Teaching Loads and Adequate Instruction: A Letter

What follows is a letter sent today by 32 Instructors in the Writing Programs of Arizona State University (further information can be found at the asuagainst55 website):

June 8, 2015 Dear Dr. Mark Lussier, English Department Chair, and Dr. George Justice, Dean of Humanities in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Arizona State University:

The Writing Programs Instructors would like to thank the Department of English for our recent renewal letters. We remain committed to providing outstanding service to ASU students. Unfortunately, changes represented in the offers create significant disadvantages to students and disturbing inequities in salaries. We would like to negotiate a more reasonable agreement.

Recent Changes Have Significant Disadvantages for Instructors, Students, and the University

  • Writing Programs Instructors devote more time to students than any other rank of faculty. They should be rewarded for this, not penalized. Writing Programs Instructors were formerly required to grade a minimum of 4000 pages per year of final draft essays (twenty pages per student). The change to a 5/5 teaching load will increase Instructors’ grading load to a minimum of 5000 pages of final drafts, in addition to evaluating numerous low-stakes writing assignments and working drafts of projects, course prep time, fifteen hours teaching time per week, office hours, and individual conferences with students. No other faculty rank devotes as much time to their courses as Instructors do. Instructors should be rewarded for being the most studentcentered of all ranks of faculty. Students reward Instructors by rating them higher than other faculty ranks in student evaluations. It is incumbent upon the department to explain why the department has chosen not to reward Instructors for the enormous amount of work they do, but to burden them alone with financial shortfalls they did not generate.
  • The university has the unrealistic expectation that Instructors do not need to provide service to the university. Writing Programs Instructors currently serve on numerous department and university committees. Our service better enables us to address student needs, to collaborate with other departments to meet their needs, and to help fulfill the mission of the New American University. We have been told we will now be teaching 100% and relieved of all service and professional development responsibilities. Such a stance is impractical because Writing Programs committees and activities must necessarily be administered by Writing Programs Instructors. Will that very necessary work now be expected to be given for free on our own time out of the goodness of our hearts or will the university actually stop the valuable work these Writing Programs Committees have been doing? With either scenario, campus collaboration and student learning will be negatively impacted.
  • The university has the unrealistic expectation that Instructors do not need professional development. Writing Programs Instructors recognize the need to continue to participate in academic discourse, even though administrators now want to cut it from our job description. It is short-sighted to assume that university faculty can continue to meet the goals of the New American University without participating in the key dialogues and initiatives associated with professional development. Faculty would quickly fall behind and eventually become antiquated in their practices, endangering student learning and the competitiveness of ASU’s New American University.

Salary Offerings for the 2015-2016 Academic Year Reveal Significant Inconsistencies and Inequalities Writing Programs Instructors have the reasonable expectation that an increase in work load will result in a fair and equitable increase in salary for everyone at this rank, but this is not the case.

  • Most Writing Programs Instructors will earn less money next year with the new 5/5 course load than they did, or would have, with an equivalent course load in 2014-15. Current offers contradict already established precedents for how much Instructors should be compensated for a 5/5 teaching load. For several years, Instructors teaching 5/5 have been compensated with overload pay of a minimum of $6000 more than those teaching 4/4. In addition to this financial compensation, Instructors teaching 5/5 were also officially relieved of all service and professional development requirements. However, for 2015-16, few Instructors are being offered compensation at this level, and most are being offered less compensation in varying degrees.
  • The salary and job description changes arbitrarily impact Instructors differently. This year’s $6,000 increase in the base salary for new Writing Programs Instructors corresponds with the newly instated 5/5 teaching load. Thus, it appears that the university still values this increased workload at $6000. Surprisingly though, this $6000 increase has been given to only a few Instructors. Most Instructors have been offered far less of an increase to compensate them for a 25% increase in teaching load, and some Instructors will actually experience an overall reduction in their income.
  • Current offers discriminate unfairly against long-term instructors who have earned merit raises and terminal degrees. For 2015-16, Instructors previously earning below $36,000 have been offered exactly $36,000 for next year, regardless whether they hold terminal degrees or have previously earned merit raises above their starting salaries. For those with terminal degrees, this means at most they are offered only a $4000 increase. Further, Instructors already earning above $36,000 have been offered the same base salary next year as last year with no compensation for the 25% increased teaching load. In actual practice, the newest Instructors with the least experience have been awarded a 20% base salary increase for the adjusted teaching load; at the same time, some long-term instructors will experience an overall salary reduction of up to 15% because they were offered no base salary increase and they will also no longer receive the $6000 in overload earnings they have had for several years of voluntarily teaching a 5/5 load. It is an unjust practice to reward some faculty with a 20% base salary increase while penalizing others with a 15% reduction for the same increased workload.
  • The university is nullifying past merit raises by not increasing all Instructors’ base salaries $6000 to accommodate the increased teaching load. The faculty facing the greatest inequity in current offers are those who have given long-term, exemplary service to the university as indicated by their earned merit raises. Merit raises are the only equivalent ASU offers to an increasing salary scale for experienced Instructors; they are not cost of living adjustments. They should not be considered part of any base salary increases given to compensate for the increased teaching load. A university that prides itself in excellence should value the contributions of their most proven faculty. Instructors who have earned past merit raises should retain them on top of a base salary increase for the enlarged teaching load.
  • ASU Tempe Campus Writing Programs offers substantially lower salaries than other Arizona colleges and universities for comparable ranks. Maricopa Community Colleges begin new 5/5 M.A. faculty with no prior experience at $44,452 and they offer significant increases for faculty with experience and terminal degrees. Northern Arizona University offers $40,000. One Writing Programs Instructor accounts for about $200,000 tuition a year at in-state tuition prices and often double that when they have out-of-state and international students, yet the university only pays between 9-18% to the Instructor. The university’s unwillingness to pay Instructors a greater portion of the substantial tuition dollars they generate reflects poorly on the university among its faculty and on the national stage.
  • In the name of budget cuts, the university chose to let go at least one long-term Instructor and then advertised to hire more Instructors. This seemingly unjust action has led other faculty to fear reprisal.

We Seek Fair and Equitable Solutions to These Inconsistencies These new salary practices will ultimately damage the students and the university. To address these inequities and to honor our many contributions to students and the New American University, Writing Programs Instructors request the following adjustments to our salary offers for 2015-2016 academic year:

  • An equitable $6000 salary increase should be instated across the rank for 2015-16 academic year to compensate Instructors for the 25% increased teaching load, as established by precedent.
  • Instructors should retain previously earned merit raises on top of their new base salaries, no matter how many such raises they have previously earned.
  • If there is a true need to cut salaries, those cuts should be applied across all ranks rather than to select Writing Programs faculty; and Instructors recently dismissed because of budget cuts should be rehired before outsiders.
  • ASU must expect and provide time and resources for Instructors to engage in professional development and perform necessary service to students, the university, and the community.

We, the undersigned, would like to accept positions in ASU Writing Programs for 2015-16, assuming we can resolve these differences to the satisfaction of all parties. We seek the best learning environment for our students and request the university’s support in helping us carry out our vital role as ASU Writing Programs Instructors. 32 ASU Writing Programs Instructors

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