Author Topic: Higher Ed contract question, any professors out there  (Read 921 times)

Hvillian

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Higher Ed contract question, any professors out there
« on: May 06, 2020, 08:49:25 PM »
My spouse is changing Universities and I want to make sure the contract language makes sense:
Quote
I am pleased to offer you a non-tenure track appointment as Assistant Professor [in the Good School at State University] beginning August 16, 2020 through May 15, 2021.  The annual salary for this nine-month appointment will be [$50,000].

Is it common practice to phrase the salary as annual for a 9 or 10 month contract?  I know it is common to break the pay into 12 checks, but I am paranoid that they will try to avoid paying the full annual amount if the contract isn't renewed.  I only ask because her current University didn't want to pay her the final two monthly paychecks once they found out she is leaving, even though she worked the contracted 10 months (July to May).  This seems nuts to me (clear contract with start/end dates and salary), but a lot of the academia stuff is quite different than the business/consulting world with which I'm familiar.

Thanks!   

Aunt Petunia

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Re: Higher Ed contract question, any professors out there
« Reply #1 on: May 07, 2020, 05:55:55 AM »
I have a side hustle as an adjunct for a state university system. I only get paid during the academic term. Pay is determined by number of credits, and my contract is worded "your salary will be xxxx per credit for y number of credits" . It is divided up so I get a deposit every 2 weeks during term. I think the full time people get paid year round but they have to work in the summer doing planning and stuff.

Your wife's position sounds like a fixed-term (like adjunct but more credits). In that case it would be normal to get paid over the nine months (sometimes with a gap during Christmas break) and not to have any non-teaching responsibilities.

Her other university needs to pay her. If there is a union you could get some help from them.

maizefolk

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Re: Higher Ed contract question, any professors out there
« Reply #2 on: May 07, 2020, 06:08:12 AM »
Yes it is common, but that doesn't mean it isn't worth clarifying with the university. The way that offer letter it written it could be an offer of 12 monthly checks of $4,170 ($50,000 total) for nine months of work. I could also read the same sentence as saying: The salary for a full year of work is $50k, but we're only hiring you for nine months so we're offering you $37,500 (3/4th of the full annual salary).

I'm in a 9 over 12 position and I've often wondered what would happen to those last summer checks, which in principle are deferred pay from during the 9 months the university pays me, if I left in the middle of the year. Good to know that, based on your partner's experience I should be on the lookout for weirdness and/or try to time my resignation for August when the pay deferral resets.

Some schools (but not mine) will let you opt out of 9 over 12 payments and just be paid a bit more for nine months and nothing over the summer. Mine doesn't. But if you and your spouse are both MMMers it shouldn't be hard to set aside the right proportion of each paycheck to be able to cover expenses and pay for things like the employee portion of the healthcare plan out of pocket over the summer.

« Last Edit: May 07, 2020, 06:31:06 AM by maizeman »

beltim

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Re: Higher Ed contract question, any professors out there
« Reply #3 on: May 07, 2020, 06:21:14 AM »
Yes it is common, but that doesn't mean it isn't worth clarifying with the university as the way that offer letter it written it could be an offer of 12 monthly checks of $4,170 ($50,000 total) for nine months of work. I could also read the same sentence as saying: The salary for a full year of work is $50k, but we're only hiring you for nine months so we're offering you $37,500 (3/4th of the full annual salary).

I agree with maizeman, both on it being common (in my experience, most professor contracts are written as 9 or 10 month contracts), and on the wisdom of clarifying with the university.  I think it likely that it'll actually be $50k for the 9 months, but colleges and universities are known to take advantage of non-tenure track faculty. 

I've seen this issue addressed with the 9/10 month salary defined in the contract as "base salary" which can be supplemented in the unpaid months with extra-contract teaching or research.  That's a cleaner way to describe it, I think.

Hvillian

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Re: Higher Ed contract question, any professors out there
« Reply #4 on: May 07, 2020, 08:30:06 AM »
Thank you all so much for the responses.  It is helpful to hear that it is commonly written that way.  She's without tenure and very early in her career, but will be clarifying the contract language with HR once she starts.  Not ideal, but she is excited about the change either way. 

The way that offer letter it written it could be an offer of 12 monthly checks of $4,170 ($50,000 total) for nine months of work. I could also read the same sentence as saying: The salary for a full year of work is $50k, but we're only hiring you for nine months so we're offering you $37,500 (3/4th of the full annual salary).

I agree - it could be interpreted either way.  I would have given them the benefit of the doubt (that "annual" just means over 12 payments), if the current University hadn't tried their shenanigans and only provided nonsense explanations.  Thanks again. 

Kris

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Re: Higher Ed contract question, any professors out there
« Reply #5 on: May 07, 2020, 08:38:40 AM »
Yes, this is very typical language.

Something to clarify with HR right off the bat, too, is whether she has the option/choice of taking the nine-month salary over 12 months. At the university where I used to work, this was not an option, so we were all paid over 9 months, and therefore it was up to the individual to reserve some of that money for living over the summer.

Not a problem for most mustachians, but I did have friends who struggled mightily with it because they just could not discipline themselves to do it. Their summers were mighty lean and stressful as a result.

Rural

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Re: Higher Ed contract question, any professors out there
« Reply #6 on: May 07, 2020, 03:36:40 PM »
My situation is almost exactly like Kris's was. I'm on a 10 month contract (tenured) and don't get paid in June and July. Language is similar to that contract, but it doesn't hurt to clarify with HR.

Cranky

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Re: Higher Ed contract question, any professors out there
« Reply #7 on: May 07, 2020, 05:08:23 PM »
Sign that contract. Universities are gonna be slashing nontenured faculty.

lhamo

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Re: Higher Ed contract question, any professors out there
« Reply #8 on: May 07, 2020, 05:36:32 PM »
But if you can, get the payments over 9 months, not 12.  I bet a lot of places will be out of money by next summer....

Hvillian

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Re: Higher Ed contract question, any professors out there
« Reply #9 on: May 08, 2020, 07:15:46 AM »
Yeah, this pandemic may be what breaks the fragile economics of many colleges.  She is well aware of the landscape, and could do something else or just adjunct if needed.   Thanks.

Cranky

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Re: Higher Ed contract question, any professors out there
« Reply #10 on: May 08, 2020, 07:43:54 AM »
Yeah, this pandemic may be what breaks the fragile economics of many colleges.  She is well aware of the landscape, and could do something else or just adjunct if needed.   Thanks.

My dh’s university is basically firing all the adjuncts. It’s going to be a long year.

Kris

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Re: Higher Ed contract question, any professors out there
« Reply #11 on: May 08, 2020, 07:46:27 AM »
Yeah, this pandemic may be what breaks the fragile economics of many colleges.  She is well aware of the landscape, and could do something else or just adjunct if needed.   Thanks.

My dh’s university is basically firing all the adjuncts. It’s going to be a long year.

Yeah, this is what’s going to be happening all over. Adjuncts will be let go, and the tenured faculty’s class loads will be shifted to cover the lower-level courses that have to be taught.

MrThatsDifferent

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Re: Higher Ed contract question, any professors out there
« Reply #12 on: May 08, 2020, 01:51:42 PM »
My reading is that the salary for the role over 12 months is $50k, but she will be paid for 9 months, so won’t actually receive the entire $50k. It doesn’t read as unambiguous to me, it is pretty straightforward. Always good to clarify and I agree with whoever said, in this climate, sign it!

maizefolk

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Re: Higher Ed contract question, any professors out there
« Reply #13 on: May 08, 2020, 02:15:35 PM »
My reading is that the salary for the role over 12 months is $50k, but she will be paid for 9 months, so won’t actually receive the entire $50k. It doesn’t read as unambiguous to me, it is pretty straightforward. Always good to clarify and I agree with whoever said, in this climate, sign it!

In another field it would be unambiguous, but nine month appointments are so widespread in academia that I've often seen "annual salary" used to indicate a person's base pay for an academic year appointment. It wouldn't stand up in a lawsuit, which is why ideally it would be good to remove the ambiguity.

Does the offer letter give a deadline for when your spouse needs to sign and return it?

Kris

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Re: Higher Ed contract question, any professors out there
« Reply #14 on: May 08, 2020, 02:39:27 PM »
My reading is that the salary for the role over 12 months is $50k, but she will be paid for 9 months, so won’t actually receive the entire $50k. It doesn’t read as unambiguous to me, it is pretty straightforward. Always good to clarify and I agree with whoever said, in this climate, sign it!

In another field it would be unambiguous, but nine month appointments are so widespread in academia that I've often seen "annual salary" used to indicate a person's base pay for an academic year appointment.

This. In academia, it means you receive a salary of $50,000, paid over 9 months.

LadyStash

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Re: Higher Ed contract question, any professors out there
« Reply #15 on: May 09, 2020, 05:14:53 PM »
I'm non-tenure track faculty, and that verbiage is standard in our contracts.

I only get paid over 9 months (biweekly pay / 20 checks total), but the university offers faculty the option of them taking money out of each check and paying us over the summer.

Faculty can also teach additional courses, coordinate summer programs or groups, work with new student orientation, etc. during the summer to make extra money.


stashja

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Re: Higher Ed contract question, any professors out there
« Reply #16 on: May 10, 2020, 10:28:27 AM »
Yes. My contract looks like this.

maizefolk

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Re: Higher Ed contract question, any professors out there
« Reply #17 on: May 10, 2020, 10:49:55 AM »
Yes. My contract looks like this.

Huh. You know after all my advice to get this clarified, I went back to my own offer letter for my current position and it does the same thing:

"This position is a nine-month, academic-year, specific term (tenure-leading) appointment, with a starting annual salary of $XX,000 beginning with your effective start date, payable monthly, on the last working day of the month." <-- where XX was my 9-month base salary.
« Last Edit: May 10, 2020, 10:52:11 AM by maizeman »