’s 2013-2015 biennial budget. This new budget proved to have some positives and negatives for the university. For the 2013-2014 year, tuition costs were $14,248, and for the 2014-2015 year, tuition costs rose to $14,982. For the 2013-2014 year, university employees received a one percent pay raise and are receiving another one percent this 2014-2015 year. Before the 2013-2014 year, employees at the university had not received pay raises since 2008.

“It definitely makes me feel underappreciated by both campus and UW System administration and by the Wisconsin taxpayers who seem to be ok with our low pay,” Frieders said. “For a highly educated and skilled job that requires long hours we professors make low pay relative to others with similar levels of education such as veterinarians, lawyers, doctors and researchers.”

There is money set aside for pay raises in the budget, but there is also a merit system where all tenured and tenure-track faculty members are reviewed. The reviews are based partially on student evaluations, as well as faculty reviewing one another. The departments have a scale, and depending where one falls on that scale, faculty qualify for High Merit, Merit or No Merit.

“I got High Merit last year, which was only a little over 500 bucks, which works out to 50 bucks a month,” Snyder said. “To even recognize those who perform well, you could say it’s better than nothing, but it’s almost nothing.”

To prospective instructors, the low salary combined with the heavy workload is known. Frieders has been teaching at this university for 18 years and knows what it takes to become a full professor here.

“In terms of enthusiasm and confidence, the low pay has not stopped me from continuing to work long hours and do my best for my students,” Frieders said. “In sense of my morale towards the campus and UW-System as a whole, it has lowered a lot, and I have cut back on how much extra I do for the functioning of the campus.”

Though the university staff may experience a low salary combined with a heavy teaching load, departments are still receiving applicants. The issue at hand is whether or not the university is able to afford more instructors. With UW-Platteville growing in student numbers, more instructors and new classes are required. However, with the university budget cuts, the departments are unable to hire as many instructors as they would like.

“We had one search this year, had 60 applicants and of course just hired one,” Department Chair of EMS Christina Curras, said.

A concern to university staff and students could be the long-term impact of being unable to hire the qualified instructors needed.

“If we’re not getting really good pools [applicants], and the person we eventually hire isn’t necessarily our top choice, what does that mean long term in terms of overall quality of education at the university?” Snyder said.

As UW-Platteville continues to grow, the university will continue to need to produce more professors to reduce the teaching loads. With the proposed budget cuts, it is unsure whether or not hiring more professors is plausible for the future.

“Some politicians like to claim that professors need to work harder. I’d counter that divisive rhetoric by saying based on workload and salary, we’re one of Wisconsin’s best bargains,” Snyder said. “There comes a time, however, when even a bargain loses all value.”