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The Research Difference: How the University varies the value of faculty members

Illustration by Alicia Kovalcheck
Illustration by Alicia Kovalcheck Buy this photo

By Amrutha Sivakumar, Daily Staff Reporter
Published March 19, 2013

The University is known as a major research university. But with almost 27,000 undergraduate students, how does the University ensure that teaching is a main focus as well?

The union representing lecturers has been bargaining for increased wages for its members, hoping to gain not only recognition but also pay compensation equal to research faculty members. The obstacle, however, is deciphering why exactly these lecturers are valued less than their research-focused counterparts.


Over 1,400 lecturers across all three University campuses are full-time University employees paid to teach undergraduate courses across all areas of academia.

The Lecturer’s Employee Organization represents these employees. In cases where employees feel the University has shortchanged their dues, LEO tries to maximize wages and benefits of its members.

While both types of University employees fall under the category of non-tenured University staff, the job profile of a tenure-track faculty member includes fulfilling research and service requirements alongside teaching, while lecturers are paid almost exclusively for their work in the classroom.

Lila Naydan, a lecturer and LEO Communications Committee co-chair, said despite “top-notch teaching evaluations,” lecturers are not paid the deserved compensation for their work.

“We deserve equal pay for the teaching portion of our work because we’re dedicated teachers,” Naydan wrote in an e-mail. “We deserve to be recognized by the U-M administration for our experience in the classroom.”

Sociology Lecturer Ian Robinson’s said in his report on equal pay that lecturers are paid approximately 50 percent of what tenure-track professors are paid for the teaching portion of their work.

“When we talk about equal pay for equal work, we are not talking about making the same salary as tenured and tenure-track faculty members,” Naydan said. “We are talking about making the same amount per course taught.”

“It’s an important distinction and I think it speaks mainly for how committed lecturers are to teaching,” Naydan added. “This is the main component of our job and it’s what we really dedicate ourselves to.”

On March 5, the LEO Union Council met with University administrators to finalize a tentative collective bargaining agreement. Hoping to satisfy the demands of both parties, LEO members are currently voting on the agreement.

The contract entails an 8.25 percent salary increase to the starting salary of lecturers over a period of five years. While this contract ensures annual pay hikes for lecturers, a large differential between tenure-track professor and lecturer salaries would still exist.

Though content with the outcome of bargaining, Naydan said LEO will continue to strive for pay equity for its lecturers.

“We’re happy with the contract,” Naydan affirmed. “It’s my hope that in future contract negotiations we make greater progress towards pay equity for the teaching portion of our work.”


With over a decade of service to the University and a vast portfolio of teaching and research accomplishments under their belt, tenured professors seem to be the University’s most prized possession. Through a combination of distinguished pedagogy, research publications and service to the University, tenured professors represent the crème de la crème.

But before professors can receive tenure, they are hired as tenure-track faculty. Many of these tenure-track professors have one absolute goal: to prove their worth to the administration.

Christina Whitman, vice provost for academic and faculty affairs, made it clear that the higher salaries and benefits for tenure and tenure-track faculty did not come sans strings attached.

Unlike lecturers hired for fixed periods of time, tenure-track professors are put under the pressure of a “tenure-clock,” the six to 10 year time period during which professors must prove to University administrators that they deserve to hold a lifetime of professorship at the institute.

Professors denied tenure after serving their tenure-clock must leave the University within a year.

“Somebody who is (on the) tenure-track is expected to be producing some fairly serious research and will not retain the job if they aren’t,” Whitman said.

While tenure-track professors are brought into the institution with the hopes that they’ll fulfill the promise in research and teaching that the University believed was reflected in their graduate work, Whitman said the University hires lecturers for a very different purpose.

“When we hire somebody as a lecturer, we are asking them to teach well for a defined, limited period,” she said.