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UUP Member Pay to Increase

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Despite a $400,000 increase in allocations for per-course salaries, non-tenured faculty at the University at Albany remain “drastically underpaid” this year, according to the union president.

United University Professions is a higher education union focused on addressing the problem of contingency. Their plan is to move contingent faculty into tenured positions to restore the balance between tenured and non-tenured faculty.

Since contingent faculty currently have no way of becoming tenured, the allocations are “first steps, not full solutions,” according to Bret Benjamin, the president of UUP’s Albany Chapter.

In addition to the $400,000 allocation, another $300,000 will become effective for the fall 2017 semester at UAlbany. However, even with the initial increase, the minimum per-course salary this year was $3,600. Most contingents teach one or two courses per semester, so a contingent with a two-course load would earn $14,400 for an academic year, well below the federal poverty level for a family of two.

The federal poverty level for a family of two was $16,020 in 2016, according to a New York State poverty chart.

Yet in 2015, 54.7 percent of faculty at UAlbany were on the non-tenured track, and nearly 84 percent held either a Ph.D. or a master’s degree, according to a UUP Albany-based survey.

Part-time contingents are paid on a per-course basis, whereas full-time contingents are paid by salary.

The increases benefit contingents earning the minimum per-course salary but not others who have been at the university longer. Termed “salary compression,” this means that newer contingents may earn as much as contingents with more experience.

“If I was one of the older contingents, I’d be pissed,” said Kathryn Eddinger, a human biology major.

However, this is not the sentiment among contingents. Jil Hanifan, a full-time lecturer who has been at UAlbany since 1988 said, “Any pay raise for anybody is good for everybody.”

According to Hanifan, raising the per-course salary makes every contingent’s teaching more valuable. It also protects older contingents from being fired in favor of younger, lower-paid contingents.

However, as indicated by UUP’s 2015 report, the percentage of tenure-line faculty has decreased by almost 25 percent from 1995 to 2015.

Benjamin advocates restoring the 1995 balance of tenured to non-tenured faculty—roughly 69 to 31—by moving capable contingents into tenured positions and hiring new faculty into tenured positions.

No action has been taken yet on creating a pathway to tenure for contingents.
And although there is a subcommittee devoted to this, Benjamin said, “The university is
still mulling it over.”

Despite the fact that non-tenure-line faculty teach nearly 64 percent of students, many students remain unaware of what a contingent faculty member is.

Accounting majors Siai Li and Kim Mitchell both said they did not know what a contingent was—none of their instructors identified themselves as such in the classroom.

Since many students are oblivious to which instructors are tenured or non-tenured, Benjamin said this is a “testament in a way to the quality of education these [contingents] provide.”

A majority of part-time employees write between one and five letters of recommendation a year, according to UUP’s survey. This amounts to 212 employees writing between 212 and 1,060 letters of recommendation a year—without compensation.

Benjamin said that the nature of such employees’ employment makes it difficult to connect with students because “these sorts of activities are always done above and beyond what can be expected.”

Before the increase in compensation contingents made between $12 and $16 an hour on average, according to the 2015 UUP Albany report on contingent employment.

In 2015, a committee named the Blue Ribbon Panel, slated to reach a $5,000 per-course salary in two to three years. As of this year, the minimum per-course salary is $3,600.
However, the $5,000 increase that the Blue Ribbon Panel is working toward would still fall short of UUP’s suggestion of $5,700 per course.

Benjamin does not yet know what the new per-course salary will be under the new $300,000 increase.

In addition to salary increases and pathways to tenure, UUP pushes organizing on behalf of contingents.

Being a tenured professor, Benjamin said tenure-line faculty should recognize the conditions contingents face and stand in “full solidarity” to push for an increase in tenure-line positions.

The president said, “The best way to defend tenure is by expanding that franchise.”


Elise Coombs, a Syracuse native, is the editor-in-chief of the Albany Student Press. She is the co-Vice President of the UAlbany Mock Trial team, a member of Presidential Honors Society, and a peer mentor for the pre-law section of Writing and Critical Inquiry. After her time at UAlbany, she plans to go to law school and become a First Amendment lawyer.

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