“Paying Lecturers a Living Wage is the Only Ethical and Logical Option” – Sundra Hilsinger, UM Dearborn Alum

My name is Sundra Hilsinger, and I graduated from The University of Michigan-Dearborn in 2016.

I was, and still am, the only person in my family to attend and graduate from college. With that being said, I had no prior knowledge of what attending university would be like besides idle threats made by frustrated high school teachers who promised, “No one in college is going to care if you pass or fail!”

I did somehow manage to meet a wealth of professors who went out of their way to take me under their wing. These were not the stuffy, apathetic intellectuals I had been prepared to encounter.

I had numerous instructors, lecturers in particular, who did things like stay after class to give me study tips or made time for me to come to their office and write my resume. It is because of countless dedicated lectures that I graduated with honors and obtained a career as an editor so quickly after graduation.

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Sundra (3rd from left) pictured with two UM Dearborn Lecturers

I’ve always known that teaching is an underpaid profession. But even with this knowledge I couldn’t believe that lecturers working full-time at the Dearborn and Flint campuses salary starts at less than $30,000. I think everyone agrees that it’s a shame. So why aren’t we doing something about it? Universities thrive on students and high graduation rates. U of M is no different.

Does the university really value its Ann Arbor campus that much more than the students working just as hard in Dearborn and Flint?

When I enrolled at U of M-Dearborn, I was promised that I would receive the same education I would as if I attended school in Ann Arbor. If that were true, then the professors who play a major role in said education would also be treated the same.

Lecturers are struggling, yet their salary raises are negligible in comparison to the hikes in tuition every year. Because I know what the university is doing to lecturers is wrong, I made a point to attend the Picnic for Fair Pay before the Regents’ Meeting on May 17th. I believe that as more people are made aware of what’s happening, the more shame there will be for U of M.

If it weren’t for lecturers who go above and beyond the job description, I can’t imagine how many people, like myself, may not have made it to graduation and a career. I am disheartened that at my own alma mater lecturers have no choice but to work multiple jobs just to make ends meet when we know the work they’re doing is some of the most important in the world. Wouldn’t it make sense that by paying educators a fair, livable wage, they can continue to do what they have already been doing exceptionally well, even better?

I find it hard to believe that a university, which prides itself on the success of its students, does not value its strongest asset in ensuring student success.

I never thought I would be ashamed of something my school would do.

Not paying lecturers a living wage is not only unethical, but illogical. I have no doubt that prospective U of M students ready to pay for an expensive education, current students who are already loading themselves up with debt, and alumni who make contributions to this institution will not stand the mistreatment of lecturers for much longer. We have options on where we attend college. Don’t make us regret our choice.