AAUP Sense of Faculty Motion on Cost of Living Adjustment

The following motion was approved by 87% of the Middlebury Faculty at a faculty meeting on April 8th.

“The faculty urge the administration to provide all employees with a cost-of-living adjustment to wages and salaries of no less than 10% this summer, thereby restoring the living standards of College employees to their 2019-20 level.”

Since the start of the 2019-20 academic year, consumer prices have risen by 11.3% while wages and salaries at the College have risen only 2%. In inflation-adjusted terms, our “real” wages and salaries have already fallen by 8.3% since 2019-2020 and are falling more by the month. Vermont is not immune to the national acceleration in inflation: home prices and rents are up considerably, prices of cars and other durable goods have surged, food prices are up, fuel and electricity prices have risen sharply, and local services like daycare have become more expensive—all of which erode the purchasing power of our stagnant wages and salaries. Inflation should not be eroding the purchasing power of employees’ wages and salaries, but the college is currently failing its employees on the imperative of cost-of-living adjustments—and our wages stagnate despite soaring endowment returns and significant tuition hikes.
Based on conservative inflation forecasts, it would take more than a 10% cost-of-living adjustment this summer just to restore real wages to where they were at the start of the 2019-20 academic year; anything less means our real wages have still fallen. If anything, a real wage increase is merited given the increased work, stress, and health risks faculty and staff have taken on since the start of the pandemic. Given that HR is in the process of reconfiguring staff compensation, we urge that the principle of a minimum of 10% increase nonetheless stands. At the very least we should not earn less for more work. And the College’s stated commitment to intergenerational equity is incompatible with the reality that our most junior colleagues have known nothing but declining living standards since coming to Middlebury
Failure to reverse course on these real wage cuts will continue to worsen staffing, retention, and morale problems on campus as well as jeopardize Middlebury’s status as a top-tier liberal arts college providing a stellar undergraduate experience. We cannot continue to provide the kind of education we aim for while our employees suffer declining living standards—a sustainable College is one where employees can expect their living standards to rise.

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