Friday, Tenured Radical featured a guest post by two faculty members of St. Mary’s College of Maryland who discuss a plan to ensure that all employees of the College are paid a living wage and that none of them are paid too much. It would work like this:
Under the St. Mary’s Wages plan, a benchmark salary for the lowest paid employees would be set at 130% of the poverty line for a family of four, currently $29,976. This would ensure that no family of four with one full-time wage earner would need to depend on SNAP (formerly called food stamps). Other salaries would be subject to minimum and maximum pay levels based on multiples of the benchmark salary. For example, the President’s salary would be free to adjust based on market forces anywhere between a minimum of 7.5 times the benchmark (currently $224,820) and a maximum of 10 times the benchmark ($299,760). Assistant Professors would start at no less than 2 times the benchmark ($59,952) and all faculty would be capped at 4 times the benchmark ($119,904).
As inflation raised the benchmark, those numbers would change so that even someone at the maximum salary would be eligible for cost-of-living raises. For faculty, other salary considerations (including merit pay, raises for 5 year reviews) would set pay levels in between the top and bottom caps. The staff union, which has signaled its support for our efforts, would retain the right to bargain on behalf of all union members.
The goal is to create cohesion across the campus community by aligning wages with the College mission. It is interesting, but perhaps not surprising, that more schools haven’t done this. Although St. Mary’s is a public school, it seems like these sorts of plans could work well for small private colleges. Tensions are certainly high at my own institution as administrators look to cut costs. Knowing that everybody’s salaries increase or decrease together might provide some relief.
As hard as it is to imagine these sorts of plans taking hold at colleges and universities in an age of academic false consciousness, there are entire countries where they are being considered. Switzerland, for example, will vote next month on whether to limit CEO salaries to 12 times those of their lowest-paid employees. If you can’t get a job in Switzerland, St. Mary’s College of Maryland may be worth checking out.