Statement from Aurora Harris at Open Bargaining at UM Dearborn on March 9, 2018

My name is Aurora Harris. I was hired in 2012 at the Dearborn campus. I have been employed mostly as a part-time or less than part-time lecturer for a little over 5 years. I teach when courses are available to teach. I ride 2 busses from Detroit to teach.  I am a published award-winning poet. My book of poetry won the 2012 PEN Oakland Award for Excellence in Literature. I teach Advanced Composition, Advanced Creative Writing, Introduction to Composition, Introduction to Literature, Introduction to Literature of British and American Authors, Introduction to African American Literature, and Introduction to African and African American Studies. I am currently teaching Advanced Creative Writing and two Independent Studies courses: English 399: From Beowulf to Milton and African and African American Studies 499: Research.

As a multiracial professor, I bring professional and diverse creative experiences to the classroom. I serve as an advisor and mentor to many students seeking to expand their writing careers. Some of my former students are published and one entered into a Masters of Fine Arts program. Former students still keep in touch with me. I love teaching. I have deep ties to the city I live in, Detroit, MI, that benefits professors and students in the university system through courses that involve the study and research of Detroit. I would love to continue teaching at this university but my current situation is not sustainable. I have experienced the following:

1.     Last year, I was promoted to Lecturer II at the Dearborn campus in one department. I am paid as a Lecturer II for a course that is cross-listed into another program as a diversity requirement. The following semester, I was hired to teach the same course in the program and my Lecturer II title and pay rate did not follow me. I was hired and paid as Lecturer I in the program. Three years ago, I taught one course at the Ann Arbor campus and was surprised to find I was paid more in Ann Arbor than Dearborn. This means unequal pay at the Dearborn campus with respect to the title of Lecturer II for teaching the same course from one department or program to another, in addition to unequal pay from one campus to the next.

2.     Not knowing whether I will be employed from one semester to the next which leads to living at or below the poverty level at a moment’s notice.

3.     Being hired full time last semester and less than half time this semester, while being paid by the number of credit hours for independent study courses instead of regular pay as a Lecturer II.  After preparing syllabi and materials, and, meeting with students, I am being paid $300.00 for each independent studies course for the entire semester, which equals to $75.00 per month for one course and $75.00 per month for the other course before taxes are taken out. This is unfair.

4.     Independent studies courses that are considered “extra effort” like “extra points” along with one regular course does not count toward enough hours to consider me being employed ¾ time.

5.     In January 2018, I received a paycheck of $1051.89 and what was deposited into my account was $691.18 after taxes and other deductions. Because I am below 1/2 time teaching status, the medical benefits paper I received stated my insurance rate would be $695.00 per month if I kept the same insurance I had last semester. This means I would receive a paycheck of ZERO. The cheaper insurance rates offered would leave me with less than $100.00 a month to live on this semester.

I am requesting that the changes put forth in our LEO contract be approved. Thank you for your time.