All posts by communicationscomm

Support for Increased Stipends for Teaching Assistants

Editors’ note: The UW-Milwaukee Department of Spanish and Portuguese has recently urged the University’s administration to make increasing Graduate Assistant stipends an urgent priority in a letter that we share here, with permission. Several other departments, as well as our AAUP chapter, have joined with our colleagues in Spanish and Portuguese to argue for the urgent need to address this issue. Graduate Assistant stipends at UWM are particularly low. UWM’s 2030 Working Group on Graduate Student Support reported in February 2022 that based on the Oklahoma State Survey of Graduate Student Stipends, UWM Graduate Assistant stipends ranked third from the bottom in an anonymized ranking of 49 R1 and R2 universities, making UWM Graduate Assistant stipends likely the lowest of all R1 universities in the survey and lower than most R2 universities in the survey as well. The letter from the Department of Spanish and Portuguese (shared below) and the other letters that followed it present in detail the vital importance of this issue for departments and programs across the university. 

October 25, 2022
Dear Chancellor Mone and Interim Provost Gronert:

We would like to bring the issue of graduate student stipends to your attention, especially those of the Teaching Assistants (TAs) who are instructors of record for their language sections. Concerned about the low pay for graduate students in general, it is clear that the current pay rate (Fall 2022) for non-doctoral students (i.e. $27,500 full, $13,750 at 50%, and $9075 for 33%)i is not enough to keep up with the costs of rent, food, and other unavoidable expenses. After deductions, and with the cost of segregated fees, the net pay is insufficient to cover the average monthly rent in Milwaukee for a one-bedroom apartment, which hovers around $1000.ii Secure housing and access to food are necessities, and students should not have to be forced to make ends meet by having to take extra jobs and/or student loans. This is a quality-of-life issue for current graduate students, but it is also at the heart of making graduate education accessible for future cohorts.

As we look to the future, we implore the administration to recognize the diversification and democratization of graduate student access. Students from traditionally excluded demographic groups, first-generation students without access to generational wealth, and students who are supporting families should not be penalized for coming from less-affluent families. It is an issue of accessibility, equity, and support to achieve that on- going sustainability. Students who feel supported by the institution are students that continue to enroll. Furthermore, choosing to come to UWM, or any other school, for graduate studies should not be equated with poverty wages and the prospect of crushing student loan debt. For the visibility of our graduate programs as welcoming and supportive environments, and thus becoming a distinctively attractive choice for students, academically and financially, these stipends need to be significantly raised.

Finally, we must underscore the special role of TAs in the languages, as they teach full sections and are the instructor of record. These are instructors that are potentially creating new language majors—in our case, Spanish—and also playing a key role in the success and retention of freshmen students. The role of our TAs is highly valued yet inadequately compensated. As Justine Modica, a doctoral candidate at Stanford remarks, graduate students “do a great deal of the work that makes our universities’ research and teaching operations possible.”iii Therefore, we call on campus administration to work toward this crucial goal, and to confirm which steps are being taken to address this crucial matter.

The Faculty of the Department of Spanish and Portuguese


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The Salary Inequity Blues

Note: a previous version of this statement erroneously suggested the Chancellor Mone has received a large increase in actual salary; in fact, the large increase applies only to the salary range for his position–UW-Milwaukee Chancellor.

In December, Wisconsin’s Joint Committee on Employment Relations (JOCER) approved a two stage raise for UWM faculty and staff. Part of a statewide plan, 2% salary increases (a de facto inflation adjusted pay cut of 5%) will go into effect in January, 2022 and 2023. Despite this salutary attempt to address depressed salaries across the system, the approved raises do not even keep pace with cost of living increases in the state. The Social Security Administration mandates automatic Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) increase of 5.9% as of December 21, 2021 given this past year’s inflation).The private sector in our state is seeing substantial pay increases as well.  But, taking inflation into account, most UWM employees received a pay cut this year for the holidays.

Fanfare for the JOCER-approved pay plan took place as hefty potential increases for already well-compensated UW administrators were announced. Justifying the move as necessary to attract top-ranking candidates to vacant top administrator positions, the Board of Regents voted to increase the salary range of the UWM chancellor position by 32%, with a minimum of $451,440 up to a maximum of $677,160. Despite Regent President Manydeeds’ correct assertion that “[i]t’s critically important that we pursue competitive, market-based salary ranges for all positions in the UW System…,” no corresponding increases in pay ranges for chronically underpaid UWM faculty and staff were announced.

Faculty and staff at UWM have come to expect such inequities. Urged by the administration to accommodate the challenging learning conditions of the pandemic, we work harder and harder for less and less compensation.  Across the UW system, faculty make close to 17% less than colleagues at comparable institutions. 

Over two-thirds of teaching faculty at UWM work for low wages, without the protections of tenure or, in many cases, stable contracts. Recently, the UW System paid outside consultants a handy sum to conduct research that resulted in the system-wide Title and Total Compensation Project (TTC) the stated purpose of which was to align academic staff compensation to market norms.  The protracted and repeatedly botched rollout  of TTC has resulted in confusion and fear among academic staff as well as unanimous castigation from UWM’s Faculty Senate. But, despite the word “compensation” in the title, this messy project has led to precisely no pay increases for those laboring at low levels of remuneration.

At UWM, a laboriously produced and much-touted “2030 Study” has resulted in proclamations that emphasize “student-centricity,” “radical welcoming,” and other salutary but vaguely articulated goals.  Across campus, significant increases in salary are mostly limited to white men and a very few women and people of color. Continued boons to those making most do little to help students staggering under historic debt burdens or to diversify our campuses.

The contrast between plush raises received by top administrators and the scant increases for faculty and staff display a troubling, UW system-wide contempt for precisely the work that is at the heart of public education: teaching and advising students. Students and faculty can’t continue to absorb the effects of state-mandated austerity during a period of robust economic growth, while top administrators enjoy ever-increasing salaries and benefits.

If UWM is to be guided by the logic of the market, according to the State Legislature, all UWM faculty, staff, and TA salaries should immediately be brought to parity with our peer institutions, as has been done for top leadership. We embrace the Board of Regents’ move to adjust administrative salaries in line with peer institutions. The same logic must be widely applied to all who labor at UWM.


Time for a Vaccine Mandate

On August 5th, Chancellor Mone wrote, “The health, safety and well-being of our Panther community is my top priority as we head into the fall semester amid a rise in the Delta variant.” He has been admirably clear about UWM’s duty to protect the health and safety of the UWM community and neighboring populations.

The relentless spread of the Delta variant, and the associated rise in COVID-related hospitalizations and deaths, make it all the more imperative that we marshal every possible tool to contain and limit viral spread. The FDA has now approved a safe and effective vaccine for COVID-19 and it is time to mandate vaccination for all students and staff on UWM campuses. Only vaccination can provide the strongest possible protection for our communities. But as our own Amanda Simanek—Associate Professor of Epidemiology in the Zilber School of Public Health—pointed out in a recent Atlantic article, for an immunization regime to work, “we all have to do it.” Only a vaccine mandate can fulfill UWM’s duty to safeguard public health.

On Tuesday, Interim President Thompson expressed openness to the idea of a vaccine requirement, not now, but “if the Delta variant changes.” His openness to the idea is welcome, but his reasoning is backwards. The reason to mandate vaccines now is to prevent a wider outbreak in the future; if we wait until things get worse, it will already be too late to take  effective action. The longer viral spread remains unchecked, the greater the opportunity for vaccine-resistant variants to emerge, putting those ineligible for vaccination at risk, and reversing much of the good the current vaccine has achieved. The vaccine should therefore be deployed as widely as possible, as soon as possible.

UWM does not currently require any vaccinations—though it strongly recommends inoculation against measles, mumps, tetanus, and several other diseases. Mandates are unnecessary in these cases since statutory vaccine requirements during elementary education ensure widespread immunity. We cannot count on the same mechanism to protect against COVID-19. The university has a responsibility to provide a safe environment for students, staff, and faculty. Voluntary vaccine uptake alone has proven insufficient to generate the herd immunity necessary to restore “business as usual” in our education systems, and in society as a whole. In these circumstances, implementing a COVID-19 vaccine mandate is strongly supported by the ethical principles that apply in a public health crisis, including support for the common good, beneficence, and the moral responsibility to take steps to avoid harm.

While we affirm that a vaccine mandate is the best way to ensure the well-being of all, we recognize that such a policy may require greater time and resources to support fulfillment among some members of the university community—particularly those from historically marginalized groups. We therefore urge university leadership to issue a vaccine requirement paired with equity-minded, reasonable accommodations for students and employees who may be disproportionately affected by its demands, such as reasonable time and workplace flexibility to receive the vaccine (or medical exemption paperwork if needed), special vaccination clinics, financial resources toward education and outreach, and other support structures. 

A steadily growing list of universities around the country have recognized these realities and responded accordingly. Our neighboring university systems in Minnesota, Indiana, Michigan, and Illinois have issued vaccine mandates—as have our colleagues across town at Marquette. UWM should immediately join them in taking the strongest possible action to safeguard the health of students, staff, and the communities we serve and live in.

At a time when disinformation is widespread, when scientific matters of fact are somehow the subject of political controversy, it is more important than ever for UWM to live up to its guiding principles—The Wisconsin Idea, the search for truth that remains at the core of our mission statement. In our roles as stewards of knowledge and public servants, it is our duty to provide clear-eyed leadership, now more than ever.

A Strong and Safe Return To Campus: UWM-AAUP Statement

Summer 2021.

As faculty, staff, and students prepare to return to a newly re-opened campus this fall, UWM AAUP reminds us of the centrality of academic freedom and democratic governance in ensuring our collective safety and public health. The Covid-19 pandemic is not over.  Faculty, staff, and students must be free to protect ourselves and our communities as we deem most consistent with scientific evidence.

A recent missive from University Relations and Communications advises that “Faculty and staff may not require masks for all students in classrooms or all visitors to offices,” asserting that “UWM’s health and safety policy aligns with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidance, in which masks are not required for vaccinated individuals, and is supported by the state and local health departments.”  This policy abrogates the freedom of instructors to make important decisions about policy in their classrooms and burdens students with publicly displaying their vaccine status. Public and private colleges and universities in many states,  including Indiana, California, and indeed, Wisconsin, have implemented vaccine mandates on campus.

We believe UWM’s current policy conflicts with our Academic Workers Bill of Rights (October, 2020), and with broader principles of academic freedom and democracy.  As AAUP National’s “Principles of Academic Governance during the Covid-19 Pandemic” states: “the faculty has ‘primary responsibility’ for decisions related to academic matters, including ‘curriculum, subject matter and methods of instruction, research, faculty status, and those aspects of student life which relate to the educational process.’”

Regarding still-operative pandemic conditions, the Academic Workers’ Bill of Rights specifies:

Many academic workers and students are particularly vulnerable because of pre-existing conditions, family, and/or age. Everyone should be able to choose to protect their health; no one should have to choose between risking their health and being employed or engaged in study. Moreover, workers have the right to make this choice without threat of penalty or punishment, including negative impact on performance and merit evaluations, progress toward degree (for graduate student workers), and so forth. They should be able to make their decisions without having to justify them on the basis of age or pre-existing condition. This is particularly true for uniquely vulnerable classes of workers, such as graduate students who have the right to decline supervisor requests for in-person work that may put their health at risk without negative impact on their academic standing.

There is growing evidence that both the Pfizer and J&J vaccines are less than 40% effective against infection from the Delta variant. The vaccines continue to provide very good protection against hospitalizations (but possibly at rates as low as 88%) and severe illness (91% effectiveness shown in Israel for Pfizer). Because the United States has stopped monitoring less severe COVID-19 breakthrough infections, it is unknown how frequently these “breakthrough” infections are being passed onto vulnerable loved ones at home, such as to unvaccinated children and others, those who are immunocompromised, the elderly, etc. Thus, in addition to expanding vaccination coverage, mask wearing is among the most effective means of reducing transmission of COVID-19, including newer variants, regardless of vaccination status.

Without a vaccine mandate on campus, faculty and staff must have the right to require masks in our classrooms, offices, and workspaces.  UWM AAUP calls on campus and UW system administration to support faculty and staff in determining masking, social distancing, and mode of instruction for our classes.


I Would Prefer Not to Change My Password: A Security Journal

Professor Bartleby Hoffman


Tuesday, Oct 15, 2019

Today, I forgot my office keys and left my Duo fob at home on my dresser next to my hand sanitizer. I realized right before my class that I couldn’t get in to the network. It was a nightmare.

Duo is so damned difficult! It is so difficult to navigate that even Siri won’t talk to it!

It is being so difficult that I hear they’re sending it to a relationship counselor!

I hate Duo, the little fob that I finger in my pocket, pressing the unsatisfying squishy button to randomly generate numbers. They’ve made me ashamed of my old password: guest1234567. Pa55w0rD_5ham1ng really upsets me.

I am learning now that the generation of random numbers is too important to be left to chance. I wrote my new password down on the IT Security Certificate I earned through an online training course. I printed it as proof that I excelled at the exercise, and taped it to my office door. It’s cool, because I can declare it as advanced training on my annual merit form. Nothing is wasted, everything recycled. Number thirteen? Not on my watch!

Monday, November 4, 2019

There was a problem with some of the computers in Student Housing getting drunk over the weekend. They were all taking screenshots.

Campus police investigated, but couldn’t de-acquisition them because they were all over twenty-one years old.

There was a big party in the modem pool. Security was slack, and someone hacked the splash page. Color palette norms were violated, branding ran amok, recruitment was seriously compromised, and the future looks grim.

Trash piles up in the hallways. Everyone has taken early retirement or been rehired on an hourly basis. The State Legislature continues to fund us at thirty cents on the dollar compared to Madison. To make things worse, some of our colleagues in STEM lost a massive NSF grant they had received for designing a more efficient keyboard. They weren’t putting in enough shifts. The state jumped on this as yet another good argument against tenure.

Friday, December 13, 2019

Proof today that our modest AAUP chapter cares as much about UWM staff as we do faculty. We were called in to help a UWM Staff Security Specialist who was reprimanded by the administration for always showing up late for work. This didn’t seem fair. He had a hard-drive. They dropped the case, but parking remains a problem.

I realized today that autocorrect has become my worst enema. I heard in a Chairs and Director’s meeting that our Public Relations & Communications Resource Manager got severely constipated while writing an important PR blast about Pounce, the Panther. His laptop was broken so he had to work it all out with his pencil. It wasn’t pretty. 

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

It has been awhile since I’ve had time to write. A lot has happened at the institution lately. They’ve taken away titles, but then assured us that we can still use them for business cards and email signatures. There is a new “Zero Tolerance” policy that links our paltry raises with the filling out of multiple forms and taking of online security tests which never seem to change. I’m not sure which forms I need to complete, and found all of my security reminders and notifications in my email junk drawer.

Some of us suspect that the security emails are generated by bots since they don’t comply with their own standards. The test is cool, however, and I’ve got a new certificate to prove it; the third one on my office door. We are told that we need to do better, be better, work harder, retire earlier, to make this a “best place to work.”

I’m feeling anxious lately. I took my new password in to our folks in IT to be sure I was changing it correctly. I don’t want to make mistakes. The IT staff member, always helpful, asked me my password. “Chapman_Hall,” I said, and I proudly explained that the C and the H were capitalized, with an underscore between the two words. He looked at me, concerned. He paused, then hesitantly observed, “Ugh…that’s not a very strong password!” I was crestfallen, and he noticed it. I think he wanted to make me feel better so he added, “I’m curious… Why did you choose the words Chapman Hall?” “Oh, it’s obvious!” I replied, eager to explain my foolproof logic. “I read on our IT website that really good passwords were full of irrelevant and disconnected characters that make little sense to anyone else!”

Monday, March 2, 2020

AAUP asked me to write 500 words on our Chancellor. I got a few done, but then campus police came and pulled me off. Please let my friends know that I will be needing their help. You can access my email with my new password: “Eye_W00d_Pr3f3r_N0t_2.”

I was assured that it is moderately acceptable, which is all I can muster these days.

Protect the Role of the Humanities in Public Life!

From the National Humanities Alliance:

The most recent Presidential Budget Request calls for the elimination of

  1. the National Endowment for the Humanities;
  2. the elimination of the National Historic Records and Publications Commission, a critical source of grants for preserving our heritage and making it accessible to the public;
  3. the elimination of the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), along with other cultural agencies;
  4. and the elimination of Title VI and Fulbright-Hays!

Take action to oppose these proposals!

Join us at these exciting upcoming events!



Humanities_Lecture_11x17_Poster (1)

EVENT 1: AAUP Organizing and Training Event with Monica Owens, Department of Organizing and Services, AAUP National


9 AM- 12 Noon

Location: Curtin 175


            9-11 am             Recruitment strategies and chapter organizing

            11-12 noon     Student allies

Bring 3 friends! Monica Owens, based in Washington D.C., is an organizer with wide-ranging experience, specializing in campaigns and advocacy for K-12 and higher education.


EVENT 2: Roundtable discussion


12:00 PM

Location: UWM, Honors House 196

Open to all UWM and UW-System faculty, staff, and students


EVENT 3: Bagel hour lunch with graduate students


12:00 PM

Location: UWM, Center for 21st Century Studies, 9th floor Curtin Hall

Open to all graduate students


EVENT 4: Dean’s Distinguished Lecture in the Humanities, followed by reception


4:00 PM

Title: Does the U.S. Need Public Universities?

Location: UWM Golda Meir Library, 4th floor conference center

Free and open to the public