Letter to Chancellor Gill

On February 27, 2002, Dr. Judy Gill, the Massachusetts Chancellor of Higher Education, was one of many speakers who spoke on behalf of public higher education at a hearing of the House Ways and Means Committee that was held at Bridgewater State College. Dr. Gill is herself a product of higher education (which is unusual among recent appointments to such positions in Massachusetts) and has been a strong advocate. It is in this context that I wrote the following letter to her, regarding faculty pay.

February 28, 2002

Dear Dr. Gill:

I had the opportunity of hearing your testimony on behalf of public higher education at the House Ways and Means Committee meeting yesterday in Bridgewater. Thank you for speaking so effectively about the importance of public higher education to the future of the Commonwealth.

Coincidentally, on returning to my office, I received a worksheet detailing the pay increase that I will receive as a result of the recently-funded faculty contract. I appreciate the increase that we were able to negotiate, and consider it a good first step in addressing the well-documented shortfall in faculty pay.

A connection that I could not help noticing between your testimony and the worksheet I received is the number $42,000. You pointed out that this is the average income of a worker with an Associate’s degree in Massachusetts. With an earned doctorate, almost five years of full-time teaching experience, several additional years of part-time teaching experience, and several years of relevant experience in the private sector, my new salary will be just a few hundred dollars less than the benchmark you mentioned.

I did receive a fairly generous merit bonus of $1,000, but this represents just one week of the difference in salary between the average professor and the average dean on our campus. In contrast to some of my colleagues, I do not believe that our administrators are overpaid. Rather, the reasonable salaries most of them receive simply highlight the unreasonably low salaries received by those of us who are closest to the students.

Relatively new faculty members in the arts and sciences often find a real disconnect between the rhetoric about the importance of higher education and our own compensation. If increasing levels of education are associated with higher income in the population as a whole, why are state-college faculty not deserving of similar consideration?

Thank you again for your testimony yesterday, and for your time and attention to the thoughts I have shared here.

Very truly yours,

James Hayes-Bohanan, Ph.D.
Department of Earth Sciences and Geography

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