Sunday, March 30, 2008

In which I muse aloud about the randomness of payscales

Last year I taught an introductory course with 80 enrollments. This involved two hours of lectures a week, and four hours of tutorials (=discussion sections or whatever you Foreign People call them). I taught these all myself.

This year I am teaching an introductory course with 140 enrollments. This also involves two hours of lectures a week, but there are six tutorials and I only teach three of them. So theoretically it is a slightly lower teaching load, but there is also more marking (my tutor grades her share of the in-semester work, but I do all the exams), and more admin (managing my tutor, meetings with her, dealing with student problems, etc).

I would say the time I spend teaching this semester is probably overall the same as I did last semester.

But the pay. Oh yes, the pay.

To calculate how much money the powers that be should give me last semester, their reasoning went like this:

StyleyGeek's supervisor usually teaches this course, and she is half-time. (She job-shares with her husband). She only ever teaches two of the four tutorials, while StyleyGeek teaches all four. However, StyleyGeek's supervisor is also expected to do research and service, so teaching is only about a third of her job. So what StyleyGeek is doing is 1/3 x 1/2 of a job for half a year + two tutorials a week. So since an standard salary for new hires here is around $60,000, we'll pay her $5,000 + two tutorials a week, which works out to around $7,000.

To calculate how much money they should give me this year, their reasoning went something like this:

A full-time teaching load is officially defined as eight hours a week contact time.* StyleyGeek has 5 hours a week contact time, so we should pay her for half of a full-time load, + one extra tutorial a week. The person who teaches this big intro course never does much research and service during semester time, so let's just forget about docking her pay for that. But the semester is actually only four months long, so we should pay her 1/2 x 1/3 of a salary, + one extra tutorial = $11,000.

Working less for more money! It's not like I'm unhappy about that.

But there's a little niggling voice that keeps reminding me that while an official full-time load might be eight contact hours a week, most faculty only teach one semester out of two, and only three to four contact hours a week during the semester. So I've worked more (teaching) hours per week than anyone else in our department over the last year, having taught the two biggest courses we offer. Yet while the full-timers have drawn a salary of more than $60,000 for that time period, I will have earned just on $20,000. It's not that I don't spend time on research and service that benefits the university, either, since I need those lines on the CV pretty desperately.

No wonder it makes sense for universities to switch to a policy of All Adjuncts! All The Time!


* I know, we have comparatively low teaching loads. Supposedly we define ourselves as a research university. There was no undergraduate teaching here at all until about thirty years ago. Many faculty are still employed on research-only positions. The fact that some of these faculty members have not published anything in the past three or four years is apparently irrelevant.


Inside the Philosophy Factory said...

When I was an adjunct in Nebraska I was paid a maximum of $2,000 per course. I did the higher enrollment general ed courses and usually had 35 students per course. I didn't have TAs or anything and we didn't hold tutorials. I was expected to do one office hour per week, but no research. I could teach a maximum of 3 courses per semester (per university). I made about $12,000 per year.

For the same teaching load (3 courses per semester) and usually smaller courses, the tenure track faculty started at about $45,000/year. They were expected to do research and service -- but the expectation was clear that teaching would be about 3/4 of their work. --

The one thing that makes me really happy to be where I am is that this inequity doesn't exist with our union... in fact -- depending when you were hired --- the inequity goes the other way, but that is complicated.... generally, whether or not you are full-time, you make the same amount per course and that amount is determined by experience. The difference is that full-time people have much more job security, we end up doing nearly all of the service work and we get our own offices....

ScienceGirl said...

It does look pretty shady!!

Anonymous said...

1. Have you joined the Union?
2. Are you sure of how the pay-scales were determined? Most Australian universities are obliged to follow enterprise bargain payscales which will have different rates for lectures, repeat tutorials, coordinating classes, marking etc. They don't generally make allowances for how many students you are actually teaching - so it sounds to me as if you have got a good deal by Oz standards.
3. Your continuing members of staff are probably also supervising PhD students and honours students which you probably aren't.
4.You probably don't have to attend university committees and do the unspeakable amount of reporting stuff that your continuing members of staff do.

That said, of course a continuing appointment has better conditions than a casual appointment. But continuing appointments have become much harder to get, in part because of the perception that tenured staff are lazy. SO the moral is....

StyleyGeek said...

1. Yes.
2. Yes. They only have to follow the guidelines if they pay us by the hour. Which our dept doesn't like to do. They prefer to calculate random percentages of a salary. I could probably complain, but considering it took me eight weeks to get a contract at all (still haven't been paid), I'm trying not to put further spokes in the wheel.
3. I am not complaining about the deal I got. I think it probably is good, compared to other people in my situation. And I know that not all tenured people are lazy! But there are SOME full time continuing people in my department who do have lighter workloads than I do.
4. I am on three committees, I organise our department seminar series, our weekly afternoon teas, and various postgraduate events. I have not yet met a form I didn't have to fill in, nor a departmental meeting I wasn't expected to attend. We are a small dept, and when we need someone to organise something or be on a committee, there aren't many people to choose from. I know I COULD refuse to do anything besides what I am strictly paid for, but I would quite like to be seen as the sort of person they would like to keep around. Also, sadly, I need the service stuff for my CV.