I was having a conversation the other day with Super Rad, one of my colleagues who's just too radical and cool for school, if you know what I mean. Super Rad talks a lot about interventions and commitment to revolutionary action. Standing in the hallway, leaning on the door jamb, Super Rad was complaining about how poorly the adjuncts are paid.
So I said that we could go a long ways towards solving the problem if everyone with tenure in our department (including both of us) agreed to take a 20% paycut and redistributed the money to the adjuncts. You should have seen the look of abject horror that passed his face. It was worth it.
Here's the thing; our tenured salaries are subsidized under the current system by the use of adjuncts to teach large numbers of students in our department. Since we're not going to solve the economic crisis in our state teaching Shakespeare or Marxist theory, and since we aren't going to suddenly get a huge influx of money, we need to be realistic about the problem. We are the problem, or at least we benefit from the system as it's set up. We tenured folks are, so to speak, the man.
And yet, I made a decision to take this job based in part on the salary and my calculation I could live on the salary and preferred to live on this salary for this job rather than on a slightly higher salary at my previous job. And I made a decision to take on the mortgage I have because I did the math and figured I could make payments on my salary. So I don't really have 20% slack in my budget. Yes, if I had to take a 20% cut, I'd stop putting money into retirement savings, make some other cuts, and get by for now. But if I don't have to, I'm not.
It's hard to give up privilege, isn't it? But we should at least recognize our privilege. Or does it even matter, so long as I'm not willing to give it up?
On the other hand, I think I bring significant skills and qualities to my work that our adjuncts don't bring. And so I think I'm worth my salary. Or maybe I'm just making excuses?