College News

Faculty assistants demand equal pay for equal work

Professor Chad Goldberg introduced and supported a Faculty Assistant pay proposal at a Faculty Senate meeting Monday afternoon.

Image By: Cameron Lane-Flehigner

For Alyssa Franze, a former student of UW-Madison, earning more degrees meant taking a pay cut post-graduation.

Franze earned two graduate degrees while working as a teaching assistant at UW-Madison. After graduating, she decided to stay on as a faculty assistant until her husband finished school.

However, Franze didn't realize she would be taking a pay cut when her student status and ability to be classified as a TA changed. Even with multiple advanced degrees and years of experience, she must keep a second job waiting tables in order to keep up with daily expenses.

FAs across the university have campaigned throughout the semester for “fair and equitable pay.” Although FAs teach the exact same classes, they are paid a lower rate than TAs.

“They shouldn’t be punished for moving laterally,” said FA Rene Lajack.

Teaching at 100 percent capacity, an experienced FA would earn $31,292 annually. But a senior TA working at only 75 percent capacity would make $36,133. An inexperienced FA earns even less, at $29,945 in a nine-month pay period.

Franze and her colleagues stressed that they don't think their TA counterparts should be paid less, they just want to be paid at a comparable rate for the comparable work that they do.

Earlier this year, the Teaching Assistant Association, Associated Students of Madison and the Academic Staff endorsed the resolution. Monday, the Faculty Senate approved it unanimously.

Before the meeting, Dean of Letters & Science Karl Scholz sent a memo in opposition the proposal that stated his department, the largest university employer of FAs, had “little to no use” for the position. Among other points, he pressed that TA compensation should be higher due to the different job markets they are hired from; FAs are hired from local labor and while TAs are chosen from among other graduate institutions.

He added that his department has taken steps to improve this, including “minor” raises to minimum pay standards and moving some FAs to the title of “lecturer” to fill a growing need for more instructors.

But supporters of the fair and equitable pay campaign say this is not enough. The raise to have FAs paid the same minimum rate as TAs would cost the university $150,000, or 0.026 percent of the instructional budget. Franze characterized this as a “drop in the bucket” for the university.

After the Academic Staff brought this issue to the university’s attention, they conducted a study and concluded that FAs are different from TAs and while there is a pay gap, it is smaller than at other Big Ten institutions, according to university spokesperson Meredith McGlone.

However, Franze said unless FAs are paid more, many will move on in search of a better job, costing the university experienced instructors.

“I like what I do, I like being in Madison and I like being able to teach here. But it's almost like we have to work in order to afford begin able to teach here,” said another anonymous FA. “The quality of teaching will go down and ultimately the students will be affected.”

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