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Editorial: UI academics underpaid

BY DI EDITORIAL BOARD | OCTOBER 25, 2013 5:00 AM

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The 40-hour workweek seems to have gone out the window for the state’s regent-school faculties.

The state Board of Regents released a report this week that shows that University of Iowa faculty members work an average of 57.57 hours per week. This survey examined the amount of time faculty members spend doing research, teaching, assisting students outside of the classroom, etc., at Iowa’s regent schools.

The regents require the universities to survey their faculty every two years. According to the survey report, the data are designed to track faculty job performance against agreed-upon standards. The data are also used to provide constructive feedback and support to the few faculty members who fall short in one or more areas of their work.

While these numbers may be pleasing and reflect well upon the university, some members in the UI community are wondering if the numbers are sustainable.

How practical is it for UI faculty to continue working themselves at this rate? And, more importantly, are UI faculty members receiving the amount of recognition they deserve and being sufficiently compensated for the work that they do?

According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, full professors at the UI made an average of $130,000 in 2012, ranking in the 66th percentile of the 1,251 doctoral institutions in the survey. Associate professors were paid an average of $86,400 and assistant professors made an average of $74,100 — both ranking just above the median at the 52nd and 53rd percentiles, respectively. Instructors at the UI seem to have it the worst. In 2012, they made an average of $40,300, ranking far below the median, in the 8th percentile.

When you calculate the number of hours full professors at the UI work per year and divide their average salary by this number, it comes out to be about $45 an hour. Compared with minimum wage, which is $7.25 an hour, what a professor makes may seem like a lot of money. However, in comparison with the average income of persons of other professions that require the same amount of education, such as doctors or dentists, what professors are making is relatively low.

The most recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that the average wage of physicians and surgeons in the United States is around $166,400 per year. That comes out to about $80 an hour, according to bureau’s statistics — roughly twice the amount that full professors make on average at the UI.

Dentists earn an average wage of $146,920, or $70 an hour.

Keep in mind that all three of these professions require doctoral or professional degrees.

Yet, there is a clear divide in the wages of professors and other professionals with equivalent levels of education and training. Why? Doctors may treat illnesses and save lives, but professors are dedicating their lives to train the doctors, dentists, and lawyers of the future.

Faculty members are equally as involved with the students as they are with their work in research.

The survey indicated that UI faculty members spend an average of 21.80 hours in student instruction — only around an hour less on average than they spend on scholarship.

It is time that we reconsider the level of importance placed on and the respect that we have for this particular profession.


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