Sunday, November 1, 2009

Eggheads of the world, unite! You have nothing to lose but your yolks!*

When I interviewed for a faculty position at the U of O, 'way back in the day, I pointed out that the salary was noticeably less than what I was making at the university where I was working (another public university of similar size), and noticeably less than the national average for the same rank at an equivalent institution. The fellow on the other side of the table just chuckled and said, Yeah, out here we call that the "Oregon Lifestyle Surcharge."

I took the job anyway, for other reasons, and two months later Measure 5, which slashed and capped property taxes upon which Oregon public education depended, narrowly passed. Years before Naomi Klein eventually wrote The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, the UO administration intuitively understood that the panic immediately following on Measure 5 was the perfect opportunity to steamroll through changes that probably could never have happened where the faculty was unionized. In their defense, I suppose, at least the administrators were pretty candid about the fact that they were indeed running roughshod over the idea of faculty self-governance.

I left U of O not long after, and I was happy to read this week that the U of O faculty may finally have had enough. Talks are in process for the faculty to seek union representation, joining their counterparts at Portland State, Western Oregon, Eastern Oregon, and Southern Oregon.

According to the Register-Guard, faculty dissatisfaction has increased in the last couple of years, and low pay and the perception of administration high-handedness are the reasons most often pointed to.

The UO ranks last in average salary and in average total compensation — pay plus benefits — on a list of nine large public universities the state uses for comparing budgets. The average faculty salary is 80 percent of the average for the other eight universities, and total compensation is 84 percent of the average.

Also, the UO ranks last in pay among the 60 members of the Association of American Universities, an invitation-only group made up of many of the top public and private universities around the nation. In that comparison, the UO’s average faculty salary of $73,300 is 11.5 percent below that of the second-to-last school, the University of Missouri, which has an average faculty salary of $82,600.

(*H/t to Adlai Stevenson. Cross-posted at Loaded Orygun.)

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