Citing new economic analysis, the unions say U.Md. College Park is underpaying its staff

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A new report highlights a disproportionate increase in the salaries of top university administrators such as deans compared to the salaries of other employees, including teaching support staff and researchers.

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Over the past decade, some University of Maryland College Park employees have noticed a decline in the number of tenured faculty and more frontline workers struggling to meet the rising cost of living. A recent report detailing the university’s financial decisions appears to have confirmed their suspicions.

Between 2013 and 2022, there was a 7% decrease in the number of full professors and a 19% increase in those in contingent faculty positions, as well as an 11% increase in graduate teaching assistants, according to a report by Howard Bunsis, an accounting professor at Eastern Michigan University, released on Monday.

The 123-page report was contracted by the University of Maryland College Park Chapter of the American Association of University Teachers, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, Local 1072 and Fearless Student Employees, which represents graduate students and costs $6,000.

Nontenured faculty members make up nearly 70% of the university’s faculty, according to the university’s AAUP chapter.

The report also found a disproportionate increase in the salaries of top university administrators such as deans compared to the salaries of other employees, including teaching support staff and researchers. Between 2016 and 2020, university deans saw their salaries increase by 37% and senior administrators saw their salaries increase by 15%. According to the report, instructors saw their salaries increase by 12% while civil service workers saw their salaries drop by 3%.

For Holly Brewer, an associate professor in the history department at the University of Maryland College Park and president of the university’s AAUP chapter, the report demonstrated the university’s disinvestment in student education. Contingent faculty and graduate students are severely overburdened with teaching responsibilities and sometimes have two or three extra jobs to make ends meet, she said.

“What we’re seeing is that the University of Maryland is run more like a corporation and that’s not in line with the traditions of higher education, which is shared governance,” Karin Rosembatt, a professor at the University of Maryland College Park history department and vice president of the university’s AAUP chapter, said at a news conference Monday.

Between 2015 and 2019, the number of senior administration employees increased by 42% while classroom instruction support staff decreased by 5%, according to the report.

Although the university relies more on graduate teaching assistants, graduate students are also struggling to make ends meet, said Samuel DiBella, a first-year graduate student at the College of Information Studies on the College Park campus. Stipends can be as low as $21,000, according to Fearless Student Employees, a graduate student group that advocates for collective bargaining rights.

“Graduate [teaching assistants] are basically in a very precarious position – we are assigned semester by semester to different courses,” DiBella said. “We don’t have a contract; we have no guarantee that we will continue to receive funds.

DiBella also lamented compulsory tuition that consumes a portion of stipends. For this academic year, full-time graduate students paid $1,635 in compulsory fees while full-time undergraduate students had to pay $1,955.

A bill that would grant collective bargaining rights to graduate students at Morgan State University, St. Mary’s College of Maryland and the University of Maryland system did not make it out of committee this legislative session.

The report also showed that the University of Maryland College Park is doing well financially despite the COVID-19 pandemic, primarily due to state appropriations and grants. Tuition and tuition revenue fell about $20 million between 2019 and 2020, but the university also saw an increase of about $40 million in state appropriations, according to a report table.

“Any claim that College Park is in financial difficulty or needs to make drastic cuts is not supported by empirical evidence,” the report said. “College Park is doing very well financially. The only thing that should be cut is administration.

With a strong financial position, the university “should share this wealth among all employees,” said Todd Holden, president of AFSCME Local 1072. “This report helps confirm things that people on campus already know.”

Asked about the report’s findings, a University of Maryland College Park spokesperson said the university’s strategic plan invests in teaching and learning.

“Our budget priorities are aligned with our recently released strategic plan. In the plan, we declare our investments in teaching and learning, research, the arts, and most importantly, our people and our communities. It is a plan that puts people, impact, diversity and service to humanity first,” said Hafsa Siddiqi, spokesperson for the University of Maryland College Park, in a statement.

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