When The Janitors Earn More Than The Lecturers

by P.D. Lesko

Every year, the University of Michigan releases a report which lists the salaries paid to all faculty and staff. I stumbled across a link to the document as I read a blog written by a faculty member at the university. The Excel spreadsheet is some 35,416 rows long. Columns list the employee’s name, job code description, department, salary, appointment type (i.e. 12-month, 9-month) and FTE. The information is made public because the University of Michigan is a public institution. Believe me when I say the document is a fabulous read.

To begin, the University of Michigan has three campuses. Pay for full-time temporary lecturers in the English departments on the campuses varied widely in 2003. For instance, the pay of all but two of the adjunct lecturers teaching English on the institution’s Flint campus was calculated on a base salary of $24,000. (An adjunct lecturer holding a .25 FTE appointment would be paid $6,000.) Meanwhile, all but one adjunct lecturer teaching English on the Dearborn campus had a base salary rate of $19,680. (A lecturer on that campus with a .25 FTE appointment would be paid $4,920.)

On the Ann Arbor campus, a Lecturer I teaching English enjoyed a salary base of $33,708. (A .25 FTE appointment paid $8,427.) Not a single Lecturer I in the English department on the Ann Arbor campus had a salary base higher than $33,708. Lecturer II’s in the English Department on the Ann Arbor campus (with a few exceptions) also had a base pay of $33,708. For Lecturer III’s in the campus English department, there was no uniform salary base, but none earned more than $44,000.

Now, let me move on to a different part of the University of Michigan’s spreadsheet. A parking attendant, with a 12-month full-time appointment, earned $26,395.20 in 2003. All of the postal clerks on the Ann Arbor campus earned $32,198 in 2003, only slightly less than the Lecturer II’s in the English Department. Perhaps the $800 differential was due to the fact that most of the Lecturer II’s hold Ph.D.s. Bus drivers on the Ann Arbor campus earned $40,019.20, $7,000 more than the English Department’s Lecturer II’s. Painters at the institution all earned $51,084.80, $6,000 more than the highest paid of the English Department’s Lecturer III’s. In fact, during 2003 the University’s painters earned more per year than many of the institution’s tenure-track assistant professors.

By now, some of you may have guessed that the trades workers at the University of Michigan are unionized. Still others may remember that lecturers at the institution recently formed their own bargaining unit (LEO), and pressed university officials for across-the-board raises. The salaries of some part-time lecturers are scheduled to be increased by as much as 40 percent. Even with the negotiated pay increases, however, the salary base of a unionized full-time lecturer in the English Department on the Dearborn campus will not come close to the $51,084.80 per year that a unionized painter on the Ann Arbor campus takes home.

Don’t get me wrong; I believe employees deserve a living wage for their work. Similarly, employers have the right to pay employees based on whatever legal criteria they deem appropriate. However, if pay represents the relative value of an employee and the job that employee performs, what does it mean when the person who paints the classroom walls earns 40 percent more than the person who stands in the room and teaches the class? It means that LEO representatives have a lot of very hard work ahead of them, and that administrators at the University of Michigan have a lot of explaining to do to faculty, students and parents.

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