September 17, 2013
The Caste System in Academia
Do College Professors Deserve a Living Wage?
by KEITH HOELLER
When running for reelection last year, Vice President Joseph Biden specifically singled out professors as one of the major reasons for the skyrocketing cost of college tuition: “Salaries for college professors have escalated significantly,” he said. Last month President Obama released his plan to hold down the costs of tuition and make college more affordable, which would certainly make it more difficult to raise faculty salaries.
Both President Obama and Vice President Biden should be experts on professors’ salaries. Obama was a nontenure track “senior lecturer” of Constitutional Law at the University of Chicago prior to his serving in the Senate and Biden’s wife Jill is an Associate Professor at Northern Virginia Community College.
Yet Obama and Biden have completely neglected the huge income disparity on college campuses between the comparatively well off tenure-track faculty, such as Jill Biden who earns $82,000 annually, and the deplorable situation of the nontenure-track faculty, whose plight is so bad that last year the Chronicle of Higher Education ran a story entitled, “From Graduate School to Welfare: The Ph.D Now Comes with Food Stamps.”
Indeed, one million college professors now teach off the tenure-track with poverty-level wages that have long-rivaled Wal-Mart and MacDonald’s workers. With the recent clamor for higher wages for unskilled labor, should our nation’s highly skilled “contingent” professors also receive the minimum wage for each and every hour they work, and time and a half for overtime?
How can college professors teach equality and a respect for diversity when they refuse to practice it in their own ranks? The two-track system is not a merit system; it is a caste system. Should the U.S. spend billions each year on a higher education system dedicated to offering better opportunities, jobs, and salaries for all of our citizens—except those who teach in the colleges and universities that make such opportunities possible?
Read more here.