Faculty and staff criticize salaries, say staffing is often inadequate

The results of a comprehensive survey of Emerson’s faculty and staff showcased their opinions on themes throughout the college, including notable dissatisfaction on questions about fair pay and adequate personnel. 

The survey found that librarians, counselors, and coordinators in particular believe they deserve higher pay: No librarians or counselors, and only 15 percent of coordinators, reported they were satisfied with their salaries.

Overall, 52 percent of the 721 faculty and staff members surveyed felt they were paid fairly for their work.

Karla Fribley, coordinator of instruction and a reference librarian, said that with Emerson being a relatively small institution, the college is unable to compete with salaries offered at larger schools.

“I definitely feel like part of what keeps me at Emerson is that I love what I do and I love the people I work with,” Fribley said. “Knowing that I could probably be getting paid more for doing the same work elsewhere is definitely a challenge.” 

David Kociemba, the president of the union for adjunct professors at Emerson, said that the recent nationwide rallies demanding a $15 minimum wage shows how similar the battle is for workers in different areas. 

“The Fight for $15 rally is an excellent example of how there’s very little difference in how the system works for people who are struggling to get by, whether it be with college loans and a lot of cultural prestige or Securitas,” Kociemba said.

Sylvia Spears, vice president for diversity and inclusion, said that the college is making an effort to help their faculty become financially stable, despite the employees’ opportunities to make more money at other schools.

“Boston is an expensive place to be, so we want to ensure that we can recruit and retain really talented faculty,” Spears said. “We don’t want to lose faculty to another institution because we can’t demonstrate in compensation what they want.”

Spears said that Emerson employees find rewards in ways beyond their salaries. 

“So many faculty, both full- and part-time who have been here for decades and are totally committed to the institution, suggested that there are other things they value that are keeping them here,” Spears said.

Fribley offered suggestions as to what could be done to improve the experience for librarians at the college, including providing more chances for learning outside of their regular paid work.

“They can start being really strong advocates for people’s professional development, or attending conferences, or providing opportunities for more training or advancement and learning,” Fribley said. “I feel like to some degree that does happen at Emerson, but it could always be improved.”

The survey also found that only 20 percent of adjunct faculty feel Emerson’s benefits meet their needs, whereas 63 percent of full-time professors felt their needs were satisfied. 

Forty-eight percent of adjunct faculty believed that their department has adequate staffing to reach their goals. Among full-time professors, just 30 percent responded positively to the same question.

Kociemba said that he hopes the survey results in a better learning environment for professors and students.

“I hope that [President M.] Lee Pelton and [Vice President for Academic Affairs] Michaele Whalen look at this crisis as an opportunity to do more than have a dialogue of dramatic action—to change how students look at Emerson, how faculty look at Emerson, and staff look at Emerson,” Kociemba said. 

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