Massachusetts Board of Higher Education Woes
Attacking State Colleges is Class Warfare!
Updated November 2, 2008


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March 31 to April 4!

Ask Gov. Patrick
to step up!

Attacking students and faculty is also a bipartisan sport in Massachusetts. The rhetorical attacks have diminished with the current administration, but faculty members and librarians are still not respected on pay day or in bargaining. Our new governor promises something different.

We call upon him to put serious actions behind his kind words.

Why the public should care:
Students suffer when faculty members are demoralized and disrespected. Many of my most talented colleagues have already left this system and, quite frankly, many more are considering it. This takes place whle student fees increase far faster than the salaries of those who serve them.

To learn more about how this affects students and the general public, see my 2005 State House speech to students and my 2004 letter to students.
BUT: See why I still like this job!

The views expressed here are the sole
responsibility of Dr. James Hayes-Bohanan.

YOU CAN HELP: If you have a higher education web site, please consider providing a link to this page. The link will be more effective if you also explain why these issues are important to you and your site visitors. THANKS!

UPDATED July 10, 2007
Story of My Life
From the Dilbert Archive . Permission pending.

The cartoon above describes the situation of many professors at Bridgewater State College. Many senior professors and librarians earn receive the same salaries as minimally-qualified new professors and librarians -- sometimes even less. This problem is well-understood, but nobody has tried to fix it yet. (The only difference from the Dilbert strip is that our raises were capped at ZERO for more than two years. With increasing contribution to health-care premiums, we were getting NEGATIVE raises in 2004 and 2005.) This is why I once applied for a demotion to Assistant Professor, in the hopes of earning a higher salary.

Where's Mitt?
Photo courtesy of David Wilson

Maybe in Mississippi, but not here:
Faculty Pay -- USA Today
Source: USA Today Graphic, March 1, 2007

The graphic feeds public misunderstanding of faculty pay. First, it implies that professors are paid for the classes we teach. Classroom teaching is only about one third to one half of the job.  Continuing scholarship and training, student mentoring, networking, and -- increasingly -- community service are part of what we do, and we spend all year doing it!

Second, people in Massachusetts should know that professors at the Associate and Full Professor rank do not make anything close to the national average salaries, even though we live in one of the most expensive areas of the country! We are not even close to these figures, which are now two years old.

REGARDING THE PHOTO ABOVE: On October 26, 2004, Gov. Mitt Romney planned to attend a political event in Bridgewater. When state college faculty, staff, administrators, and students heard about this, we made plans to attend. At the last minute, Gov. Romney changed his plans, ostensibly to attend a funeral. I hope that he finds another opportunity to visit Bridgewater and meet some of the people -- students, staff, and faculty -- whose lives are so profoundly affected by his policies on higher education.

Lacking a governor, we decided to let passersby know about our important cause.

Prison $$ > State College $$
If you want support from the Commonwealth, you are better off in prison than at a state college! (Sign reads: Prison $$ > State College $$)

SEPTEMBER 29, 2004

Loyal employees underpaid!
Two years with no faculty/librarian contract!
Governor vetoes funding contract for other employees!
Legislature does nothing!
Students pay more!

Day of Outrage - Boyden Hall
President Mohler-Faria joined faculty and librarians, as we stood in the rain and ask students and colleagues to contact Gov. Romney.

Massachusetts is the only state I have lived in where public higher education is considered somehow inferior. (Strangely, even some colleagues on the faculty look down on state colleges; they are guilty of malpractice.) In most states, many political, educational, and business leaders are graduates of state colleges and universities. It is only in Massachusetts that such leaders come mainly from private schools and therefore perpetuate an inferiority complex among those associated with state colleges.

The efforts to undermine public higher education in Massachusetts are ongoing, severe, and bipartisan. Neither political party in Massachusetts can be counted on to support publich higher education. Faculty, staff, students, and alumni must constantly remind politicians of both parties of the value and importance of our state colleges, universities, and community colleges.

Gov. Romney's budget and reorganization proposals -- if implemented -- would take the attacks on public higher education in Massachusetts to a new level. Faculty and staff -- already severely underpaid -- would face pay decreases , non-academic political appointees would take over governence, and some campuses would become private companies. This is a direct attack on working-class people seeking higher education in Massachusetts. Gov. Romney does not want working people to have access to the quality education currently available at Bridgewater State College and other Massachusetts state colleges.

For more information, please see:

The challenges to public higher education in Massachusetts include:


On December 5, 2001, fully six months after the MSCA ended three years of brutal and humiliating bargaining with a hostile Board of Higher Education, the Massachusetts legislature deigned to fund the agreement. They were not heros for doing this, and they should be held accountable for their foot-dragging. For now we can celebrate this: state college faculty in Massachusetts are only 20 percent underpaid now, rather than 30 percent!

Thanksgiving 2001 Cuts:

The Massachusetts legislature continued to savage the state colleges, announcing a $50,000,000 cut in higher education in the same week that $5,000,000 was given to the gambling industry. (See my letter on the subject, published by the Brockton Enterprise.)

You can be assured that the education cuts will fall disproportionately on state college faculty, librarians, and library acquisitions. It does not appear likely to diminish executive pay, as state college deans, VPs, and presidents continue to draw upwards of $100,000 per year.

Even the legislators who are "on our side" should be ashamed of themselves for allowing the state budget fiasco to continue. When the faculty was negotiating with the Board of Higher Education, my local senator told me that he could not influence the BHE. Now that the contract has been in the legislature's hands for six months, it is clear he is not willing to exercise any influence there, either.

Long-time residents have been urging me to adjust to the undemocratic way of life in Massachusetts. I refuse to do that. If democracy can be brought to the Soviet Union, El Salvador, and South Africa, surely it can return to the hearth of American democracy. This will only occur, however, if citizens urge their legislators to push for rules that will dilute the power of Beacon Hill "leaders."  

$8,333 *
per credit hour
Acting Gov. Jane Swift
Suffolk University
Academic Qualifications
B.A., Trinity College 1987
$1,734 *
per credit hour
($894 for evenings)
Dr. James Hayes-Bohanan
Bridgewater State College
Academic Qualifications
B.A., University of Maryland 1986
M.A., Miami University 1989
Ph.D., University of Arizona 1998
Teaching for 14 years

On May 4, 2001 (my birthday), the results of MSCA's ratification vote were announced. The membership accepted a new contract.
This ongoing debacle of the past three years would not continue if faculty had the right to strike. Faculty who strike can be fired without any due process -- further evidence that Massachusetts is not the liberal bastion it is often assumed to be. The prohibition against striking suggests that faculty perform a vital public service -- comparable to fire or police protection -- that cannot be interrupted. The Commonwealth cannot have it both ways: either we are vital and should be paid accordingly, or we are in another category, to which normal labor laws should apply. Now that the contract has been settled, it is time to turn our attention to the right to strike.
Why students and alumni should care : In her planning document, A Vision for Bridgewater, President Tinsley addresses the importance of fairer treatment for faculty .

Permission from Mr. Scott Adams has been sought and is pending.
Please visit for unadulterated Dilbert cartoons.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Massachusetts now ranks 43rd among the 50 states in per capita spending on education, and 50th -- dead last -- in per capita spending on higher education.
from Sourcebook 2000 , a supplement to Governing: The Magazine of States and Localities
Find the 2 geographers! On November 16, 1999, the Board of Higher Education, including its new chair, Mr. Steve Tocco , arrived at Bridgewater State College for a routine meeting. I was one of 200 professors from throughout Massachusetts who were on hand to let Mr. Tocco know how important a fair teaching contract is to our students and to the Commonwealth.

Several of us also participated in a presentation of the cutting-edge teaching technologies being used at the college.

QUESTION 4: My offer to help!

After convincing the voters to roll back a portion of the state income tax, Gov. Cellucci  asked state employees to identify ways to cut back on spending. Otherwise, he implied, he will be forced to break his promise to protect social services from budget cuts. 

My suggestion: Pay all executives in state government (from the governor down to college deans) in proportion to what professors make. If pursued ruthlessly enough, this 20 to 30 percent reduction would offset the tax rollback.

Of course, I am not serious. No responsible person would try to improve an organization by cutting the pay of its crucial employees -- unless, of course, that person is actually trying to cripple the organization.

(I passed this idea along to the governor on December 15, 2000. I eventually recieved a reply from the Office of Administration & Finance, informing me that pay was set by mutual agreement in collective bargaining. The writer ignored the fact that without the right to strike faculty were at the mercy of a bargaining team that is appointed by the governor and which includes people who are philosophically committed to the destruction of public education.)

Why do we do this?

The situation has become so bleak that some are starting to ask professors, in effect: "If you are so smart, why can't you get a better job than this?" Imagine people anywhere else thinking of professorhood as a foolish career move!

Each of us has to find his or her own answer. Mine is that the work itself is rewarding: I spent many years preparing myself for exactly the position I have now, and I continue to work hard to do it well.

  • I like the emphasis placed on teaching in state colleges.
  • I like that I receive support for a moderate but rewarding research agenda. 
  • I like the fact that many of my classes are small enough to allow real interaction with my students.
  • I like watching students leave here to go on to successful careers. 
  • I like the fact that the college supports the work faculty do in the community .
  • Just about the only thing I don't like is the treatment afforded faculty by the governor, the legislature, and the Board of Higher Education, all of which continue to punish us for our loyalty!
  • Finally, I stay in the position because I refuse to believe that the good people of Massachusetts will reward politicians who continue to punish the state colleges. I know that I will never get rich in this position, but I am confident that I will eventually be paid fairly for what I do.
We would not be fighting so hard if we did not value what we do at the state colleges. We could easily walk away for twice the money.

To learn more, visit:

Defending Public Higher Education in Brazil

I spent part of the summer of 2000 at UNIR - the Federal University of Rondônia, Brazil. Government officials in Brazil are as hostile to public higher education as are government officials in Massachusetts. While I was in Porto Velho, UNIR students decided they had had enough! They shut down the major highway in the region for about two hours.

Getting passionate about higher education!
Photo: Folha de Rondônia June 1, 2000
* The earnings comparison at the top of the page is based on Dr. Hayes-Bohanan's annual salary, divided by his total teaching load. (On March 1, 2002, figure was increased to reflect the first significant faculty raise in four years.) His salary is typical of relatively new faculty in the arts and sciences; some earn even less. The salary includes payment for all additional services, such as student advising, research, and administrative responsibilities. When teaching an evening course, faculty earn about half of the normal rate ($894 for Dr. Hayes-Bohanan). This evening rate is actually the most appropriate to compare with the Lieutenant Governor's "earnings."

Lt. Gov. Swift's pay rate is based on published reports that she received $25,000 to teach a 3-credit class at Suffolk University. The class was a seminar with only five students (normally classes of this size are not allowed at the state colleges, as they do not make enough money). Moreover, the course met for only half a semester, and Suffolk provided a "team teacher" to handle some of the details of running the course, such as grading papers. Needless to say, Lt. Gov. Swift has not advocated such generous payment terms for the professors under her administration. Although Lt. Gov. Swift never admitted any impropriety, Suffolk University eventually was embarrassed enough to cancel her contract.


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