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.