QU professor advocacy group speaks out against stagnant faculty compensation

Cat Murphy and Katie Langley

Members of the Quinnipiac University chapter of the American Association of University Professors postered the Mount Carmel Campus on April 5 with informational flyers about static increases in faculty compensation. 

The AAUP flyers criticized the disparity between increases in faculty compensation and increases in the cost of living.

The Quinnipiac administration elected to increase full-time faculty salaries by only 2% next year, according to the AAUP flyers.

The Quinnipiac American Association of University Professors’ signs compare the 2023 cost-of-living adjustment to 2023-24 faculty compensation increases. The university has since announced that it will raise part-time faculty pay by 2% in the fall. (Katie Langley)

The Office of Human Resources subsequently confirmed in an email to all full-and part-time faculty on Monday that the Board of Trustees had approved university recommendations for a merit-based 2% increase in faculty compensation.

“These changes are the result of ongoing conversations and collaboration with the Compensation and Benefits committee of the faculty senate, school-based leaders, and various staff and offices to evaluate the overall structure of faculty compensation and support at Quinnipiac,” the email stated.

However, Business Insider noted in December 2022 that an annual raise below 7.1% is effectively equivalent to a pay cut in 2023 due to inflation.

“In real dollars, we’ve taken a pay cut instead of having any sort of meaningful raise,” said Laura Willis Calo, associate professor of health and strategic communication and a member of the AAUP.

Part-time faculty were not expected to receive a pay raise this year, according to the university’s AAUP chapter.

According to the April 10 email, signed by Provost Debra Liebowitz and Vice President of Human Resources Elicia Spearman, the Board of Trustees elected to provide part-time faculty members with a corresponding raise when full-time faculty salaries increase.

“For part-time faculty, an important university policy change now means that the course stipend rates will increase annually,” the email stated. “This amounts to a 2% increase in the course stipend rates for part-time faculty effective for the Fall 2023 semester.”

John Morgan, associate vice president for public relations, declined to provide further comment on faculty compensation.

The Social Security Administration set the 2023 cost-of-living adjustment at 8.7% in October 2022, meaning that annual salaries would need to increase by the same percentage to account for the increased cost of living in 2023.

The Social Security COLA is a measure of inflation used to adjust annual Social Security benefits. The Social Security Administration bases the COLA percentage on the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Price Index, which takes into account the net price change of expenses such as food and energy.

Kimberly O’Neill, associate professor of English and women’s and gender studies and a member of the AAUP, said part-time faculty have been hit particularly hard by the effects of inflation.

“We value the labor of our part-time employees, and they are so profoundly underpaid,” O’Neill said. “Their course numbers max out at Quinnipiac, so they have to hop from university to university just to try to make ends meet.”

In real dollars, we’ve taken a pay cut instead of having any sort of meaningful raise.

— Laura Willis Calo, member of the Quinnipiac University chapter of the American Association of University Professors

Quinnipiac employed more than 1,000 instructional faculty members in fall 2021, approximately 63% of whom were employed part-time, according to the National Center for Educational Statistics.

Adjunct faculty earned between $4,425 and $5,275 per three-credit course during the 2022-23 academic year, according to compensation documentation obtained by the Chronicle. O’Neill said the university, which bases its part-time faculty stipend rates on length of service, degree status and course level, had not raised part-time faculty compensation rates since 2018.

Quinnipiac paid its 392 full-time instructional faculty members an average of $103,000 in fall 2021, the most recent semester for which salary data is available.

Willis Calo noted that both part-time and full-time faculty pay is comparably higher at many of Quinnipiac’s peer institutions, which has caused some faculty to seek employment elsewhere.

Critically, the NCES benchmark does not take into account academic rank or gender.

“We’re a university that also has a law school and a (medical) school, and that’s really uncommon,” Willis Calo said. “It creates a group of outliers whose salaries are much higher, and so it pulls our mean in a direction that suggests that the average associate professor or assistant professor is making much more money.”

Nationally, the AAUP utilizes the slogan, “faculty working conditions are student learning conditions,” to embody its cause.

“I don’t think that students are always aware that faculty take-home pay is often less than students are paying in tuition, room and board and fees,” O’Neill said. “The amount of money we make — or don’t make — directly affects our ability to be there for students.”

The burden of financial stress often leaves faculty members without the time or resources to assist students outside of the classroom setting, O’Neill said.

“I currently pay $2,400 a month to keep my kids in daycare so that I can work, and that’s almost as much money as I make,” O’Neill said. “And when you add my mortgage, I can’t pay both.”

O’Neill said that taking on a larger course load to make ends meet sometimes means refusing learning experiences like independent studies, faculty-led study abroad programs and Quinnipiac’s Interdisciplinary Program for Research and Scholarship.

Several members of Quinnipiac’s AAUP chapter expressed particular frustration with the university’s lack of budget transparency.

“At public universities, you can actually look up every single employee’s salary,” O’Neill said. “And so, it’s sort of odd, actually, that we as an institution don’t have any transparency.”

Accordingly, the university’s AAUP chapter aims “to strengthen the voice of faculty in service of Quinnipiac’s educational purpose,” per its website. Notably, the Quinnipiac AAUP’s website is unavailable on the university’s WiFi.

Users attempting to access the Quinnipiac AAUP webpage on the university’s WiFi are prompted with a website security notification before receiving a 404 file not found error message. However, the website loads immediately upon disconnecting from the Quinnipiac WiFi.

Ruth Kaplan, associate professor of English and a member of the Quinnipiac AAUP, said the organization reached out to university officials several times to correct the issue.

“We discovered that our AAUP chapter website was blocked on QU WiFi while we were developing our COLA initiative in March,” Kaplan wrote in an email to the Chronicle April 10. “We were quite concerned when we realized that our website was blocked, and we remain concerned.”

Morgan did not comment on the website’s inaccessibility.