Friday, October 29, 2010

On Money--or, rather, not

I can't write about money and higher ed.

I've been trying to post--here, and in a comment to squadratomagico's post--and I'm too afraid of incurring displeasure, I guess. I keep deleting.

But I'm going to bite the bullet and tell you why I appreciated squadratomagico's post, in which she states that she is not going to fight for a higher salary because a) she's happy with what she has and b) it would be pointless and dull (and some other, better stated reasons; you should read her post; I have not represented it very well).

Anyway. Here's what I started to write in the comments:

I make less than 40% of the salary that started the conversation ($43k, if you're interested-and I'm a fourth-year tenure-track assistant professor with a book, loads of service experience, and excellent teaching evaluations). Reading the discussion at TR's made me feel...well, to be frank, much worse about my income and generally resentful of pretty much everybody who makes more than I do. In fact, I couldn't get through the post/comments, it produced such negative feelings. Some of that's definitely my baggage; I feel deeply embarrassed about my salary when I hear what other people make, and angry that it's so little, although I know that Field couldn't pay me more right now (in fact, I just got a raise). But I do feel humiliated, and resentful, and--even though I know that this isn't the point (I know it! Don't remind me! I'm a petty bitch!)--a little pissed off that people who make so much more than I do trivialize their salaries.

That's not exactly a productive feeling, especially because I, like squadrato, enjoy a perfectly comfortable and pleasant life that is not visibly lacking in anything that money could buy. I work my ass off, it's true, but I genuinely like my job, and I'd still be working my ass off if I were making twice as much. Of course there are inequities, and combating inequity is laudable--but dude, *my* middle-class life is not exactly heart-wrenching--and yet, again, I make much less than that initial salary, and nearly all of the salaries mentioned in the comments.

I don't mean to suggest that everyone should just shut up and deal...but, well, I don't know. I don't think that faculty making over, say, $80,000 (unless they live in certain very expensive areas of the country) are necessarily hurting? --I'm kind of terrified of posting this, though, for fear of pissing everybody off. But...gah. Okay. Let's change direction. I can't change my salary (short of getting a new job). I can't. So do I compare upwards (and forget doctors and lawyers--that's waaay out of my league, and by the way, they have LOADS more debt than I do and are on call 12 months out of the year), or do I enjoy my actual situation as it actually is, rather than thinking about what it could be?

Hell, when it comes down to it, I would gladly take a course release over a raise--time is quite a bit more valuable, in the end. I'd much prefer hiring more faculty (instead of adjuncts), keeping our salaries the same, and moving to a 3/3!

(I am not at all talking about adjuncts or postdocs with $22k salaries, by the way. Just the privileged tenure-trackers. To be clear. In fact, maybe I'm only talking about myself.)

All righty--before I delete this or edit it into oblivion, here I go. Don't hate me.


squadratomagico said...

I've got your back. ;~)

And thanks for the support: I, too, worried about putting my post up. I thought for sure I'd get flamed as a traitor or something. But then, it really, really bugged me to read people complaining about an individual salary that's about twice the median income of the average US *household* salary, which usually is two combined incomes. The whole conversation seemed unreal to me.

Wish you had commented over at my place, though...

Bardiac said...

No hate here. My salary's pretty comparable to yours, and I don't feel horribly underpaid.

But I also worry that I'll never be able to retire, certainly not in a part of the country that feels at all like home.

moria said...

I hear you. I don't not hear others, but I hear you.

My stipend as a grad student is on the healthy end of the spectrum. I make a living wage (provided no disasters strike and no one but my cat has to depend on me) and have reasonably good benefits (again, barring disaster, knock wood). I save little, it's true, but I live fairly freely in middlingly expensive city, and could cut a lot of fat if I wanted to or had the willpower. And I have no debt. When I think of what I could do on twice or three times my current yearly – wow. Yes, wow. Travel. Books. Savings. Really fucking fancy cheese. And lots left over for sharing with the world.

... Who needs six figures?

clio's disciple said...

Your salary and mine are in the same ballpark, and I feel very similarly. The whole conversation has made me feel awkward. I'm also a union supporter, but... who exactly would I be aiming this organizing at? My college just flat does not have the money. If it's the general social attitude toward higher ed that needs changing, I'm not sure how much a union would help with that.

Belle said...

Well, I'd like six figures, but I'm not there. And you'll get no hate from me. I recognize that I am now and always have been paid poorly by simple comparisons across campus and across the region. When I hear of somebody getting six figures, carrying a 2/2 (or even less) load - I'm like you. I get resentful and unhappy. Which was why I didn't comment anywhere.

Understand that I've worked in many business environments - and been underpaid, overworked and under-appreciated in every one of them. Academia is no different except in the kind of work. Pay, respect, benefits - they could all be better. And have been worse.

What gripes my ass though is when some dipwad admin, making six figures, tells faculty already doing 4/4, committees, advising etc. that faculty are pampered and need to do more with and for less. Then jumps in hir Beemer, Volvo or Mercedes and zips off for a round of golf.

3/3? Sounds heavenly.

undine said...

May I say thank you for this? "But I do feel humiliated, and resentful." Exactly. I'm sure TR and the rest mean well, but having my nose rubbed in how poorly paid I am when reading blogs night, along with endless talk about budget cuts by day, has made for a craptastic week. It's a distraction, and not a pleasant one.

Dr. Rural said...

I also make a great deal less money than the amount listed in the original post. Most academics (especially in the humanities) do.

You will certainly get no hate from me. In fact, much of what you said was exactly what I was thinking.

heu mihi said...

Whew. I was actually nervous checking my comments this morning; I should've known better.

Belle--I hear you. Luckily our admin folks aren't like the ones that you describe. In fact, the provost has turned out to be a great advocate for the faculty, and in addition to our modest raises, we just got a little bump in our conference reimbursement funds. But the prior provost had some of the attitude that faculty need to suck it up and work harder, and it made our salaries MUCH harder to take, let me tell you.

Squadrato--the biggest reason that I didn't comment was that I came late to your post, and the comments had moved in a different direction. Also, the more I tried to qualify my comment, the longer it got, until I figured I ought to just write about my issues. But yeah, I should've said something there, anyway!

Mom, Ph.D. said...

You make some great points. And it can be very healthy to not focus on salary. I've worked with people obsessed and bitter with who is getting $300 more per year than they are.

That said, women and people of color need to keep vigilant on a certain level that they are not making less than others with similar CVs at their own institution/dept. In my discipline, women make less than men, for example.

Academics partially rewards merit, but it also rewards squeaky wheels. I've seen it so many times that finally I started doing it too--and reaped the financial rewards of complaining. It produces a certain mindset--one in which those making close to 6 figures (or more) complain.

Not to excuse it, but there is a system of rewards and punishment that produces the mindset, unfortunately.

Psycgirl said...

No hate from me either - good post. I make much less than I thought I would at this point (Year 1, tt) and I am struggling... but I can buy my food and afford my rent.

I have mixed feelings about this whole discussion, actually.

What Now? said...

Ah, thank you for this! I have colleagues who complain bitterly about our salaries, and I've always wondered at it since I think I make a perfectly reasonable salary (higher than yours, but of course Adventure City is an expensive city, so any difference probably comes out in the wash), and then I read TR's blog post and suddenly felt that maybe my salary really was crappy and that I had been naive not to see it before. I'm mostly back to normal by now, but the episode reminded me again of why I'm happier when I'm not comparing myself to others.

P said...

Got your back too. I feel incredibly privileged despite my relative wimpy salary. I actually get paid (and benefits) to read literature, write about that literature, and share what I know with students, who are at Crunchyville absolutely wonderful (it's a progressive little city). At the same time, I do feel like the amount of time I put into my job is not at all reflected in my salary. Also, academia doesn't really allow for the kinds of raises the private sector does (well, used to). Still, I get you here. What a depressing topic :-(

the rebel lettriste said...

OMG! I am so glad that you posted this. Especially since you and I make basically the same salary, and have the same teaching load.

What I wanted to write, but didn't, was this:
How's about WIC, people? How's about motherfucking food stamps? How's about subsidized daycare with the free diapers I am so broke right now?

If I could have my piddling little salary right now, I'd be doing fine. As it is, I am grateful for governmental assistance.

Anonymous said...

I had a comment, but argh, blogger. The gist of it was that I am thankful to both you and Squadrato for your perspectives here and I really appreciate this. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

and oh, that was me Nola/lostinacademe. stupid blogger.