Ian Robinson’s Remarks at Pre-Regents’ Meeting Press Conference, February 15, 2018

Thanks for joining us

  • My name is Ian Robinson. I’m a Lecturer in the Residential College and the Sociology Department here at the UM-AA.   I’m also the President of LEO, the union of NTT faculty on the three campuses of our university.
  • We’re here to talk about the finances of a multi-billion-dollar university – and the personal finances of the lecturers who teach here.
  • We have new information about the university’s budget, and the large gap – in the hundreds of millions of dollars – between what lecturers produce for this university and what we are paid.
  • We’re going to hear from two of our members, Anita Baxter Blough and Rabinder Subbian. They’ll share with you how the substandard pay offered by this world-class university affects them and their families.
  • We’ll also hear from one of our tenure track colleagues, Professor Heather Ann Thompson. She’ll discuss how lecturers contribute to our students and our university.
  • In case Heather is too modest to tell you herself, I’ll tell you that she is the winner of the 2017 Pulitzer Prize in History. She is exactly the kind of voice we need to hear when we talk about scholarship, service and the commitment to teaching we need to remain a world-class university.

UM Lecturers are essential to the teaching mission of the University. That’s why we say: “Respect the Lecs.”

  • LEO represents 1,700 full and part-time lecturers on the Ann Abor, Dearborn and Flint campuses.
  • We carry a large share of the teaching load
  • 33% of undergraduate credit hours in Ann Arbor
  • 51% in Flint
  • 56% in Dearborn
  • This is not a temporary solution until the University hires more tenure-track faculty. This University has decided to hire lecturers to provide a substantial share of undergraduate teaching.
  • They have also decided to underpay us.

Minimum salaries for lecturers in our current contract:

  • $34,500 in Ann Arbor
  • $28,300 in Dearborn
  • $27,300 in Flint
  • Those are full-time annual salaries, not per semester.
  • Many of our members earn less than these minimums, if they do not have full-time appointments

Over the last 14 years, salary minimums on our largest campus, Ann Arbor, have increased by just 11%. Over the same period, the Consumer Price Index – our measure of inflation – rose 26.5%, and student tuition rose by 90%!   So Lecturers’ starting salaries have been seriously eroded by inflation.

Over the same 14 years, the average full-time rate for Lecturers – a number that captures the experience of long-serving Lecturers, many of whom have taught here for decades – rose by 38.9%. That’s less than 1% per year after taking inflation into account – basically, stagnation. 

University of Michigan students are paying top dollar for their education. But they’re not receiving the kind of instruction they deserve.

  • Because salaries for lecturers are substandard, many of our members have to work two or even three jobs to make ends meet.
  • That means less time and energy we can devote to our students – and that’s not right.

Students know low pay for lecturers affects them – and they are supporting us.

  • Students at all three campuses understand that our working conditions are their learning conditions.
  • I’m very proud to say that the student body presidents from all three campuses have signed a letter to the Regents, supporting our proposals for higher pay.
  • Anushka Sakar, who is student body president here in Ann Arbor, will be discussing this issue with the Regents today.
  • We’re also very proud to have the support of Katie Oppenheim, who is president of the Professional Nurses Council, representing nurses at UM Hospital.

Lectures produce far more revenue for the University than we receive in salaries from the University

You have a handout on this, and you can also see the numbers in this chart:

  • According to the University’s audited financial statement, the credit hours taught by lecturers produced $462 million in revenue in 2016 and 2017.
  • The cost of our salaries and benefits that year was $85 million.
  • That means our work generated $377 million in surplus revenue for this University.
  • $377 million dollars!
  • Our bargaining proposals for fair and reasonable pay raises would not use up all or even most of this annual surplus. Not even close.
  • The University of Michigan has a $10.9 billion endowment – and hundreds of millions of dollars in surplus generated by our labor every year.
  • This university can afford better pay for lecturers.

Benchmarks: From Harvard to Washtenaw Community College

  • As a benchmark for what Lecturers are paid in a university that we like to compare ourselves to and compete with, at Harvard
    • The starting salary for FT Lecs in History & Literature – not a highly paid unit relative to most others – is $54,100 – that’s 57% higher than the UM-AA equivalent
    • The average FTR for all Lecs at Harvard is $92,105 – that’s 47% higher than the UM-AA equivalent
  • Harvard is a very rich university; what if we move to the other end of the spectrum and compare ourselves to full-time instructors at Washtenaw Community College
    • No FT WCC instructor starts at less than $56,000 a year – that’s 62% higher than the UM-AA equivalent
    • And twice or more the minimum salary for our members in Flint or Dearborn
  • To be clear, we have great respect for our colleagues at WCC, who are also union members.
  • We’re glad they earn a full-time wage that allows them to devote full-time attention and energy to their students.
  • As you may know, many students complete an associate degree at WCC and then enroll at UM to complete a bachelor’s degree.
  • As a teacher, I’m glad to know that if a student coming from WCC takes one of my classes, he or she has been prepared for upper-level college work by faculty who are paid a full-time wage and can devote full-time to their jobs.
  • But it makes no sense to put that student in a University of Michigan classroom where the Lecturer – like many of my colleagues – is paid much less and, as a result, has to work two or three jobs to make ends meet.

The university’s response to our proposals is totally inadequate. In fact, it’s insulting

  • On Monday of this week, we received a response to our proposals for substantial pay raises from the University administration.
  • Their offer is totally inadequate and cannot be the basis for settlement of a new contract.
  • They offered miniscule pay hikes that will not make up for ground lost to inflation over the last 14 years, let alone get us to the point where our salary matches our contributions to this university.
  • Frankly, our members were insulted by this pitiful offer. We are more determined than ever to win fair pay and good working conditions.
  • We’re fighting for better pay for University of Michigan lecturers because it’s right for our members. It’s right for our students. And it’s the right way to sustain and maintain this university as a world-class institution.

I now want to introduce one of our members from the UM-Flint campus, Anita Baxter Blough.