Letter to the editor

Jessie Hellmann

I’d like to congratulate President Linda Bennett on her $25,000 pay raise.  As a faculty member, I applaud the news because it indicates USI is emerging from a shadowy freeze.  This is good news for all USI employees.

USI has translated recent budget constraints by shifting to a contingent labor force, mirroring the 30% drop in full-time faculty employment nation-wide. As of 2009, USI employed 260 adjuncts while positions like President Bennett’s accounted for less than 80 slots.

Meanwhile, Presidential salaries rocketed at three times the rate for teaching faculty. Instructional compensation at USI pales next to the $275,000, $193,000, $168,000, and $151,000 the President, Provost, VP for Finance and Administration, and VP for Government and University Relations pay themselves.

Such remuneration reveals the University has departed from its founding values.  Education comes a distant second to administration, yet that’s not what USI professes. We have no problem asking adjuncts to field a 60% increase in student enrollment, yet we fail to appreciate that front-line work with a living wage.

As an adjunct working for about $16,000 per year and no benefits, I view Bennett’s good fortune as a bright harbinger for USI. As Provost Rochon once told me, “never say you’re just an adjunct” because he knows our crucial function.

I’m far from the pyramid’s pinnacle, so I am ready to welcome fair reimbursement.  Let’s begin with basic medical coverage. President Bennett is right: benefits don’t put food on the table, but they sure help from taking it off when I’m left to choose between a dentist and breakfast. Instead of holding student work at arm’s length, I’d like to get a pair of glasses to help me read it.  I’d like my wife, also an adjunct, to be able to visit a doctor for an overdue checkup.

Providing the dignity of job security and health coverage is the type of change that needs to occur in academia today, but it will only happen if our leaders demonstrate courage equal to their compensation.

So don’t chastise Bennett for her windfall.  See her increased valuation as a sign of a return to fairness and decency. I’ve spoken with the President at those shindigs where academic types rub elbows, and I can testify to her good character.  Instead of criticizing, encourage her to lead a change to ensure appreciation will be expressed for the rest of us.


Best Regards,

Lance Farrell

Adjunct Faculty
College of Liberal Arts
University of Southern Indiana
Evansville, Indiana  47712-3590