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Plugging Holes

Update on hiring.

Williams Stresses Tenure Track Hires

The economic downturn is forcing a conversation about priorities on even some of the most well-heeled of college campuses, as evidenced by the recent deliberations of the Committee on Appointments and Promotions at Williams College. The six-person committee, which is made up of high-level administrators and some elected faculty, recently reviewed faculty searches that had been authorized last spring before the economy took a dive.

Bill Wagner, dean of faculty at Williams and a member of the committee, says the group outlined a series of criteria required for moving ahead with searches. A premium was placed on filling vacancies that, if unfilled, would prevent students from progressing through majors. Beyond that concern, the committee focused on meeting a few long-term hiring goals, rather than simply plugging a lot of holes with temporary solutions.

“It would make more sense to give preference, therefore, to those [tenure track] positions, as opposed to trying to replace tenure track positions with visiting positions in the short term,” Wagner says. “We think that’s a shortsighted policy.”

The committee ultimately approved six of 14 previously authorized searches for tenure track faculty, and approved about one-third of the more than 20 proposed visiting professorship searches.

Tough to believe that Morty is taking the financial situation seriously when Williams is still hiring 7 (?) visiting professors. That is around $700,000 that should be saved from the 2009-2010 budget. Any class that might be taught by one of these visitors (and that is needed for major requirements or whatnot) should be taught by some other member of that department.

Consider:

The dean of Harvard’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences has called for an immediate freeze on staff hiring and strongly encouraged department heads to consider canceling faculty searches.

In an e-mail to department heads Monday, Michael Smith, dean of the largest Harvard faculty, outlined immediate steps in response to the worsening economic climate.

“Given our heavy reliance on endowment income, these losses will have a major and long-lasting impact – one that will require significant reductions in our annual expenses,” Smith wrote.

Williams is poorer than Harvard. The longer Morty waits to make significant budget cuts, the more painful the adjustment process will be. It is hard to think of an easier step then not hiring any visiting professors for 2009-2010. If Morty won’t cut that, what will he cut?

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#1 Comment By rory On November 26, 2008 @ 8:45 am

oh come on david…

harvard, your chosen comparison, has “encouraged” canceling faculty searches (yeah, we’ll see how much “encouraging” cancelation helps) while Williams has cut its searches for both tenure track and visiting professors by 2/3rds and williams is the school that isn’t reacting enough?

i’d laugh, but i think you’re being serious.

as CAP explains, the visiting professors are likely hires in departments with key shortages–say a small department’s one theory person is on sabbatical and theory is a required course for majors. sounds perfectly reasonable. Unless you’re claiming professors should not take their sabbaticals next year. is that your argument now?

The question I have is that even with a preference for tenure track, they cut tenure track and visiting hires by roughly the same percentages…doesn’t sound like much of a preference.

the other question i have is selfish: are there even going to be jobs when i’m on the market next year?!?!?

#2 Comment By David On November 26, 2008 @ 9:19 am

as CAP explains, the visiting professors are likely hires in departments with key shortages–say a small department’s one theory person is on sabbatical and theory is a required course for majors.

No. This is exactly the sort of easy-to-cut expense that should be top of the list. But specifics would be helpful. Please name a specific class at Williams that would fall under this scenario. Whatever example you name, I will be happy to insist that someone else in the department (someone not on sabbatical) would be qualified to teach it. I’ll even name that person. The whole notion that only a “theory person” can teach the theory class is ridiculous. Everyone takes a theory class in graduate school. And, for any required course in a major, there will be more than one professor with the necessary knowledge.

Now the same will not apply to other classes. There are many classes at Williams that, for all practical purposes, only one professor is qualified to teach. Alas, we will have to bracket those classes while those professors are on sabbatical. But not required-for-the-major course is like that since major requirements are so central to field X that almost everyone studies those topics when they get their Ph.D. in X.

There will be way fewer job openings in academia next year.

#3 Comment By Larry George On November 26, 2008 @ 9:21 am

I only have a couple of minutes and then I don’t know when I’ll be able to be able to be online again.

Another component of the cost-cutting program is requiring a 2% cut across operating budgets but this does not apply to either academic programs or payroll. http://record.williams.edu/record/articles/seek/2858/.

In addition, non-critical renovation and maintenance are under study for deferral or rethinking.

Williams has invited cost-cutting/savings suggestions, in anonymous form, to be submitted online at http://www.williams.edu/go/saving_tips/. That site requires a Williams log-in identity and can only be accessed by faculty, staff, and students. The Record article reports that the submissions are being reviewed in the first instance by a committee of: Stephanie Boyd, director of the Zilkha Center; John Gerry, associate dean of the Faculty; Sue Hogan, Controller; John Noble, director of Career Counseling; and Diana Prideaux-Brune, associate vice president for Facilities.

I find it short-sighted that Williams has not reached out to alumni and parents in seeking cost-cutting/savings ideas. After all, a lot of people with a deep interest in the College are struggling with similar issues in their communities and there may be much wisdom that can be shared. Now that the names of the committee have been released, I hope alumni, parents, Williamstown residents, and others will contact them with helpful ideas.

For another thread (could someone put it up?): Rory’s comment reminds me that there are recent Williams graduates in graduate school, hoping to enter careers in academia. In the 70s and early 80s, economic times were hard, the end of the Baby Boom was finishing college, and institutions were still heavily staffed up with the WWII and Korean War G.I. Bill/education boom legacies — a very grim hiring scenario for would-be professors. Were any readers caught in that hiring squeeze? Does anyone have any advice for Rory and his peers? Is there anything they can be doing now to make themselves more marketable next year or in the coming years? Should they be thinking now about a fallback strategy?

#4 Comment By Larry George On November 26, 2008 @ 9:36 am

No time for citations but cost-cutters I’ve noticed at other colleges and universities recently: furloughs (public unis), senior administration salary reductions of various sorts (presidents get the PR on this: one donates $100,000 of salary back to the school, one refuses raise, one takes voluntary percentage cut, etc.), looking at more facilities rentals to outsiders, looking for sponsors, asking professors voluntarily to teach more courses to cover holes so that there can be a hiring freeze (in the hope of saving the jobs of those who are currently on staff), cutting back hours of operation of services and when buildings are open, and consolidating uses (moving food service into fewer sites).

#5 Comment By Ronit On November 26, 2008 @ 9:42 am

In what universe, David, does the average visiting professor earn $100,000?

#6 Comment By David On November 26, 2008 @ 10:01 am

The universe you live in, Ronit. Recall our previous discussion of faculty compensation. Average total annual compensation at Williams is $135,500, so $100,000 is a reasonable estimate.

Of course, the exact figure will depend on how benefits are handled (Does Williams cover health care or is that handled by the professor’s home institution) and the seniority mix of the professors being hired. (A glance at the course catalog shows that vistors range from lecturers to full professors.) But, big picture, a marginal cost of $100,000 per visitor per year is fair.

#7 Comment By Rory On November 26, 2008 @ 10:06 am

so not only is the $100,000 figure coming, basically, out of thin air (for all you know, their only hiring low-level visiting professors to take advantage of the buyer’s market the economy has created for academics) but your claim is that anyone who has taken a theory course can teach theory.

trust me, I took a theory course. In fact, I technically took two. there’s no way my brief experience with theory in my first year = able to teach basic theory for sociology and anthropology. i’d do it if a department asked me to, but it’d be a piss-poor job compared to me teaching classes in sociological methods or race or inequality. that’s not smart hiring at all.

Not only that, but talk about making professors angry…lol

#8 Comment By David On November 26, 2008 @ 10:19 am

1) Got a better estimate than $100,000? Then provide it. I could believe a higher estimate, but have trouble coming up with a lower one. I would be shocked if Williams paid visitors significantly less than it pays regular faculty with the same seniority/status.

2) These discussions are a lot more helpful if they are specific. So, again, name a specific Williams course, required for the major. I will then provide the names of more than one faculty member perfectly qualified to teach that course. Problem solved! Now, those faculty members may not want to teach the course. They may prefer to teach some other course and hire a visitor to teach that course. But, if you want to cut the budget, you need to sacrifice somewhere.

#9 Comment By Rory On November 26, 2008 @ 10:34 am

David,

I know very little (same as you) about the real qualifications of the current faculty at Williams in specific small departments. My example, i believe, was illustrative enough of the logic I am using. Do you doubt the logic or its applicability?

It’s not within my knowledge base (or free time) to bother going through the coursebook to identify those courses then look at professors’ CVs and then match them (plus, how many professors have bought out classes or would use buyouts they were saving if they were assigned to a 100 level course?). And what of the other courses that would be lost if we did that? not within my capabilities.

You’re also somewhat misrepresenting what CAP did. By your estimate, they cut 1.3 million in visiting professor salaries ALONE. Add in the savings of another $1 million in tenure track savings, and I’d say it was perfectly reasonable to keep 700,000 in the budget for visiting professors for next year. you don’t have to scorch the earth to save money (though that would save on landscaping…)

#10 Comment By David On November 26, 2008 @ 10:46 am

1) Yes, it is precisely the “logic or its applicability” I am doubting because almost all required courses at Williams are such basic components are their fields that many/most faculty studied them at a serious level in graduate school. ECON, for example, requires micro and macro courses, but every econ Ph.D. needs to pass general exams in micro and macro and is, therefore, more than qualified to teach those subjects at the Williams level.

I am not asking you to go through CVs. Just give an example of a course, any course. Just one course. There are no such courses in all the departments that I know best (ECON, PSCI, MATH/STAT).

2) There is no doubt that refusing to hire visitors to teach course X means that a current faculty member will need to teach X and, therefore, not teach Y. We all agree that budget cuts lead to, well, cuts.

3) I am not denying that CAP has done some cutting. But I don’t think that it has done nearly enough. Unless the markets bounce back dramatically, Williams is in a world of hurt. That’s the fundamental economic reality that too many people are refusing to grapple with. Cuts need to be made because the budgets for the next two years should, at a minimum, be flat with 07-08 and some costs (like health care) will go up no matter (almost) what the College does.

#11 Comment By Rory On November 26, 2008 @ 11:38 am

required for an anthropology and sociology major:
Both majors: ANSO 305 Social Theory

I would not feel remotely comfortable leading that class. I am done taking graduate coursework in sociology. I had two sociology theory courses while here as part of my requirement.

while i might be able to muddle through it, especially if someone gave me a syllabus to use, it’d be a really, really crappy class. especially with upper level majors in the class and especially if even one of them dared ask a question about any theory not by durkheim, weber, marx, goffman or du bois (and yes, there’s been a lot of that theory).

happy now?

#12 Comment By Nathan Sanders On November 26, 2008 @ 11:45 am

I can add to Rory’s list:

LING 210: Articulatory and Acoustic Phonetics
LING 220: The Syntactic Structure of English
LING 310: Phonology
LING 340: Historical Linguistics

#13 Comment By Nathan Sanders On November 26, 2008 @ 11:46 am

And yes, there are (contract) majors in linguistics.

#14 Comment By David On November 26, 2008 @ 11:46 am

Very! You have illustrated my point. Again, the issue is not: Would random new Ph.D. be comfortable teaching ANSO 305? The issue is: Is there more than one faculty member atb Williams who would feel comfortable teaching ANSO 305 (or whatever required-for-major-course the College is considering hiring a visiting professor for)?

In the case of ANSO 305, we know that at least Professors Brown, Nolan and Foias are comfortable teaching it since all have done so in the past. So, there is obviously no need for the College to hire a visitor even if one of them is on sabbatical.

The same analysis will apply to any other required-for-the-major course at Williams you care to name.

During a bull market, visiting professors do little harm. But, when costs need to be cut, Williams should start with them, as Morty recognizes. My concern is that he is not cutting deeply enough.

#15 Comment By ’10 cs major On November 26, 2008 @ 11:55 am

CSCI 256: Algorithms, with Brent Heeringa (who’s going on sabbatical next year, by the way). Computer Science is a small department and Algorithms is a major requirement. There are other professors who could conceivably teach the class if they absolutely had to, but none who would really be qualified to do so. CS is a diverse enough field that specializations vary wildly; most of the profs probably took an undergrad algorithms class, maybe another one in grad school, but haven’t otherwise spent significant time with the subject and certainly are not up to speed on the current literature (and the field has changed significantly even over the course of the past ten or twenty years).

Are you seriously suggesting that Williams sacrifice a core element of its academic mission – having classes taught by people who are experts, or at least reasonably knowledgeable, in their fields – to save $700,000? I don’t think we’re quite that desperate yet, and if we are, I can think of a lot of other things that should have been cut first.

#16 Comment By David On November 26, 2008 @ 11:57 am

Crossposted. Comment 14 is directed at Rory.

Thanks to Professor Sanders for his comments. He makes a fair point. But the cases of courses offered outside of the Department structure are hard. Comment:

1) I could imagine that there are 1 or 2 cases like Linguistics. Fine. Hire one or two visitors. There are not 7 such cases.

2) Although I am pleased that Williams offers linguistic courses (and I have heard many wonderful things about Professor Sanders), the College needs to draw the line somewhere at how many different majors it can support, how many faculty it needs to support them and how much freedom those faculty have in taking sabbaticals.

If it were me, I would say: Don’t plan on any more visiting faculty for the next five years. If that means that Williams can’t offer a contract major in linguistics, then so be it. But, I bet that Williams still could/would, that Professor Sanders would work with those (very few) students to figure something out. But that something can’t involve visiting professors.

#17 Comment By Rory On November 26, 2008 @ 12:09 pm

jeez david, i already explained in elaborate detail that i was not going to spend the time to come up with examples that fit your more specific metric because I’m more than 5 years removed from williams. People at williams more recently or currently there have already come up with examples (thanks to Professor Sanders and cs major). So there. of course, you’ll find your way to bully your way out of the examples, probably, because this was really just an excuse to complain about visiting professors.

but what really, REALLY irritates me is the constantly moving goal. I said I wouldn’t play the coursebook game. I have models running in the background…I don’t have time for that. I SAID THAT. So you changed the goal to a key course that graduate studies do not prepare all ph.d students to teach. I countered that with my own example and you changed the goal back to the coursebook game. too bad cs major squashed that ploy.

(btw, I’d argue “required for major” does not equal a key course. Things like “sociology of inequality” or “sociology of race” are pretty key to a thriving sociology department. Williams has only one or two profs in those areas b/c it leans anthropological/theoretical in its department)

#18 Comment By Rory On November 26, 2008 @ 12:10 pm

btw, in just under 3 hours, 2 examples have been found, david. you sure it couldn’t be 7…there are a lot of small departments at williams.

#19 Comment By Arjun On November 26, 2008 @ 12:35 pm

Here’s an example: CS has only one professor that could reasonably teach AI or AI related courses (Maybe others can, but would then not be able to teach their specialities). When Prof. Danyluk goes on sabbatical, AI courses suffer. (And AI-related theses)
Yes, AI is not a core requirement, but it sucks for those who want to do it. (And within the realm of CS, being locked out of AI is kind of a big deal). This spring Prof. Danyluk is on sabbatical, but luckily still advising really desperate thesis students.

There are ~50 majors and concentrations in the course catalog. Extrapolating, it is completely reasonable to see 7 spots in which a key professor is gone on sabbatical or whatever, and the best option is to bring in a visiting professor.

Besides, there are plenty of other benefits to bringing in visiting professors. Such as intellectual diversity, the chance to bring in a “big name” even if only for a year, or whatever it is.

#20 Comment By Robyn On November 26, 2008 @ 1:07 pm

There is no way, on God’s green earth, that a typical visiting professor makes $100,000 per year. Visitors are, for the most part, ABDs and recently-minted PhDs bouncing from gig to gig before landing that coveted TT position. Perhaps you are talking about some endowed visiting position, but a typical visitor has a bigger course-load than TT faculty and makes less money. And the salary for TT faculty (outside the sciences and economics) is nowhere near $100,000.

I am a regular reader of this blog and generally amazed by how much misinformation I see reported as fact, but this bit of inaccuracy is especially egregious.

#21 Comment By Anonymous Eph On November 26, 2008 @ 1:14 pm

You are actually missing a huge problem. There certainly may be one or maybe two other profs in a department capable of teaching some of the core courses. But what about the other courses they teach that may or may not be covered by other professors? It isn’t a straight substitution. We don’t have a bunch of profs sitting around not doing anything. They already carry a full classload and have to research/write/participate in other campus duties, so plugging in another tenured or tenure-track faculty member means either cutting other courses (some of which may be core/major requirements) or paying them more. Option 1 cuts into the core mission of the College (ya know, education), and Option 2 costs money rather than saving it (and pisses off professors).

#22 Comment By Sam On November 26, 2008 @ 1:35 pm

Here’s another aspect: how many of those visiting professorships are tied into dedicated endowments that cannot be spent on anything else? Perhaps you should figure that one out, David, before you make sweeping statements that have very little to do with how the College actually works.

#23 Comment By Ronit On November 26, 2008 @ 1:53 pm

David – I’m going to take the testimony of (so far) three current professors as being fairly authoritative proof that you are way off base here.

#24 Comment By eph ’07 On November 26, 2008 @ 7:08 pm

I was under the impression, from talking with someone who has had several visiting contracts while looking for tenure-track positions, that young visiting professors make more like $35,000 a year. Now, that’s an impression rather than an exact figure of a Williams salary, and I’d bet that professors who are visiting because they are retired after distinguished careers make more, but I would be really surprised if it were off by a factor of 3.

Also, required courses for Anthropology & Sociology may not be good examples because there are four required courses, and they are rotated within the department on a regular basis. This may not be the case within all departments, we shouldn’t assume.

#25 Comment By Derek On November 26, 2008 @ 7:49 pm

David —
1) You lost that average salary discussion a while back. mostly by virtue of your own misrepresentations of the data.

2) We established that the average junior faculty member at Williams earns $70,000. You keep pimping this $100,000 figure despite the myriad ways in which it has been shown to be nonsense. Visiting professors earn less than junior faculty. Significantly less in almost all cases, unless a big name has been recruited specifically for a visiting appointment for reasons other than filling seats. None of these hires would fill that catagory. These would be one-year positions of people who will be nowhere near the rank of assistant professors. I find it amazing how someone who knows so little about academic hiring spouts off so authoritatively.

dcat

#26 Comment By anon On November 26, 2008 @ 10:10 pm

There are language and literature departments (which tend to be quite small) in which, because of leave patterns, it would be impossible to teach the basic language requirements without visiting professors, to say nothing of the literature courses.

The 100K figure for visiting professors is absurd. Try a little more than half that (at least for assistant-prof level in the humanities, and they typically teach 5 courses a year, not four).

#27 Comment By Route 7N On November 27, 2008 @ 1:51 pm

I may not agree with David on this or other posts, but his $100k is not so far off.

The starting salary at Williams for assistant profs with no experience is about $60k. Economists and Computer Scientists often start at at least 10% higher; in some cases economists have been offered more than $80K.

Benefits at a place like Wiliams run 30-30% of salary, and so we are now talking $80k. Add in faculty development costs (even visitors receive travel funds for at least 1 conference), research assistants, and the direct cost for a full time visiting asst prof is close to $85k.

Factor in indirect costs (office space, administrative assistance support, plus other things) and we are getting close to David’s number. If these visitors have experience, the beginning salary is even higher. This would be for those teaching a full course load, of course, but his numbers are not that overstated.

#28 Comment By David On November 28, 2008 @ 8:29 am

There is much to discuss here, but a fuller treatment will need to wait to next week. Minor points:

1) Professor Crane writes:

Here’s another aspect: how many of those visiting professorships are tied into dedicated endowments that cannot be spent on anything else? Perhaps you should figure that one out, David, before you make sweeping statements that have very little to do with how the College actually works.

Help me “figure that one out,” Sam. What am I missing? is there a place on the Williams website that explains how visiting professorship works? Is there someone in Hopkins Hall I can call to understand this better? And note that we have thousands of readers who, like me, would like to “figure” this out. How about a little help from, say, you?

Let me start with a simple question (inspired by Route 7N above): Are visiting professors who teach a full load compensated similarly to Williams professors of a similar rank?

I assume that the answer to this is Yes. Visiting lecturers are paid similarly to lecturers Williams. Visiting full professors are paid similarly to Williams full professors. True or false? Help us “figure that one out.”

2) Derek writes:

You lost that average salary discussion a while back. mostly by virtue of your own misrepresentations of the data.

I will let historians look at this and make their own judgments about who lost and who won.

We established that the average junior faculty member at Williams earns $70,000.

You are entitled to your own opinion but not your own facts. Go to page 52 of this big pdf), the average total compensation of all Williams assistant professors was $96,600 in 2007 — 2008. And, if you consider associate professors to be “junior,” the overall average goes up since associate professors average $118,300.

Now, part of the problem here may be that Derek is focusing on cash compensation to the professor. Unfortunately, that is not the whole picture when you are looking at total spending from the Williams budget. When Williams pays for healthcare (or travel funds or 403b matching or research assistants or . . .) that is still money out the door. If Williams does not hire Professor X, then none of those costs need to be paid. We save much closer to (at least!) $100,000 than to the $73,100 in salary cash compensation that the average assistant professor earns.

Anon writes:

The 100K figure for visiting professors is absurd. Try a little more than half that (at least for assistant-prof level in the humanities, and they typically teach 5 courses a year, not four).

If the visitors were only at the assistant-prof level or only taught in the humanities, than this might be relevant. But, guess what! Some visitors are above the assistant level and some even teach outside the humanities. Shocking but true! We need to look at the average visitor. Unfortunately, we don’t have good data on that. But it is obvious that there are visitors in all three Divisions and at all levels of professorial seniority. We have visiting lecturers and visiting full professors.

And, isn’t the most obvious guess that the staffing patterns of visitors will approximate the overall staffing of the college, at least in terms of Divisional distribution? Don’t the physicists and economists get as many sabbaticals as the English professors?

Again, I am ready to be educated about this, ready to learn that almost all visitors are not full professors, that most get paid much less than their Williams peers (even if they teach a full course load), that Williams does not even cover their health care, fobbing that cost off on their home institutions.

Yet a default assumption that visitors, as a group, look like Williams professors as a group (in terms of field and seniority) and are paid accordingly, seems reasonable. And, if you did that, you might guess something like $135,500 (average total compensation for across Williams) for the average visitor (and that ignores travel funds, research assistants, search costs and so on). But, I wanted to be conservative, so I went with $100,000.

Do my critics really think it is much lower than that? If so, what number would they propose?

#29 Comment By Route 7N On November 28, 2008 @ 9:56 am

David: at places like Williams, assistant professors (and instructors) are almost always non-tenured faculty. Associate and Full professors are. There may a rare situation at LACs where an associate professor is non-tenured, but rarely.

As for comparative compensations for “visiting” full-time versus tenure-track full-timers: colleges handle this differently. Many compensate (salary and benefits) both equally (taking into account similar prior teaching experience), but some, and Williams may be one that does this, give lower salaries to the visitors. However, even then, the difference would not be more than 10% (on an average $60k entry level position). Also: aside from computer science and economics, I would wager there is little difference at Williams between an entry-level humanities asst professor and others (again, except for the few disciplines where a premium has been in practice for years — but the number of those are few).

Perhaps a Williams person involved in hiring can weigh in.

#30 Comment By Derek On November 29, 2008 @ 1:45 am

David —
Why do you keep relying on this deeply dishonest interpretation of what a person makes? No one on earth anywhere considers “total compensation” to be someone’s income. A person’s salary is what we are talking about. What everyone is talking about. Yes, the point is taken that the compensation might go against the Williams ledger — if that’s what you mean, say it. But a junior professor at Williams makes, on average (and we’ve told you time and again how stupid a measurement average is in this case) $70,000. That is what they make. That is the fact, and a visiting assistant professor will make far, far less than that. A visiting assistant professor will make significantly less than what a first year tenurable assistant professor makes. And we can extrapolate from the $70,000 average salary of an assistant professor at Williams, which includes people in their last years before going up for tenure, that a first-year assistant professor makes a lot closer to $50,000 than $70,000.

Visiting assistant professors are not paid what assisatnt professors are. Theys simply are not. This is so well known in academia that the fact that we are arguing about it with someone who bases arguments on a profound ignorance of this world is galling. Let’s give but one example: Dave writes: “And, if you consider associate professors to be “junior,” the overall average goes up since associate professors average $118,300.” Well, if you consider assistant professors with tenure to be “junior” except in the most absolutely rare of instances, you really have no idea what you are talking about.

But you also keep trying to insist that if Williams hires visiting faculty, they will have fairly equal coverage across ranks. I just went through every department at the college and counted the visiting professors by rank. It was not always 100% clear, but I went with those that were clear, and even gave the full professors one that was listed as emeritus, and here is what I got, across all divisions and all majors:

14 Visiting Assistants
1 Visiting Associate
8 Visiting Full, including the emeritus visiting professor.

This is all to say that Visiting assistant professors nearly double down on full visiting professors. Is this the sort of clear evidence about which you were prepared to be educated?

For once, Dave, why won’t you accept that people within academia understand a whole lot about academia better than you do? The next thing I know you’ll be lecturing me about the civil rights movement or apartheid.

This is such an inane fight to have, but if we let Dave run roughshod there will be those who leave the discussion with an utterly warped perspective on what academia is. All I ask is for those readers sitting on the fence to consider what every single academic here has written versus what Dave has conjured up in his own head. His logic is that visiting lecturers earn a comparable amount to lecturers at Williams, apparently blithely unaware of where lecturers rank vis a vis tenurable faculty, and thus that visiting professors at rank must earn comparable wages (and total compensation) to their tenurable/tenured cohort. Really it boggles the imagination.

Dave always knows more than I do about life in faculty in higher education. And he always knows more than Sam Crane about those same issues at Williams. Dave’s own self-regard has really raised onanism to an art form.

dcat

#31 Comment By David On November 29, 2008 @ 8:16 am

Derek writes

Why do you keep relying on this deeply dishonest interpretation of what a person makes? No one on earth anywhere considers “total compensation” to be someone’s income.

Because the issue before the blog is: How much money would Williams save if visiting professor X is not hired? In that context, the dollar that Williams saves by not buying health insurance for that professor (or not hiring her a research assistant or not paying for her travel) is just as valuable, to Williams as a dollar saved by not paying her a salary.

In other contexts, you may be write that we should make a major distinction between salary costs and other costs. But in this specific context, cutting the Williams budget, the relevant costs are all the dollars that Williams spends on professor X.

But thanks for gathering the data on professor type! This is very useful. Honest question: Do you think that we are safe in assuming that the 7 out of the normal 20 that Williams is still planning to hire are drawn equally from these categories? Or is there some reason to believe that the 7 are more likely to be senior or junior? I honestly don’t know. I would guess that it depends on the correlation that the needs of the College (some visitors are crucial and some are just nice to have) and the ranks of those professors.

My default assumption would be no correlation and that, therefore, the seven include, say, 4-5 junior professors and 2-3 senior, thereby maintaining the 2-1 ration. Is that fair?

#32 Comment By rory On November 29, 2008 @ 9:59 am

my guess would be that if any professors are covered by specific endowments (including the one I know is covered by endowments and is traditionally a senior faculty), it would the be 2-3 senior ones.

couple in a 10% discount and assume the visiting professors at the assistant level are relatively inexperience (reasonable) and take out sunk costs that mean nothing (office space) to this budgetary exercise in absurd hypotheticals and we’ve got maybe 5 assistant (that’s what junior means, like derek said) visiting professors costing MAYBE 80k total to the school in recoverable costs for a total saving of….400k at the cost of losing 20 courses from the williams curriculum for a year.

that doesn’t sound like a good bargain at all in the slightest.

And, of course, we could discover that its 4 professors covered by endowments and it’d be an even smaller savings!

#33 Comment By anon On November 29, 2008 @ 10:51 am

dcat: I teach at a (top-tier) liberal arts college and we pay the exact same salary and benefits for a visiting professor as a tenure-track faculty colleague. If both teach a full load, they get the same exact salary. They get the same $$ for travel and research. I don’t know where you teach, but the starting salary at our institution, which is not as wealthy as Williams, was $60,500, which means both visitors and tenure-track folks got that. If someone had experience, they would get more.

As for Rory’s comment: most endowed professorships are written such that if a position is not filled during a year, the payout from the endowment could be used to cover other faculty salaries. Not all endowed professors are so highly restricted.

#34 Comment By David On November 29, 2008 @ 11:10 am

we could discover that its 4 professors covered by endowments and it’d be an even smaller savings!

So far, we have no evidence that any of these professors are “covered” by endowments. Again, perhaps Sam Crane could do educate us all on this point. As far as I know, there are zero such positions. Note, as we discussed in this thread, the W. Ford Schumann ’50 Professorship in Democratic Studies may be such an example, but it is not clear that the College has to spend that money on a visiting professor, as opposed to using the money for events like the Congressional Black Caucus (and then discretionary money that normally goes to events can be saved). Again, Sam Crane actually knows the answer to this one. Perhaps he will educate us.

And don’t forget that whatever specific endowment might have been dedicated to visiting professorships is now 1/3 less than it was 6 months ago.

If anyone has even a hint about another visiting professorship that is funded by a dedicated endowment (which can’t be spent on anything else), speak up.

And that fact that this article (and associated Record coverage) does not even mention such a constraint is relevant as well.

Again, the primary question, for now, is not: Of all the cuts that Williams could make, is this the best one? The question is: How much money would cutting all visiting professorships save Williams? Once we know that cost, we can compare it to the benefits associated with the courses those professors would teach.

#35 Comment By David On November 29, 2008 @ 11:23 am

Derek insists that:

Visiting assistant professors are not paid what assisatnt professors are. Theys simply are not. This is so well known in academia that the fact that we are arguing about it with someone who bases arguments on a profound ignorance of this world is galling.

It would help if you could keep track of what we are arguing about. I am making no claims about academia in general. I do not care about the ratio of visiting-to-permanent compensation at other schools. I only care about Williams.

So, what is the ratio at Williams? I don’t know! But I would be surprised if Williams paid visitors with similar experience much less than it paid permanent faculty. I would be shocked if Williams gave them, say, less quality health care. So, if the total compensation to an assistant professor at Williams is $96,600, then I am ready to believe that Williams might only pay visitors 80% of the salary. Is that a fair estimate? But I bet that Williams spends just as much on health care. Would anyone disagree? I also bet that retirement contributions are the same 80% (?) of full-timers.

So, that would get us to about $85,000? Is that fair? Again, specific numbers from other participants would be helpful. Assume that we have 4.5 assistants and 2.5 senior. If the assistants are at $85,000 total costs (again, not just salary by everything) and the senior are at $125,000 (similar haircut from the much higher full professor compensation), we would have a total cost (to Williams) of :

4.5 * 85,000 = 382,500
2.5 * 125,000 = 312,500

Total = $695,000

I apologize for being $5,000 over in my initial estimate.

If anyone thinks this is significantly off, then please provide a better estimate, showing your work.

#36 Comment By Sam On November 29, 2008 @ 11:31 am

I will not attempt to “educate” you David, because you are uneducable. As is your usual pattern, you have already drawn your conclusions (cut the visiting professors!) and made your denunciations, and now, post hoc, you scramble to assemble some collection of facts that might fit your predetermined opinion. I do not know how all visiting professors are budgeted. I have some experience, as a former department chair, enough to make me realize that there can be a variety of budgetary arrangements for such things. I know there is much that I do not know, and therefore I do not automatically assume that certain ideas (cut the visiting professors!) are as clear cut as they might appear. But you are impervious to your own ignorance. You know very little of how this institution works but still you seem to think that you can tell us how we should run the place. It is really rather breath-taking at times. We are laughing at you, David, not with you. Perhaps you should learn to learn before you attack.

#37 Comment By rory On November 29, 2008 @ 11:59 am

anon–it still leaves us with the loss of courses for the same savings, even if that money in the endowment can be spent on a regular faculty member

no matter the math, david’s argument boils down to either:
20 fewer courses for a savings of 400k
or
28 fewer courses for a savings of 700k

This, of course, does not seem all that smart to me when williams has already acknowledged that it cut 20ish professor slots already (the piece that David conveniently sees as not worthy of acknowledging as a significant budgetary cut even though, by his calculations, it’s at least 2 million in savings) while his comparison school (harvard) simply “encouraged” stopping faculty hires.

I’ll take cutting 2/3 of hires over “encouraging” cuts any day of the week. I’ll take a savings of 2 million any day of the week. I’d say Williams did a lot of cutting here and David came from left field with no specific information and bashed those cuts because he thinks–knowing NONE of the specifics, again–that they could have/should have done more.

btw, david, that a record article and an inside higher ed article do not go into the specifics of the williams budgetary process is in no way significant or telling re: the williams bugetary process. that had to be one of the worst arguments you’ve put forward in a long list of bad arguments.

#38 Comment By Derek On November 29, 2008 @ 3:56 pm

David —
You raise a good question when you ask whether Williams would add visiting faculty at the same basic rate as they currently exist — that’s an unknowable question I would imagine. Visiting full professors and visiting assistant professors fill very different needs. Visiting assistants are labor, plain and simple. Visiting full professors are another category entirely, and are far more prestige-driven.
As for anon’s assertions about the labor pool at a liberal arts college, I’d need more information. In my early years on the job market I was interviewed for and offered some visiting gigs, and at every one, elite or not, it was made clear that visiting professors made less than tenure track faculty. I cannot imagine a situation in which the faculty would not raise a stink over visiting profs earning the same as tenurable faculty. I also cannot imagine a situation in which visiting assistants, who have no leverage on the job market, are paid the same as those capable of being offered a tenure-track job at Williams. You must teach at a rather different place. I also have a hard time believing that categorically first-year faculty at your school earn $60,500, period, irrespective of discipline, and so forth. To be frank, your anecdote is just a little bit too neat for me to believe you entirely. If at your school first-year history professors earn $60,500 and your first-year physics professors earn $60,500, I can say something about your “top-tier” liberal arts college: You have very good and happy history professors and a mediocre, unhappy physics department, and you have a first-year salary structure unlike any I have ever seen.

dcat

#39 Comment By Derek On November 29, 2008 @ 4:26 pm

One other thing — Dave, you made a pretty ardent point about chastising me and pointing out that you do not care what goes on in the rest of academia, only at Williams. But you have no idea what actually happens at Williams, whereas those of us in academia know what the larger trends are and can reasonably assume that Williams fits within those trends. In other words, we are extrapolating from evidence and facts that we know, and you are drawing suppositions from a thin-to-nonexistent evidentiary framework. Even those of us who teach in the hinterlands know a hell of a lot more about the trends of academia than you do, and it is not as if our existences are hermetically sealed. We have all interviewed at lots of places, and know the trends from friends, and read about higher education, and know what goes on in our disciplines. We all know what it means to be visiting faculty at the assistant level versus being tenured and tenurable. And so while the larger world of academia does not interest you, for the rest of us, Williams does not exist in a vacuum. Because someone who gets a tenure-track job where I teach, the sort of place you would raise your nose at, and who gets offered a one-year visiting post at Williams is likely to take the tenure-track job in most fields. This much I know. The same week that I was offered my first tenure-track job I was also offered a one-year job, equivalent to a visiting assistant professorship, at one of the two Oxbridge universities. Granted, I had just accepted the TT job, so that complicated matters, but my advisor and other mentors were pretty much universal in directing me to take the TT job, which is the advice I would give almost everyone in that boat as well, at least in History, Poli-Sci, or an MLA field. This may be an anecdote, but at least it is that much, and thus provides a whole hell of a lot more substance than your attempt to pretend that Williams has nothing to do with trends in higher education.

dcat

#40 Comment By anon On November 29, 2008 @ 6:47 pm

dcat: here is the real data for entry level asst profs (with Ph.Ds in hand, no experience teaching, right from deans at the noted schools for 2008-09. I got these at a report on competitive salaries in our peer group. I misreported my school’s starting salary (not including economists and comp scientists — it was 64,000). The schools included in the report are:

Mt. Holyoke
Swarthmore
Barnard
Bowdoin
Hamilton
Bucknell
Vassar
F&M
Smith
Middlebury
Colby
Lafayette
Union

Williams didn’t report by the time these were sent out.

Here are the salaries, not in corresponding order, since one is not supposed to share these and the faculty at the meeting got them scrambled, too:

66,000
65,000
64,400
64,000
64,000
64,000
63,000
63,400
63,000
62,500
62,000
60,000
57,000

The info report included, as I mentioned earlier, that these data excluded the only two disciplines that get premiums — Comp Sci and Economics. Scientists at LACs do not get premiums, usually, but they do get start-up funds, which can run in excess of $100k for labs, research, etc. But salaries are not typically different beyond econ and comp sci. Visitors do not get start-up packages as large as $100k, but do get some support.

As for what the faculty would or not stand for (same salaries): my regular fac colleagues support the “same salary for same work.” Don’t know where you were offered jobs, or when, and maybe Williams offers vastly different salaries to visitors, but our college does not. As for how good or bad we are as a result, for the purposes only of saying we are not a fly-by-night institution, US News (though I don’t subscribe to that ranking scheme) put this College in the top 5 of LACs. Again, our physicists may be very unhappy and historians overly happy (though I do not see that), but that is the policy and these were the starting salaries at those schools listed. With Williams’ endowment, quality, and prestige, I would wager starting salaries were even higher.

I don’t necessarily agree with David, by the way, on what he is doing on this string. Just wanted to provide data because his numbers are not all that off.

#41 Comment By David On November 29, 2008 @ 10:43 pm

Derek writes:

In other words, we are extrapolating from evidence and facts that we know

Agreed! One of the reasons that I value your contributions to threads like this is precisely because your academic experience adds to the quality of the information.

and you are drawing suppositions from a thin-to-nonexistent evidentiary framework.

Well, maybe. But, having actual been a visiting lecturer at an elite school, I would not consider my experience “non-existent.” But enough about me! Our anonymous contributor has provided all the detail we need. Do you think he is lying? Do you think he is just making things up?

I began this discussion thinking that Williams probably paid its visiting faculty more-or-less the same as its permanent faculty with the same experience. An assistant professor with three years experience gets paid the same whether he is a visitor or tenure track. Your testimony forced me to modify that a bit, to go with something like 80%. Now, with all the detail from anonymous, and thinking about things some more, I am back to thinking that the salaries (and health care and travel funds and . . .) are the same. Do you disagree?

As always, your experience is valuable to the discussion, but in this specific case, it seems like it is less so. Elite liberal arts colleges pay their visitors the same as their permanent faculty. Given this, I revise my estimate as follows:

4.5 * $96,600 = $434,700
2.5 * $163,500 = $408,750

Total = $843,450

Again, my initial estimate of $700,000 was meant to be conservative. Also, it does not include items like research support and travel funds.

Now, one can quibble with this estimate. Perhaps Williams is only hiring junior visitors for those seven spots. Perhaps the junior visitors are typically fresh Ph.D.’s and, therefore, paid at the low end of the junior faculty range. Perhaps Williams does not pay for health care for visitors. (I really doubt that.) Perhaps Williams does not provide retirement matching.

But, however you slice it, $700,000 is, if anything conservative.

Sam Crane huffs and puffs:

I will not attempt to “educate” you David, because you are uneducable. As is your usual pattern, you have already drawn your conclusions (cut the visiting professors!) and made your denunciations, and now, post hoc, you scramble to assemble some collection of facts that might fit your predetermined opinion.

The only “fact” that I reported was the estimated cost saving of not hiring those 7 visitors. And, after 40 posts, my estimate looks pretty darn good. Does Rory think that our anonymous commentator is lying about what goes on among elite LACs? And, if the number isn’t $700,000, what is it?

I do not know how all visiting professors are budgeted. I have some experience, as a former department chair, enough to make me realize that there can be a variety of budgetary arrangements for such things

Well, that’s a sad little bit of handwaving. No one expects you, or anyone else outside of the Administration, to know how all visiting professors are budgeted. But that’s not the issue. Question 1 to you, as a former department chair, is:

Does Williams pay a visiting assistant professor with X-years experience teaching a full course load (2-2) about the same as it pays a Williams assistant professor with X-years experience?

I bet that the answer to this is “Yes.” Does anyone really believe that Williams is all that different from anon’s top 5 LAC?

Even worse, I bet that Professor Sam Crane knows that the answer to this is “Yes.” Why won’t he bother to educate the hundreds of EphBlog readers (like Derek) who are confused about this point?

#42 Comment By Sam On November 29, 2008 @ 10:59 pm

Why do you think there can only be a “yes” or a “no” answer to that question? And, as has already been mentioned, visiting assistant professor do not teach 2-2

#43 Comment By David On November 29, 2008 @ 11:18 pm

Sam asks:

Why do you think there can only be a “yes” or a “no” answer to that question?

Because Williams is a serious institution with actual, you know, policies about things like pay. It’s not like each Department chair negotiate a deal de nouveau with each visitor (although I assume that there is room for some give-and-take around the edges).

Again, Sam, why not just tell us what you know? I bet that your experience is fairly consistent — “same salary for same work” — with anon’s above.

And, as has already been mentioned, visiting assistant professor do not teach 2-2

I did not know that! You see, the education has started already. What do they teach?

As a side note, and to prove that I am looking for the truth, I will note < href="http://wiki.williams.edu/display/handbooks/Visiting+Faculty+Benefits">this entry from the faculty handbook.

Employee Benefits for Visiting Faculty

All visiting faculty members are covered by Social Security, workers’ compensation, and unemployment insurance, as required by law. They are covered by the College’s general liability policy. Visiting faculty are also entitled during their period of employment to library privileges, use of athletic facilities, tickets to games and various other events on campus.

For holders of appointments designated as “Visiting” and for those with another primary institutional affiliation, there is no eligibility for employee benefits other than the ones described above, unless other arrangements have been negotiated with the Dean of the Faculty and are spelled out in the letter of appointment or a collateral document. Normally such arrangements are made for individuals whose association with the College will be for more than one year, including those cases of joint appointment between Williams and another institution.

In other words, no health care or retirement benefits for visitors. I guess that the assumption is that your home institution is taking care of those costs. I assume that anyone who doesn’t have such coverage would negotiate “with the Dean of the Faculty” to get that coverage.

I don’t have a sense of how many visitors would need such coverage.

#44 Comment By sophmom On November 29, 2008 @ 11:24 pm

Speaking of ‘yes or no’ (or ‘right or wrong’) answers, it’s interesting how this thread ties in perfectly with a couple of points made in the “Inquiring Minds-Part II” post.

IMO, that is the best thing about EB…how threads oftentimes tie together, one discussion (unintentionally) illustrating another […]

#45 Comment By David On November 29, 2008 @ 11:39 pm

Just for fun, here are the visitors that I found in the course catalog. There is some double-counting here and duplicates. And the array of titles is somewhat bewildering. But, whatever else next year will bring, you can be sure that there will be many fewer visitors.

Africana
Visiting Associate Professor: HONDERICH.
Visiting Artist in Residence in Africana Studies and Music: BRYANT.

American Studies
Visiting Assistant Professor: UM

Anthropology
Visiting Assistant Professor: HAUGH

Arabic
Visiting Assistant Professor: KHATTAB

Art
Visiting Clark Professors: BENSON, WALLACH.
Visiting Assistant Professor: JACKSON
Visiting Assistant Professor: JUKOLA.
Visiting Lecturers: AMOS, E. JACKSON, M. JONES,
LANE.
Visiting Part-time Lecturers: LEBOURDAIS, LIEBERMAN.

Asian Studies
Visiting Lecturers: SUN, C. WANG, ZHANG

Astronomy
Visiting Professor: DEMIANSKI

Biology
Visiting Assistant Professor: KOEGEL

Classics
Visiting Assistant Professor: LOVELL

Computer Science
Visiting Teaching Fellow: BÄLTER

Economics
Visiting Professors: FORTUNATO, HANSON.
Visiting Associate Professor: HONDERICH
Visiting Assistant Professor: KONISHI

English
Visiting Associate Professor: PETHICA
Visiting Assistant Professor: UM
Visiting Lecturer: P. PARK.
Margaret Bundy Scott Visiting Professor: RUSSELL

Environmental Science
Visiting Assistant Professor: LYNN
Visiting Professor of Environmental Law: GALLAY
Visiting Lecturer in Environmental Studies: GOODMAN

Geosciences
Visiting Assistant Professor: COOK.

German
Visiting Assistant Professor: TBA

History
Stanley Kaplan Visiting Professor: HUNT
Boskey Visiting Professor: REPP
Stanley Kaplan Visiting Professor: STOLER.
Visiting Assistant Professors: DUBOW, REVILL

International Studies
Visiting Professor: KISAMBA-MUGERWA

Leadership
Visiting Lecturer: G. CHANDLER

Legal
Visiting Assistant Professor: A. HIRSCH

Math/Stat
Visiting Assistant Professor: LOOK.
Visiting Lecturer: PEDERSEN

Music
Visiting Assistant Professor: J. SHOLES

Neuroscience
Visiting Assistant Professor: MARVIN

Philosophy
Harry C. Payne Distinguished Visiting Professor in Liberal Arts: AL-ASM
Visiting Assistant Professor: J. PEDRONI

Political Science
Visiting Assistant Professor: MOORE

Public Health
Visiting Assistant Professors: GUTSCHOW, J. PEDRONI

Religion
Visiting Assistant Professor: GUTSCHOW
Croghan Visiting Professor: GAGER

Romance Languages
Visiting Professor: NICASTRO.
Visiting Assistant Professor: PÉREZ VILLANUEVA
Visiting Lecturers: GLOVER, GOODBODY

Theatre
Visiting Lecturers: ERICKSON, MORRIS

#46 Comment By Derek On November 30, 2008 @ 2:27 am

Er, anon, you just posted a bunch of data that belies what you wrote earlier. You wrote earlier that all first-year assistants at your school earned $60,500 in their first year. Now you give “average” salaries. These are two dramatically different things. If the average salary at your school is $60,500, that is rather different than the starting salary for all professors being $60,500, and as a professor you know that the clarity of your writing is your responsibility.

As for “equal pay for equial work,” well, I imagine that you are aware that as part of getting tenure, professors have to do this thing called “research” and “writing,” yes? And so if a visiting assistant on a one-year non-renewable appointment (which is to say, the overwhelming majority of such visitors) are teaching the same courseload, you understand that without the research expectation, they do not actually have the same workload? And you understand that if they are on a one-year position there is no way to make sure they are doing research?

This is the problem with anonymity yet again — I’m sorry, but anon, I have a hard time believing that you actually teach at a top five LAC if you are unaware of the research requirements for professors that is part of their job (and service expectations as well for that matter) and that “the average first-year assistant makes $60,500” is rather different from “all first year assistants make $60,500.”

Meanwhile, Dave, yet again I want to punch you in the face. You keep insisting that I am “confused,” your standard slimeball tactic even when people are writing circles around you, despite the fact that you have no evidentiary basis for your assertions while I have a great deal more for mine. The idea that you are the enlightening one when it comes to higher education hiring policies would be simply absurd were it not so insulting. Look, I’ll say it again: You clearly have no idea what the job market is like. You have no idea what the pool of visiting assistants is and what the pool of tenure-track people is. You have no idea that Williams professors have to do research that is not expected of visitors (you and anon need to get together on this point, given that research and writing is not an insignificant part of being a professor. Seriously — it is grade A, world fucking class inanity that this aspect of it is being overlooked). You have no idea that visiting assiatnts are sought and hired at the end of the hiring process after all of the tenure-track jobs have gone. If you really think that Williams does a search for a new tenure-track history professor with all of the expactations — teaching, research, service — that such a position entails, hires someone who has negotiated for themselves a fair deal, and then goes out on the later market of people who did not get hired through comparable searches and offers a one-year position and pays the same amount as the person on the tenure-track, well, keep thinking, Dave. And if Williams actually does this, it is doing a disservice to its tenure-track faculty from whom they are expecting serious research.

dcat

#47 Comment By anon On November 30, 2008 @ 7:38 am

dcat — visiting faculty at LACs are often just out of grad school and are activley doing their research. They must: their visiting appts are usually from 1-3 years and they are on the market so research continues and is recognized as such.

Visiting appts can be converted into tenure track appts after national searches, which is a common thing, and some visitors wind up remaining at their “visited” institutions.

Data are stubborn things, dcat, and no matter how much you “think” David or I have not considered research in the salary equation (of course I have — it is assumed because of the nature of visiting appts and the need to get the next job, hopefully tenure-track), the issue at hand was starting salaries for asst profs at places like Williams. You have ignored that. Simple fact — it is more than $60,000 and not the $35k or $50k you keep stating. Whether you agree or not that saving the $$ David is seeking is one thing; the salary is quite another, and we have that answer.

#48 Comment By Sam On November 30, 2008 @ 9:57 am

This is where I get off. I’m not going to play Kane’s game anymore. Remember, the opening premise of all of this was: Morty is not taking the financial crisis seriously because he is not cutting all visiting positions. Of course, Morty is taking the crisis serious and he is approaching it carefully and prudently, not wrecking small departments and undermining other curricula as David’s narrow-minded focus would do. Indeed, Kane’s solipsistic obsession with “proving” that he is right has taken on the tone of the famous “strawberries” scene in the Caine Mutiny (sounds like something for Dick S!). We can imagine him twiddling his keyboard and repeating, “the visitors, the visitors….” Best just to walk away, and that’s what I’ll do…..

#49 Comment By PTC On November 30, 2008 @ 10:52 am

Sam- You should never walk away. When you do, you concede. When too many people concede, eclecticism loses and ideologues take control.

Those who refuse to ever lose an argument should never be allowed to win one.

#50 Comment By Derek On November 30, 2008 @ 1:09 pm

Anon —
Thanks for telling me what a visiting professor does. Were it not for you, I’ve no idea how I’d ever function in academia. My God, how did I ever get tenure without your help and guidance and vast reservoir of experience?

When did I ever say that the starting salary is “$35 k or $50 k”? Please show me. Please show me somewhere, direct quotation, where I used “$35,000.” Is it that hard to ask for intellectual honesty? Is it that hard for you to display that honesty? (Actually, since you increasingly seem to be Dave’s deux ex machina in this debate, with your too-neat anecdotes perfectly catered to bolster Dave’s points without actually revealing anything about yourself maybe you do not want to answer that question.) And if the average starting salary of an elite LAC is $64,000, guess what? That means some people are almost certainly earning in the $50s. For every scientist hired at $70,000 or above, a philosopher or historian is being hired at $58,000.

You insist that I’m wrong. By the way, I know you and David are the only people ever to think of salary data in the history of academia or Ephblog. But maybe you ought to know that I am working as chair of my university senate’s faculty affairs committee (service!) on both salary equalization and on tenure raises. I’ll have this conversation with you any day.

And you seem not to have responded to the fact that your initial assertion was that faculty at your college earn $60,500 full stop, then you suddenly started talking about averages as if these are the same things. You still seem unable to grasp that an average salary only tells us what, well, an average salary is. It does not tell us the range. And none of this gets at the question, which is whether visiting assistants earn the same as tenure track assistants — you and Dave are making the affirmative assertion; the burden is thus on you to prove your case. So far you have given us fuckall evidence to prove your point and it is your responsibility to provide the evidence! Meanwhile you are geting a range of contrary opinion from a host of folks in higher education, including a former Williams department chair (whose name and affiliation we actually know! Imagine that!) chipping away at nearly every assertion that you and Dave have levied. Yet still, no evidence for your assertion. We are waiting.

As for research, I am beginning to think that you are being willfully obtuse. Visiting assistants should be and in most cases are doing research. But the point is at that they are doing work that will benefit them and their careers, but they are not doing work that will benefit the institution, and if they do not do that work, they will not be held to account at Williams or wherever they have been hired. If they are but a year out of grad school they can always fudge what they may or may not have done — they should and probebly will be doing work, but there is no holding them accountable for that research at the institution that is hiring them. These are the realities of contingency hirings. A first year tenurable professor is hired not only with an understanding that they will do research, and as their year and as their probationary period progresses they will have to demonstrate progress in way that a one-year hire, which the vast majority are, never does. It is absurd to compare the two. And I note we are still ignoring service.

Finally, it is very rare for a visiting professor to be “hired up” as it were. It happens, but rarely, and only after a national search, at least if the school is adhering to AAUP expectations for hiring. And when it does happen, the tenure clock starts at that stage, not at the point of initial hiring as a visiting professor.

So, please — after all this verbiage, can we get some actual evidence to show that visiting assistants earn as much as those on the tenure track to prove the affirmative assertion that you and Dave are standing behind? Or are you going to force the rest of us to prove a negative in direct defiance of Logic 101?

I’ll wait for the citation of that $35,000 figure, or I’ll expect an acknowledgment that you’re just making shit up to bolster your argument.

dcat

#51 Comment By PTC On November 30, 2008 @ 3:30 pm

This is a rather odd thread. People arguing over what a salary would be for a visiting professor when it completely depends on who is teaching, how many CH they are teaching, and what has been negotiated. It makes no sense at all. It is like arguing over what a QB is paid in the NFL… pointless. The numbers that DK and dcat are throwing out are both well within the realm of possibility. If you want good people with great records teaching you in a particular discipline, you pay. In order to cut cost by doing what David has suggested, you would have to cut “star” professors. You get what you pay for. If you want a QB that completes passes and wins games… you pay.

Unless you want Williams to become a place for academic losers, you should look elsewhere for savings.

#52 Comment By Dick Swart On November 30, 2008 @ 4:07 pm

By popular request and to be applied where the berry fits:

“But the strawberries, that’s where I had them.
I proved with geometric logic that a duplicate key to the icebox existed.
I could have produced that key. They were protecting some officer …

“Naturally, I can only cover these things from memory.
If I’ve left anything out, just ask me specific questions –
– and I’ll be glad to answer them one by one.”

http://1956ephs.blogspot.com/2008/11/ill-be-glad-to-answer-them-one-by-one.html

#53 Comment By Derek On November 30, 2008 @ 10:33 pm

PTC —
1) You assume that we are making equally valid arguments. You assume that all of the contingencies that you present apply to the majority of visiting professors, who are assistants. You assume that none of this stems from a proposition out forward by David. You assume, in other words, tnat without putting forward any intellectual capital you get to step in and pronounce the rest of us silly for caring what we care about.

2) Forgive me, but give me David’s intellectual fatuousness over your blithe dismissiveness. Or to put it another way: If on this issue (or, actually, any on which I decide to put forth my opinion) you think you have earned the right to dismiss me, I must say: Go Fuck Yourself. You have not earned that right. Ever.

3) Your analogy is stupid, inasmuch as we know EXACTLY what quarterbacks are paid in the NFL, and what quarterbacks are paid is sort of the point of this particular discussion.

4) Dismiss people at your own intellectual grade, PTC. This one is clearly above yours.

5) Don’t dismiss my opinions again. Don’t dismiss any of our opinions again, ok? If you have nothing concrete to contribute, how about not contributing? Those of us who have weighed in frankly deserve more than your substanceless dismissal.

dcat

#54 Comment By Alexander Woo On November 30, 2008 @ 10:49 pm

Having been on the job market last year and received several job offers for visiting positions (of which I took the lowest salary one!), I can make a fairly informed guess based on the competition that Williams would offer 58-65K in salary for a visiting assistant professor in mathematics teaching a full load, depending mostly on how hard it would be at that point (somewhere between March and May) to try to hire another person if the offer was turned down.

I do think Williams could probably about just as well in hiring paying these folks only 50-55K. By and large, academics are not so income-sensitive in their choices. Someone who doesn’t want to live in the Berkshires or doesn’t like the department won’t be persuaded by an extra 10K, and the reverse is also true.

Having been at a couple of faculty meetings where I am, I think it would be untenable for any elite (or even close) liberal arts college to have significant pay differentials between different fields. The faculty wouldn’t stand for it. There would be opinion pieces in the NYTimes about how sad it was that even liberal arts colleges no longer value the study of philosophy. At Williams, the Econ department might have enough clout to get a little more for its new hires. They probably only manage to do this with unofficial dodges like counting as “previous experience” work that would not be normally so counted in other fields. Oddly enough, it might be easier to get a special bump for a 1-year visitor than for a tenure-track hire, if it was already late May and they hadn’t found anyone yet.

30% of salary for benefits (paid out of pocket) sounds about right. A visiting assistant professor isn’t actually visiting from somewhere; it’s just someone who hasn’t managed to get a tenure-track job yet. Williams will pay for his or her health insurance.

I don’t like the idea of cutting professor lines to save money though. The only way to do it is to increase class sizes, and Williams already has (slightly) larger classes than most of its competition. That’s because Williams faculty have a lower teaching load. The lower teaching load is what Williams uses to attract the faculty it wants, and why Williams has been able to get better faculty than the competition.

#55 Comment By Derek On November 30, 2008 @ 11:10 pm

Alexander —
You would need to clarify what you mean when you say: “I think it would be untenable for any elite (or even close) liberal arts college to have significant pay differentials between different fields” because I’m sorry — differentials between fields are a huge factor in academia. Do you really think that a first year tenurable Williams phililosophy profesor earns the same as a first year tenurable Physics prof? Econ prof? I’m confused.
And non-tenurable people are hired so much later in the process that they are not simply hired later than Williams profs, they are hired later than profs at my school. Look — once again, I chose a job at a state university in Minnesota over a one-year job at Oxbridge because my advisor gave me advice that anyone would give: a visiting job at the greatest place is not worth as much as a a tenure-track job at the worst. Contrary commentary from someone who has only seen the visiting option notwithstanding, this is the actual job market.

dcat

#56 Comment By Ben Fleming On November 30, 2008 @ 11:51 pm

Now you give “average” salaries.

Oh yeah? I read good and stuff, and I have “no idea” where you’re “quoting” from. Where did anon ever post anything about “average” salaries? Not in Post 40…

Please show me. Please show me somewhere, direct quotation, where I used “$35,000.” Is it that hard to ask for intellectual honesty?

…which makes this pretty rich. How’s the view from that high horse? Can you see Russia from there?

Look — once again, I chose a job at a state university in Minnesota over a one-year job at Oxbridge because my advisor gave me advice that anyone would give: a visiting job at the greatest place is not worth as much as a a tenure-track job at the worst. Contrary commentary from someone who has only seen the visiting option notwithstanding, this is the actual job market.

Shorter Derek: Unless you’re the chair of your university senate’s faculty affairs committee, you are not allowed to have an opinion. Or other facts.

#57 Comment By Derek On December 1, 2008 @ 12:48 am

Ben —
Peculiar how you weigh in here. But ok, I’ll play ball.

In Post 40 he or she listed starting salaries. Now, unless those starting salaries are in some sort of socialist paradise, I assume they are average salaries. Perhaps they are median salaries. Or maybe they represent the mode. But unless those starting salaries represent THE salary that all faculty members must begin with, they are more than likely average salaries. By all means you or the person who posted them can clear things up.

As for the second excerpt, I’ve no idea whgat your actual criticism is. I was accused of saying something I never actually said. The high horse of accuracy is not actually all that difficult to mount. It usually starts off at ground level. So I repeat: Where did I ever write what anaon accused me of writing? And if I never wrote that thing I was accused of writing, the person making the accusation has an honesty issue. Hard to believe that asking people to be honest about what other people have to say is suddenly a character flaw.

As for the third: I have experience in this area. And without actually making a substantial argument you dismiss my experience and pretend that the mockery of it replaces evidence of one’s own. One is allowed to have opinions, but all opinions are not equally valid. One is allowed to have facts. We have seen all too few of them. Do you have an actual point to make, or is this titmousery the best you can do?

So Ben: What, exactly is your criticism of me? I assumed that a list of starting salaries represented a list of average starting salaries as opposed to – well, I’m not sure what it could possibly be opposed to. I never said what anon attributed to me, and so I criticized what anon falsely attributed to me. And on this particular issue I have actual professional experience.

So, yes — your critiques are quite withering. How ever shall I survive such perpicuous contrarianism? And however did we get by without your sound addition to the discussion?

dcat

#58 Comment By PTC On December 1, 2008 @ 1:14 am

dcat- No need to get angry about me expressing my opinion of your argument with David, or to be vulgar about it. If it makes you feel good calling me stupid… and that in some way my stupidity gives you and “others” of your superior “intellectual grade” the right to be vulgar, and tell me to shut up, hey, so be it. I could care less.

Smart people can still have off base or pointless arguments. I happen to think this particular argument you are having with David is missing the mark. So do others on this thread.

By the way- I smoked you on Eph pundit predictions! Stupid people can be right. Vegas!

#59 Comment By Aidan On December 1, 2008 @ 1:32 am

Good heavens, this is one brawl over very little. If say, Wms pays 55k, plus 30% bennies (so, around 70k total comp) for a visitor, then the numbers are ballpark with DK’s original back of the envelope.

if visitors are being paid by the course (flat fee, ~5k a class or the like), then then compensation is much lower, even if the adjunct was teaching a “full load” (which as Prof. Crane pointed out is > 2 + 2). If that’s a 22k salary (4 classes x 5,500), plus bennies, then you’re looking more like 25-30k.

So the lower bound.

In any case, the bottom line is to curtail additional tenure track hiring or high profile visiting professors, not the routine gap filling with adjuncts.

I fail to see why this makes everyone so verklempt.

#60 Comment By Derek On December 1, 2008 @ 1:38 am

PTC —
I predicted 53-47 in the popular vote, didn’t I? 52-46? Something like that?

I still have no idea what point you have about deciding to weigh in here as to what discussions are or are not worth having. Especially since the act of weighing in is, in and of itself white noise to a conversation you think is not worth having.

So: It’s not a conversation worth having. And in order to let it die you weigh in on the conversation that you think is not worth having. Cunning.

Who are these other people of whom you speak? Others who weigh in on conversations not worth having, thus participating in those worthless conversations? I am very confused, and am certain that your continued white noise whereby you tell us what is worth talking about and what is not without actually levying a decision on what is being discussed will add something bountiful from here on out.

Yeay — now we have people telling us what is worth discussing here on Ephblog! No need for those of us who want to have discussions having them! At some point PTC and his “many others” can come in and decide, ipse dixit, when a discussion has run its course! It’s good we have people like PTC, because otherwise those many who find this to be a worthless discussion would continue to be forced to take that extra step to click on the comments link beyond their free will! This conversation will continue to pervade their consciousness as long as they are forced to witness it!

Wait — what? Just a few comments ago PTC himself told Sam Crane the following: “You should never walk away. When you do, you concede. When too many people concede, eclecticism loses and ideologues take control.”

So now I am really confused. In comment #49 this was a conversation worth having ACCORDING TO PTC. Then this is an “odd conversation” not worth having once it gets all the way to comment . . . wait for it . . . #51: ACCORDING TO PTC.

I’ll tell you what — PTC, from now on, could you weigh in as to when we are allowed to exchange ideas? And if that exchange grows tiresome within two comments (with yours marking the alpha and the omega, natch) please just step in and end it all. It’s awfully embarrassing to be the one comment in between when this was an acceptable conversation worth continuing — according to you — and one that had reached its end point — according to you.

I await directions from my intellectual overlords.

dcat

#61 Comment By PTC On December 1, 2008 @ 5:35 am

Derek-

The prediction was for the EC. Popular vote used as a tie breaker. And yes, I beat you handily in that contest.

Sam walked away from Ephblog completely. I think that is a bummer.

#62 Comment By David On December 1, 2008 @ 11:19 am

Derek writes:

I’m sorry — differentials between fields are a huge factor in academia. Do you really think that a first year tenurable Williams phililosophy profesor earns the same as a first year tenurable Physics prof? Econ prof? I’m confused.

You are confused. We have testimony from multiple sources that first year professors in philosophy, English, physics, history et al all earn about the same at Williams and places like it. There are a few selected fields (mainly economics and computer science) where this may not be true, but, even here, the differential is not large.

Again, no one is claiming that this is true universally, much less where you teach, but it is true at Williams and other elite LACs.

Now, unless those starting salaries are in some sort of socialist paradise, I assume they are average salaries. Perhaps they are median salaries. Or maybe they represent the mode. But unless those starting salaries represent THE salary that all faculty members must begin with, they are more than likely average salaries. By all means you or the person who posted them can clear things up.

Given your charming writing style, I am sure that anon is just dying to return here and clear things up. In the meantime, I’ll point out that it is obvious that, in a world in which starting salaries are mostly uniform, the average, median and mode are all pretty close to the same. anon cites a starting salary (ignoring economists and computer scientists) of $64,000 for his Williams-like institution. Do you really dispute that figure? (And that is salary-only, not including benefits.)

Note that this is perfectly consistent with the other data that we have. If the average salary for an assistant professor at Williams is $73,100, then a starting salary around $64,000 makes sense. First year assistant professors make less than the average of $73,100 and Sixth year assistant professors make more.

Just to clarify the issue of teaching loads, this entire discussion assumes that we are talking about full Williams teaching loads. Obviously, if the College hires someone to teach just one class, we are not going to pay him the same as someone hired to teach 4 classes. Rory correctly frames the larger argument when he writes:

no matter the math, david’s argument boils down to either:
20 fewer courses for a savings of 400k
or
28 fewer courses for a savings of 700k

Indeed. Even if I am wrong on the exact budget savings, the larger trade-off remains. Williams can save X dollars by not hiring those 7 visiting professors at a cost of not having Y classes taught. I think that this is $700,000 versus 28 classes, but readers should feel free to insert their own numbers.

#63 Comment By Alexander Woo On December 1, 2008 @ 12:20 pm

Derek,

I am pretty sure that all professors (and I mean permanent faculty) where I am now (probably within an hour’s drive of you, actually) are paid on the same salary scale, barring a small number of special cases. Faculty have real power at liberal arts colleges, and different salaries for different disciplines is something someone would raise a very big and stinky fuss over. I am well aware that the situation is different at places other than selective liberal arts colleges.

Of course, given a salary scale, there are ways of fudging calculations to give individuals higher salaries. The scale itself does have a small amount of wiggle room, but not nearly enough for the kinds of differences you would see at a state college.

#64 Comment By Alexander Woo On December 1, 2008 @ 12:23 pm

PS – If anyone wants my actual data points, I am happy to share them privately.

#65 Comment By PTC On December 1, 2008 @ 12:43 pm

Alaxander- I talked to my father who did work as a visiting prof at Williams until fairly recently for 15 years. He said there was a large variation between what he earned at Williams and what he earned at Cornell. They paid him over twice as much at the University. Any idea as to why? Program? School? Some combination?

#66 Comment By Ben Fleming On December 1, 2008 @ 1:33 pm

In Post 40 he or she listed starting salaries. Now, unless those starting salaries are in some sort of socialist paradise, I assume they are average salaries. Perhaps they are median salaries. Or maybe they represent the mode. But unless those starting salaries represent THE salary that all faculty members must begin with, they are more than likely average salaries.

Or maybe they represent the minimum starting salary. In many, if not most fields, when you see a starting figure quoted, it’s a uniform salary. Certainly, when you see a listing of first-year attorney salaries at $XXX,XXX, that’s the salary. It’s not an average. Everyone gets that. You might think academia is entirely removed from that paradigm, but Mr. Woo and anon and others don’t seem to think the LACs are. But basically, when it comes to anon’s list, you really have no idea. In my socialist paradise, we don’t invent quotes from people — it’s regarded, as long as we’re going to be preening about our own integrity, as a sign of intellectual honesty.

I have experience in this area. And without actually making a substantial argument you dismiss my experience and pretend that the mockery of it replaces evidence of one’s own. One is allowed to have opinions, but all opinions are not equally valid.

Swell. Yet it certainly appears you have little to no experience at the LACs we’re talking about. More importantly, your arguments are inconsistent. To wit, we went from this:

You have no idea that Williams professors have to do research that is not expected of visitors (you and anon need to get together on this point, given that research and writing is not an insignificant part of being a professor. Seriously — it is grade A, world fucking class inanity that this aspect of it is being overlooked).

World-class indeed. To this:

But the point is at that they are doing work that will benefit them and their careers, but they are not doing work that will benefit the institution, and if they do not do that work, they will not be held to account at Williams or wherever they have been hired. If they are but a year out of grad school they can always fudge what they may or may not have done — they should and probebly will be doing work, but there is no holding them accountable for that research at the institution that is hiring them.

Entirely distinct points – “Will visitors be doing research?”, as opposed to “Will the research benefit the university?” And of course, highly relevant to the discussion we’re having. When anon suggested “equal pay for equal work,” you reacted like you’d been shot. When he or she quite sensibly pointed out that no halfway decent visitor isn’t going to be doing research, you hopped over to your other foot, and argued that research isn’t as good, because it’s not mandatory. Well, so what? If the argument is that visitors should be paid the same because they’re essentially doing the same things as other professors, that’s an equity argument. It would be “unfair” in a cosmic sense not to compensate the visitors the same, despite the fact that the university isn’t reaping identical benefits from that work.

Do all colleges and universities care about what’s “unfair” to an equal extent? Of course not. Do LACs care a more, or at the very least, are their faculty dynamics such that they’re forced to care more? We have two people saying, “Absolutely.” Unless one thinks academia is an undifferentiated blob, this is eminently plausible. But you know curse words, so I guess it’s not a big deal.

So Ben: What, exactly is your criticism of me?

If I had to pick, it would be the part where you accused anon of being David’s sockpuppet. Classy.

#67 Comment By Derek On December 7, 2008 @ 3:45 am

Ooohh –
Lots o’ arguments. No data. Much condescension from Ben. It’s like Dave Kane’s perfect platonic form. By the way — it was Dave who was arguing that salary and benefits equal a professor’s net worth, but now he has changed his mind.
And being condescended to by Ben is glorious, as that condescension comes with zero data. (Zero. Fucking. Data.) The question, lost amidst Ben’s verbiage, is whether visiting assistant professors at Willaims earn as much as tenurable assistant professors. Mimicing the smart things other people say does not change the foundation of the argument, Ben. So I ask again: Do you have any data to support the rather absurd assertion on the table, which is that visiting professors earn as much as tenurable professors?
It’s a simple question, Ben. Visitors earn the exact same as their tenurable cohort. Yes or no? If yes, what is your evidence?
You are awfully angry at me. With no actual factual foundation. It’s really a simple question: Can you prove that Williams visiting professors earn what tenurable professors do or can you not? The assertion came from those who asserted that they do. I’m simply asking for evidence. I’m sorry that requesting evidence for a factual assertion bothers you. But I am still, bothersomely, going to ask for those facts. Just present them, Ben. Asking for facts ought not to be problematic. (I say that, but on Ephblog, I actually know better).

dcat