Tighten your belts!

I knew this would be coming. We just got an email from our university asking us to respond to a suggestion to temporarily reduce faculty salaries. So, at the same time we’re expected to work even harder to maintain our commitments, we’re also asked to take a pay cut.

We must be thoughtful, fair, and equitable as we consider financial strategies, and we believe that a temporary reduction in the compensation for faculty must be considered. The FCC [Faculty Consultative Committee] is mindful of the extensive workloads and expectations put on faculty, and that many of us are stretched thin by our obligations and our own financial circumstances, but we are also mindful of those whose employment is threatened. We also support including in the proposal a sliding scale, reflecting the diverse circumstances of different categories of faculty, which is consistent with the requirement that any temporary reduction be “allocated to faculty in accordance with a mathematical formula or similar device.”

OK, I’m willing to accept a pay cut in order to prevent the university from simply firing any of my colleagues (which is partly a selfish decision on my part, because losing anyone would mean I’d have to work harder). I’m missing some information here, though.

  • What “mathematical formula”? That sounds sciencey, but a mathematical formula could be anything. Be specific.
  • I notice that all of the cuts are to faculty pay. I’d be much more supportive if the administration led by example and told us first what kind of salary reduction they’re taking right now.

Interestingly, they also note in their letter that the cuts only apply to non-union faculty. Do we now have an incentive to unionize, finally? If I were a member of a union that similarly agreed to temporary pay reductions, at least I’d be satisfied that I was represented by people who were making choices to benefit me and my peers. As it is, our watchdogs for our self-interests are…the administration.


  1. says

    “…at least I’d be satisfied that I was represented by people who were making choices to benefit me and my peers.”

    You’ve obviously never been in a union. I was, and the best I can say it that the positives and negatives cancel each other out, pretty much.

  2. says

    If they want you to take a ‘temporary’ pay cut
    (a) admin should also be taking a pay cut
    (b) they should be explaining exactly how much of a budget shortfall there is because of the pandemic.

  3. JoeBuddha says

    c) Define Temporary. Too many times, management considers “temporary” and “permanent” as synonyms.

  4. Pierce R. Butler says

    Do they say anything about contacting your congressentity about relief funding for educational institutions?

  5. says

    How about asking the U to make its finances transparent, since they are asking you to become part of the team? Will sports be cancelled, or history? What does the board of directors get for their contribution? If the U has an endowment how is that being deployed?

    It’s possible, I suppose, to ask people to take a pay cut in good faith so long as everyone is pitching in proportionally.

  6. says

    Rentiers have been saying “you don’t have to pay for now but the rent keeps piling up and you can pay it all when the crisis is over.” Why not staff salaries? When the crisis is over you get back pay.

    Hahaahaha i crack myself up.

  7. Erp says

    At least at my university the president and provost have taken a 20% pay cut with other senior administrators taking a 5-10% pay cut. There has also been a freeze on pay raises. This was back in the beginning of April. They are also continuing to pay regular employees even if they can’t work from home though I’m not sure how long this can continue.

  8. says

    We have little transparency. I doubt that they’re suffering much now; they must be making these decisions based on projected losses. I know the U lobbies our representatives every year, but the result somehow seems to always be declining support, even without a pandemic.

    And yes, I will accommodate myself to a pay cut if it’s fairly applied. I can imagine the administration believing that they are far more essential than mere professors and exempting themselves from any cuts. I can also imagine any cuts being inequitably applied across the branch campuses — a few years ago, while Morris was struggling with pay freezes, the Twin Cities campus was spending millions to install marble flooring in the student union there.

    It is very pretty.

  9. kome says

    Yea, until administration shows they’re taking a cut themselves, I wouldn’t take one. They need to lead by example.

  10. Stephen Devoto says

    Not entirely related, but have any universities or colleges considered shutting down next semester, if in-person teaching and scholarship are not possible? It is not obvious to me that graduating with a full semester of on-line classes is better than graduating one semester later. If that happens, all employees (faculty, staff, administration) should be furloughed, with the exception of a few physical plant and security workers. The money saved in salaries would do more good going to students on financial aid during the shut-down.
    I am not clamoring for being furloughed, but I am not sure I can justify why I shouldn’t be.

  11. nastes says

    My solution:
    every body gets the same pay for the time of the lock down.

    All underpaid personal gets a small temporary rise, which they probably need, everyone else gets a temporary reduction.
    And the reduction for administration will also ensure it will only be temporary

    Never going to happen (but as likely as administration leading by example)

    Bon courage!

  12. says

    Friend who works for a health care conglomerate (his job is IT) and was just told they are being forced to take one unpaid day off per pay period until August. Essentially, a pay cut.

  13. Roi Du Voyageur says

    Ugh. I teach at a public Canadian university, and so far there has been no talk about reducing faculty wages, or anyone’s for that matter. My classes for summer semester are all just about full, so maybe that has something to do with it? Has there been a drop in enrolment in the U.S. for the summer, or at least at PZ’s university?

    @1, I’m in a faculty union right now, and they’ve been–from what I’ve seen thus far–effective and efficient. I don’t begrudge them the union dues I pay every month.

  14. Jazzlet says

    @1 When I worked I was a member of the union and the benefits of things like the pay and conditions they negotiated outweighed the disbenefits by a long way, especially if you were taken up on a bogus disciplinary charge. Which I was. The union rep was extremely helpful and the charge was dismissed, and critically expunged from my record, while I’m pretty sure I’d have managed to get the charge dismissed I’m not sure I’d have thought to ask for it to be removed from the record as I certainly wasn’t thinking straight at the time. I guess it depends on the union and on the people who volunteer to do the work of the union as well as the calibre of the paid officials.

  15. wzrd1 says

    I’ve been confused since I saw a CNN story on the subject of universities closing their doors forever.
    I’d have to guess that the student loan sharks have stopped payment once classroom attendance was no longer possible? No, wait, that ain’t it. The universities can’t charge for their dorms, which are so lavish as to require a king’s ransom to keep open without students? Nah, we know better than that!
    Or perhaps, the same thing I’m seeing in IT, where wages have suddenly sagged by 10 – 15%, because of hand wave.
    More squeezing the pennies from our fucking pockets, rather than Richie Rich’s vaults.

  16. asclepias says

    Well, duh! There wouldn’t be a university if there were no administration! Of course, nobody would be learning anything…oh, wait. Can somebody explain logic to the university president? Clearly, the point of a university seems to have gotten lost in the clutter.

  17. Craig says

    The University of Minnesota system has $3.95 billion endowment, but you have take a pay cut? Say what?

  18. Reginald Selkirk says

    All I’ve been told so far is that they would prefer not to fire anybody, and we won’t be getting raises this year.

    But then, our endowment is much larger than yours.

  19. brucej says

    My institution has announced pay cuts and furloughs

    At least the administrators included themselves; all employees making more than $200K get an immediate 20% pay cut, above 150K 17%, below that it’s N days of furlough per pay period based on your salary grade. In my case it’s 39 days over the next FY, meaning a 15% cut. It means we keep our benefits like health insurance, though.

    It remains to be seen if we’ll have students next fall or not. I”ve heard rumors that they’re still looking at things being ‘virtual’ until next January…

  20. jrkrideau says

    @ 5 Marcus Ranum

    What’s wrong with a Freedom of Information request? I believe one should consult with a good muckracker if possible.

    BTW noticed UM’s yootball coach’s salary before bonuses was US$ 3,600,000. I wonder if he is taking a pay cut?

  21. jrkrideau says

    @ PZ
    I don’t believe my local university has a faculty union but the research assistants and some of the various admin staffs have unionized in the last three or four years. So far they seem fairly happy with the result I am rather waiting to see when the faculty unionizes. I do not expect it to be too long.

    I’d recommend one of the unions to you but I do not know if the Canadian Union of Public Employees does any organizing in the USA. If not there’s always the Teamsters

  22. davidk44 says

    Also at the University of Minnesota, but on the Twin Cities campus. President Gabel announced the first week of April that 200 of the senior leaders (list not given) were taking a salary reduction, and she and her cabinet were taking a 10% salary cut. Other than that, I don’t know about cuts to administration. The Faculty Tenure policy (section 4.5) covers temporary reductions of faculty compensation during a period of financial stringency, which has been declared for UMN. The relevant section does not detail the mathematical formula (it appears to be decided upon on a case-by-case basis), but implementation requires a positive vote of the Faculty Senate and the Board of Regents, and is only allowed for two years, unless extended by another vote.

    I don’t know if Morris is governed by the same policies, although it is likely, since they are from the Regents.

    Relevant policy is here: https://regents.umn.edu/sites/regents.umn.edu/files/2019-09/policy_faculty_tenure.pdf

  23. says

    @#18, Craig:

    Don’t you understand that an endowment is a thing to be increased at all times, and never used? Particularly never used to pay salaries — building a new stadium or hiring some advertising consultants might, once in a blue moon, be considered.

  24. Rich Woods says

    @The Vicar #24:

    The primary purpose of endowment spending is to put someone’s name on a building in very large letters.