The Department Responds, and So Do We

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The email above was circulated to the ENTIRE department on January 21st at 10:50pm. This response is shabby, at best. Below, we’ve outlined the reasons why:

  1. It’s an email to the ENTIRE department. These are our jobs. We might live in a tech-saturated world, but there are 60 people who have families, lives, and loved ones that depend on them. These 60 people have been distraught about the significant changes to their jobs and have been waiting for a response since the “news” broke in November and, subsequently, since the non-informative meeting in December. This response by the department is wholly impersonal and represents a lack of respect for our position.
  2. It’s an attempt to save face in response to some bad PR. The articles in Inside Higher Ed (“One Course Without Pay,” “Non-Tenured Human Shields,” & “ASU English by the Numbers: It Ain’t Pretty,”) caused enough of an outrage that it moved higher administration at ASU. We believe that without this press, the pressure to actually “do something” would have been lost. Now, ASU English administration had to respond. The email calls this 11% “a significant increase,” and this language clearly articulates what ASU English is trying to do – SAVE FACE.
  3. The pay information provided is fuzzy at best. The email only addresses individuals with PhDs, which is only approximately 11 of the 60 instructors. What about the majority of the instructors? What will their “new” pay rate be?
  4. The email touts the 5/5 workload as “always [having] been the basis for faculty effort.” As far as we know, our jobs have always been 4/4 loads with 20% professional development/service requirements. We aren’t quite sure what the department is trying to portray here. Again though, we believe that we aren’t the audience for this email. This further shows that the department is trying to save face with the academic public.
  5. The email hints at there still being service and professional development requirements and indicates that there might be course reduction for these. The email states “necessary service and professional development contributions, and such service assignments will be specified in detail in letters of appointment along with any course reduction necessary to perform that service.” This isn’t a guarantee of no service or professional development with a 5/5 load. We’ve suspected that the department will still ask us to do service or professional development without course reduction. Furthermore, some might decide to do service and professional development to make themselves look better on annual reviews (which in a 5/5 scenario would rely solely on teaching evaluations). These reviews determine if we are eligible for a raise which we desperately need.
  6. Nothing is said about current pay rate, just base pay. For individuals that have been at ASU longer, some of us have received merit pay raises. What happens to those? If our base pay is at, say, an additional 1k because of a merit raise, will we receive the our current base pay with the new differential added into the equation? Or will it just be a simple 36K across the board for PhDs? While may of you reading might think that “of course” they will figure in all previous merit raises, we can’t trust ASU English’s accounting here.
  7. The pay raise is NOT enough. Again, overloads have been valued at $3,150/class. A person with a PhD is getting $4,000 more to teach two more courses. This should amount to a $6,300 pay increase. Thus, for some, this is a pay cut of $2,300. Our point here is that (even though not everyone takes overload pay–and in fact, many are against overloads) the department valued 5/5 with a PhD at $38,300/year without required service commitments–now it’s saying that this $36,000 is a “significant increase.” Again, this is a sneaky rhetorical ploy to make ASU English look good. However, this “significant increase” in pay isn’t comparable to the “significant increase” in workload. (Do the math: this is an 11% pay increase, for a 20% workload increase…thus, this is NOT a pay increase at all).
  8. This email doesn’t address STUDENT IMPACT. The 5/5 workload is not fair to our students. 125 students isn’t tenable. We’ve outlined a 5/5 load will have on our students here. Also, disciplinary standards are much lower than 125 students (see our links page for these). If ASU sees the 5/5 as has “always [having] been the basis for faculty effort,” (Lussier) then they are clearly operating without regard to disciplinary standards. Furthermore, this shows ASU’s lack of regard for student success. How large can ASU grow? And at what cost to the students? I guess we will find out next year.
  9. The email states that all of this will be addressed at the English department meeting. Funny we have zero voting rights in the department, and this gives us little incentive to attend these in mass. So, great move ASU English–discuss our jobs at a forum that we don’t normally attend (we send 3 representatives) and in an environment that we don’t feel comfortable or respected.

Again, we believe that this email wasn’t directed to us as instructor, and as such, is an attempt to rhetorically position ASU English as “The Good Guy” here.

One thought on “The Department Responds, and So Do We

  1. Sounds like the right time for an “en masse” attendance of the English Department meeting. Maybe it will be uncomfortable and maybe you will not feel respected. But for your own self-respect, show up and be heard. Tell the press to bring cameras and stand in the halls. Publicize the meeting. If face-saving is what makes the change happen, then by all means (Aristotle) let your answer-demanding presence be the game changer! Mobilize.


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