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The costs of denying faculty raises

Miami University is not giving all its faculty the 2% raises it budgeted for. FAM believes this to be steps taken against the union, and wants the raises they say they were promised.
Miami University is not giving all its faculty the 2% raises it budgeted for. FAM believes this to be steps taken against the union, and wants the raises they say they were promised.

Miami University professors and librarians love what we do: helping students grow to their potential and exposing them to new knowledge and world-changing ideas. In the last few years, faculty and librarians at Miami have faced pressures that make it harder for us to do our jobs well: increased class sizes, extra service demands and stressful calls for reinventing, restructuring and closing down academic programs. 

Now, Miami has decided to exclude more than 800 recently-unionized faculty and librarians from raises that staff and temporary full-time faculty are receiving.

In May, President Gregory Crawford sent an email to faculty touting his recommendation for the Board of Trustees to approve a 2% raise for Miami employees. The board approved funds for this raise at their meeting in June, and it is already boosting the paychecks of University administrators, staff and some faculty. President Crawford’s email noted that faculty and librarians represented by FAM/AAUP-AFT (our new union) could only receive a raise through a signed collective bargaining agreement or, in the interim, a memorandum of understanding (MOU). 

Therefore, one of the first priorities of FAM/AAUP-AFT’s Bargaining Council this summer was to draft an MOU empowering the university to provide faculty and librarians with the same raises already budgeted for by the board and already enjoyed by other Miami employees. The union presented the MOU to the administration at the first bargaining session

On Sept. 26, through its outside lawyer, the administration flatly refused to discuss that MOU. So it’s a “no” on raises — a decision that renders the front-line employees of the institution significantly worse off than last year. In the context of inflation, our lack of raise is equivalent to a pay cut of nearly 4%.

We are disappointed, but not surprised. Excluding unionized employees from raises is a typical union-busting move during a first contract. It’s done to deter others from unionizing, and in the hope that uninformed faculty will incorrectly attribute blame to the union rather than Miami management.

But there is a larger concern. This decision harms Miami and its students. It makes the university less competitive with our peer schools by incentivizing faculty departures and negatively impacting Miami's reputation as a place where excellent faculty teach exceptional students. 

Competitive compensation and pay equity attract and motivate employees; what’s more, faculty and librarian working conditions are student learning conditions. Excellent faculty create challenging and engaging student experiences. A stagnant salary pool along with declining benefits discourages excellent staff from coming to and remaining at Miami. 

Consider by comparison Clemson University, which Miami lists as a peer institution in its federal filings. Clemson announced a 5% raise pool this upcoming year. How can Clemson be a peer when Miami refuses to extend a raise that is not even half as large? The University of Oregon, which Miami also lists as a peer, has a 3% raise pool this year. What’s more, interim raises during contract negotiations are common. Similar interim raises have recently been approved at Northern Illinois University, among other schools. And, as President Crawford’s email showed, he knows it can be done. 

Miami employs excellent faculty and librarians who continue to give their all, despite deteriorating working conditions. If our peers elsewhere and our fellow employees on campus deserve raises, surely we do, too. We have bills and mortgages to pay, children to care for, food to buy and other professional opportunities to consider. 

Down the road, the union wage premium will bear fruit, and our union can also work to negotiate retroactive raises. But faculty and librarians face increased living costs today. First contracts can take a year to negotiate. Meanwhile, the job market does not stand still, and faculty not compensated for their efforts at a time of rising costs are more likely to pursue opportunities at other institutions.

In today’s increasingly competitive higher education landscape, it is imperative to maintain Miami’s academic and pedagogic reputation. That reputation determines the value of a Miami degree, and it depends entirely on the excellence of our librarians, faculty and staff. Miami’s refusal to consider even an extremely modest interim cost-of-living or merit adjustment while productive contract negotiations are ongoing is a mistake. 

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We urge Miami to stand with peers and sustain institutional quality by extending to unionized faculty and librarians the cost-of-living and merit salary increases provided to other Miami employees. 

Julie Alexander, Assistant Teaching Professor, First-Year Integrated Core, Farmer School of Business

Phill Alexander, Assistant Professor, Emerging Technology and Business Design, College of Creative Arts

Lee Biggerstaff, ARMCO Alumni Professor & Associate Professor, Finance, Farmer School of Business

Ginny Boehme, Associate Librarian

Michelle Boone, Associate Professor, Biology, College of Arts & Science

Darrel Davis, Professor, Educational Psychology, College of Education, Health and Society 

Shashi Lalvani, Professor, Chemical, Paper & Biomedical Engineering, College of Engineering and Computing

Eric Luczaj, Associate Professor, Computer & Information Technology, College of Liberal Arts & Applied Science

Greg Niemesh, Associate Professor, Economics, Farmer School of Business

Cathy Wagner, Professor, English Department, College of Arts & Science

Maria Weese, Associate Professor, Information Systems and Analytics, Farmer School of Business

The Faculty Alliance of Miami, AAUP-AFT (FAM) is a union at Miami University comprised of two collective bargaining units — a librarian unit and a faculty unit consisting of tenured, tenure-track and TCPL faculty. FAM is currently bargaining its first contracts with the University with the goal of attaining due process and fair, equitable pay and benefits, protecting academic freedom and preserving Miami's academic mission. 

At The Student, we are committed to engaging with our audience and listening to feedback. This includes publishing a diverse array of guest editorials. For more information on guidelines and processes, email Devin Ankeney, The Student's opinion editor at