Golden parachute offers

I’ve been thinking about the golden parachute offers that have been flying all over academia since I’ve been looking forward to a full-time position.  Honestly, at my age, I’m not seriously hoping for a full-time position anymore.  [link to other post]

This morning a recent early-retirement push came through in my newsfeed.

Not only private universities are enacting this process to attempt to restore their budgets. I’ve watched California community colleges follow the same routine. I’ve seen colleagues and acquaintances pushed toward early retirement to make space for fewer faculty and/or more part time faculty and more part time staff positions. All of this saves the colleges money, they say.  It must because I know that I earn around 1/3 of what full timers at my school earn.  And I do it while being denied benefits.

While pressuring/tempting full time professors to retire early in public colleges and universities while simply leaving a few positions open, some colleges increase class size and tell the public they are getting more bang for their tax buck.  Never mind that the students are being seen as a commodity and are, in some cases, being poorly served.  Making education into a commodity is directly tied into the following.

The number of administrators is on the increase across the board and has been for at least a decade. Longer, really. At the same time faculty numbers have been decreasing, particularly tenured faculty.

Back in the Stone Age, when I was an undergrad, deans often served part time in that position and taught as well. Now we have masses of senior administrators who are full-time administrative practitioners.  I know administrators who long to teach, and at least one who has found a way to carry out her administrative duties and teach a class when she can. Her university is fortunate to have her. So are the students. I know of deans who are gifted, who have the best of intentions, who support students and faculty, and who add to the all-round quality of the school. Everyone knows of senior administrators who are not of that caliber.

The rate of administrative growth at private colleges has been double that at public schools. If the figure I hear constantly in public higher education is correct that means private schools are top-heavy by more than 2 to 1, between administrators and faculty/educational staff.  Take a look at some recent numbers for average salaries of full time college professors across the country.

And see how it compares to senior administrators. Theoretically, you can divest maybe two tenured or  tenure track faculty and put in another administrator, if that omnipresent 2 to 1 figure is accurate.  And then you can still threaten the faculty to get them to retire early.

Those salary numbers are breath-taking. Well, they were for me. But I’m a just a full grown hillbilly girl posing as a college instructor, so what do I know.

I don’t need to read the cards to see what’s up.  I’m right where they want me. I got into this game late and no matter how adept I may be or how much I care and how hard I work — I’m exactly where they want me. Where is that?  Working hard, caring about the students, applying for Medicaid before January 1st (they told me to), and potentially applying again for food stamps because my winter classes are not going to materialize. Certainly not scribbling out calculations concerned with my non-existent retirement account.

I simultaneously feel badly for and envy those full-timers over 55 who are being pressured to leave their positions. I’ve been employed by my college for over ten years and I know how that magical 10-year anniversary, required for Loyola’s (and most) golden parachute offers, simply flies by if you enjoy teaching.

So this is the deal, and it’s pretty typical of the offers all around the country:

“Standard faculty who take the deal will receive a year and a half of pay upon retirement. Other employees will receive a year of pay. In addition, all those who take the offer will receive full retirement benefits, including options for health, dental and vision insurance.”

And this is where the adjuncts come in. They will hire a few more of us as we cost 1/3, or even less in some cases, and we “produce” the same results. In theory, at least. Universities like to hire “full time” adjuncts which should make everyone happy, right?

At a university I would have the option of being a “fulltime adjunct” and raise my annual income to, oh, maybe, about $42K. That would do, given what I’ve been managing on for the last two years. If the community colleges begin offering their own version of  golden parachutes in larger numbers, contingent faculty might even be able to take four or five classes per term just as they do at the universities. Talk about more tax-payer bang for your buck. And larger upper management to grab the money in both fists for as long as they can.

And thus the loss of tenured faculty, which is too big an issue to talk about right now.

Finally, this:

“Should the early-retirement program fall short of its goals, the administration will have to consider other measures, Hartley said. Those could include cutting the total number of employees or reducing the amount the school contributes to its workers’ 401(k) plans, she said. Loyola now offers to match up to 8 percent of employees’ contributions to their retirement plans, she said.”

These administrators are trying to drive the wedge in through the opening of 401(k)s. This truly is a case of the business of education.  Corporate education.  Don’t get me wrong. I’d love to have a retirement account. One day I’ll post about what happened to my retirement options.  More than that, right now, though, I’d love to have some medical insurance. And a couple of winter classes.

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About rainshadowfarm

West Virginia hillbilly girl grown up. Grew up in northern Ohio. Farmer from birth. Working class academic. Practical agroecologist. Community educator. Single parent of eight. I also teach anthropology at a community college. I like this work and think it's worth doing and doing well. California community college students are some of the most incredible students I have ever known.
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