Congrats to Gary Shapiro on becoming provost

I want to take this opportunity to congratulate Provost Shapiro on his well-deserved promotion. In his article on Friday, University Editor Eric Dresden quoted President Ross, who said that having a high proportion of interims “puts academic leadership under ‘tremendous strain,’” a statement that could easily be generalized to include all temporary employees — after all, isn’t “interim” pretty much the six-figure version of “temporary”?  I am happy for Provost Shapiro, as perhaps his success means there is a chance for us too.

Never mind the fact that the raise that accompanies Provost Shapiro’s promotion is more than twice my annual salary.

In the 2009-2010 Academic year I taught 8 classes. The 202 students paid $205,434 in tuition. As temporary faculty, I am paid based on the number of credit hours I teach (24 per year) which this year came to less than 12 percent of the total my students paid to take my classes.

That means in each class, the $3051 in tuition paid by three students pays me for my trouble. With 22 students in my smallest class (45 in the largest) that leaves 178 students paying the university itself. I am no MBA, but it looks like the university has a pretty sweet deal here. In the interest of full disclosure, my “total compensation” package, including the cost of benefits, comes close to 23 percent of the tuition which my classes generate. That still leaves a 77 percent rate of return on the university’s investment in me.

Never mind the fact that I have taught here full time for two years, and yet my family still qualifies for both WIC food assistance and Medicaid.

Never mind the fact that unlike Provost Shapiro, my chances of ever becoming anything more than temporary at CMU are essentially zero. After all, why would the dean of any college hire a temp into a tenure – track position if it means they not only would have to pay them more for teaching fewer credit hours, but would also have to hire another temp to replace them?

It is time to acknowledge that the temporary faculty who teach a fairly large proportion of the classes CMU offers are worth far more to the university than the label of “temporary” implies. With the universities across the state tightening their belts, it might be tempting for the administration to see the unionization of temporary faculty here at CMU as little more than an additional financial burden—one to be opposed at all costs.

I only hope that the promotion of Provost Shapiro from his interim position last week might mean that we now have someone in the administration who truly does understand the “tremendous strain” that can accompany a lack of respect, job security, and fair compensation.

Patrick S. McGinnity, MFA

Instructor of Composition

and Creative Writing