The next step: make sure that participants in these auctions credibly commit themselves.
East Carolina has had an enrollment minimum for summer sessions for several years. If a course does not attract the required number of students, it is canceled. This year a new proportional-pay system on campus means that if a course does not reach the minimum enrollment, determined by administrators, it may still run but the salary for the professor teaching it will be reduced by a proportionate amount.Thus, for example, English (or is it film studies) professor Amanda Klein's course attracted fifteen students, as against headquarters's desired twenty, she had the choice of either cancelling the course, or offering it but at a reduced salary. Yes, that's the reality for tax preparers or sales representatives or automobile technicians, and yet ...
"The only reason we stick with these jobs is because we love it," Klein said. "You know, we love teaching, we love our students, we want to serve them. ... The desire to serve our students and our desire to value ourselves and our work are constantly butting heads, and it’s a very unfair position to put faculty in."Courses get cancelled for insufficient enrollments during the academic year as well, although, typically, that "staff" entry in the course directory (if there are course directories any more) identifies reserve capacity to provide work for faculty members whose generally upper-division courses don't make. That professors are going Galt in the summer might be encouraging.
The pay cut contributed to a feeling that she was being taken advantage of, which has steadily gotten worse during her 11 years in public higher education, she said.
"Nobody goes to become a college professor hoping to make big bucks, because that’s insane," Klein said. "But I was not aware of the kind of devaluing of labor that would happen."
Ron Mitchelson, East Carolina’s provost, wrote in an email that prorating salaries, "permits low-enrolled sections (below minima) to be offered if an instructor is willing to offer. In essence, we can offer sections that would not normally be offered. So, it is intended to be a positive initiative for instructors and for students and should assist in degree completion."
The change in summer pay may be new to East Carolina, but many universities nationwide have seen similar pay scales for the summer months.
Last year, Chet Cooper, a professor of biological sciences at Youngstown State University, made headlines for canceling a summer course.
After his class enrolled eight students, not the required 15, Cooper canceled the course rather than take a prorated salary. He said he would have had a 43-percent drop in pay.
"It means one of two things: Either during the regular academic year, I’m vastly overpaid, or that during the summer, my skills aren’t worth as much," Cooper said.