“People should view the school as a three-term school, not two terms and a dangling appendage.”

*some names have been withheld to protect the privacy of UM-Dearborn faculty*

The UM-Dearborn Lecturers’ Employee Organization (LEO) recently held a town hall meeting to discuss the school’s plans to decrease summer course pay. Over 20 current and retired UM-Dearborn lecturers attended.

However, 90 minutes before the LEO meeting was to begin, all UM-Dearborn faculty received an email from Provost Susan Alcock announcing that the pay cut would not occur this year.

The decision originally “was made last fall following an unexpected shortfall in our enrollments,” according to Alcock in an email to the Michigan Journal. The pay cut would impact the salaries of faculty who teach courses May-August and create the potential for faculty to teach elsewhere.

Alex Elkins speaking at the LEO town hall meeting. Photo//Kyla Bazzy

A draft of the pay cut plans was originally sent to UM-Dearborn lecturers. It stated that summer pay would be the lower of two options:

  1. Compensation as per current practice per course at UM-Dearborn (for Lecturer I’s and II’s, this is current pay course, subject to raises; for tenured/tenure-track faculty and full-time Lecturer III’s and IV’s, this would normally be 12.5% of their academic salary per three-credit course).

OR

  1. A fixed rate per credit hour, varied by academic unit and course level, as follows:

(Rates may be adjusted in future years)

For courses in the College of Arts, Sciences, and Letters (CASL)

  • $1,750 per credit hour for all courses

For courses in the College of Education, Health, and Human Services (CEHHS)

  • $2,625 per credit hour for all courses

For courses in the College of Business (COB)

  • $2,916 per credit hour for all BBA prerequisite and core courses (except BPS 451) in COB
  • $4,375 per credit hour for all other courses

For courses in the College of Engineering and Computer Science (CECS)

  • $2,916 per credit hour for all lower level courses (100 and 200 level) in CECS
  • $4,375 per credit hour for all other courses

The compensation draft was originally marked as confidential, but that title was stripped when the LEO union mentioned to higher-ups that lecturer salary is public information.

“Summer teaching is considered supplemental, and thus is not part of a faculty member’s standard teaching load,” Alcock told the Michigan Journal. “In an effort to offset the financial shortfall that the campus experienced, our summer compensation budget came under examination.”

“I would like… to take some additional time to assess and evaluate campus needs and strategies affecting this matter,” Alcock wrote in the email to UM-Dearborn lecturers. “In the meantime, compensation for the 2020 spring/summer salaries will not change. I look forward to our continued conversations.”

“In CASL, it feels like the sky is always falling…”

Luckily for UM-Dearborn lecturers, the plan to cut summer salary is on hold (for now). Still, the sudden cancellation of salary cut plans didn’t keep some lecturers from speaking their minds about how UM-Dearborn higher-ups could have made this decision in the first place, nor did it keep members of the LEO from worrying- or even expecting- that pay will be cut in the near future.

“In CASL it feels like the sky is always falling… there’s always a crisis,” said Erik Marshall during the town hall meeting. Marshall is a Journalism and Screen Studies lecturer, LEO Dearborn Campus Chair and member of the LEO bargaining team.

“What can we do? Because this crisis will arise next year,” said Alex Elkins at the meeting. Elkins is a LEO organizer on the Ann Arbor and Dearborn campuses. He suggested getting both students and faculty involved in the One University campaign as a starting point.

Another lecturer said that they all have to “be united,” and a third said, “people should view the school as a three-term school, not two terms and a dangling appendage.”

Many of the attendees were also worried about the effects pay cuts would have on students, including Elkins and Marshall. Some mentioned that decreasing summer pay would keep some lecturers from teaching in the summer, possibly causing a decrease in the number of summer classes offered, which could ultimately keep students from taking the classes they need over the summer.

“It will make it even harder for these kids to graduate on time,” Elkins said.

“Where is the student-centeredness in any of this?” said another one of the meeting’s attendees. “Where is the practical student approach?”

“We must view all of our decisions with a holistic eye toward what is in our students’ best interests,” Alock told the Michigan Journal. “The impact of a summer instructional pay cap for all faculty would be one aspect of our broad considerations. It is most certainly not a decision we take lightly, hence my pause on the process.”

“I’m basically teaching most of a course load for free.”

“This business of calculating pay based on credit hours is a total screw job,” said a lecturer at the meeting. “A course that I teach has lecture and laboratory. It’s four credit hours for the course, but it’s a two course load. The lab is the same load as the lecture. So that means that if I got paid for four credit hours, I’m basically teaching most of a course load for free.” 

Many attendees were also concerned with the fact that, according to the drafted proposal, those teaching CASL courses would make at least $1,000 less per credit hour than their CEHHS, COB and CECS counterparts. 

Even lecturers whose job wouldn’t be affected by the pay cut showed up to show their support for the LEO.

“Our teaching partnerships with LEO professors are essential to our students’ growth, their education and their future success,” said Dr. John Thomas, a professor of biology at UM-Dearborn. “While I do not normally teach in the summer, I am relieved that Provost Alock decided to reconsider the changes in summer salary, especially so close to the start of the summer term.”

Neither the original summer pay cut draft email nor the cancellation of the pay cut email were sent to UM-Dearborn staff or students

Elkins believes that any information in emails regarding potential teaching pay cuts should have also been sent to all UM-Dearborn staff, as their paychecks are partially paid for through summer teaching revenue. This means that a loss of summer teaching revenue by faculty teaching elsewhere could potentially have an impact on all UM-Dearborn staff, including food service workers, janitors, human resources and more.

Alcock told the Michigan Journal that as she started to learn more about UM-Dearborn’s financial situation and the discussion on decreasing summer salary, she decided that “taking a pause would be wise.” 

“We need to do some serious thinking about our campus future and our financial situation, and unquestionably some of those conversations will be challenging,” Alock continued. “This will inevitably involve a range of budgetary issues.”

While summer pay will remain steady for now, there is no word on whether salaries will change in the coming years.