We've gotten bad news from the powers that be this past week.
According to all sorts of reports from and to those very powers, the faculty of the state institutions are underpaid relative to faculty in our peer institutions in neighboring states, and when I say underpaid, we're talking 10-20%.
The redeeming thing is that we've had pretty decent benefits, including a pension plan and health insurance. The state has put aside some 5% of my pay (but not taken out of my pay) for the pension; it didn't have to, but it did. I pay less than $100 each month for my part of the health insurance, and the state pays something like $650.
So now, it looks like the benefit part is gone from the pension, and that 5% will be taken out of our pay. So that's an effective 5% paycut.
And it also looks like we're going to be asked to pay for most of our health insurance, which is also works out to a significant paycut.
Between those and the furloughs, which we're supposed to expect to continue indefinitely, we're looking at basically ~10% paycuts.
Now, of course, if you're one of those who's unemployed, you're probably thinking that a 10% paycut would be a privilege, as opposed to unemployment. But most people, even in this sucky economy, aren't unemployed. And I'm willing to bet that most employed folks have seen a pay raise in the past 6 years. (We haven't gotten even COLA adjustments.)
So what's the ethical response? Yeah, I mean our brand new campus (not state-wide) union will probably make some noise, but are we willing to go out on strike? Would the whole faculty of the state be willing to go out on strike (not just our one or two unionized campuses)?
How many people who are barely holding on in terms of mortgages and such will lose that grasp?
We know academics in many fields are pretty desperate in terms of jobs, but our first choice candidates often have more than one offer: do you think ours will be less competitive now? (One of our departmental candidates turned us down already this year because we couldn't compete. That was before this particular round of bad news.)
In communities such as ours, a fair portion of the population works for the state, either the university, the resources departments, or the state offices of legal stuff. How much of an impact will a 10% reduction in incomes to this population have on local businesses?
Again, what's the appropriate ethical response? I'm not going to refuse to go out to dinner with the job candidate this week, because punishing him/her for something out of his/her control makes no sense, nor does being less able to contribute to the hiring decision make any sense.
I'm not going to grade 10% less carefully, or teach 10% less. I'm not going to be 10% more cranky at students, or do 10% less in other aspects of my job.
I might start looking for another job, but not until I come back from my study abroad next fall, because I'm not willing to shoot myself in that particular foot and miss that opportunity.
But I am 10% more frustrated at the people of this state who voted in this administration. As a reader of Roxie's World, I'm familiar with the idea of "Excellence without Money." I'm guessing the people of this state think they can have good enough schools, roads, and such without money, too. I hope they really aren't honestly thinking they're going to get "excellence" without paying for it, though.