UT Employees Appalled by Large Raises for Administrators

“You have got to be kidding me!” That was the response of many University of Tennessee employees upon learning that UT Knoxville Chancellor Jimmy Cheek is in line for an 8% pay raise, at the same time the University is raising tuition and congratulating itself on giving faculty and staff a mere 2% across the board increase (with a $1,000 minimum) and the possibility of a merit raise from a 3% pool. (Click here for Knoxville News Sentinel reporting of proposed Chancellor pay increase)

United Campus Workers President Tom Anderson said, “President DiPietro wants to give Chancellor Cheek a $27,600 a year raise. That is more than my total annual salary, and it’s almost twice what the lowest-paid UT employees earn in a year.” Anderson has worked as a Buyer for UTK Facilities Services for ten years. He added that a 2% raise, even with the $1,000 minimum, is still less than $20 a week for anyone earning less than $50,000 annually – and that’s most of the faculty and staff. The median salary for regular employees at UTK in 2009 was about $38,000. “This raise won’t even cover the increase in employee health insurance premiums,” he said, “never mind the other costs that have gone up in the four years since our last raise.”

Many workers won’t even see the raise: it’s only for regular employees. That means the adjunct faculty who teach many of the class sections won’t receive any increase in their pay, nor will term (temporary) employees or undergraduate student assistants.

Cheek’s proposed raise is explained as including a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA), as well as reflecting market research showing that he was underpaid compared to similar positions at other universities. Anderson said, “I’ve talked with people who’ve worked here 20 years. No one remembers ever getting a real COLA, where the raise we got was more than inflation. So why are administrators who already make a quarter of a million dollars getting a COLA when custodians who are barely scraping by on less than $17,000 aren’t?”

UCW Steward Wayne Walker, a full-time employee in the Social Work Office of Research and Public Service, said, “The University received a lot of good publicity last year when the president’s staff turned in their UT vehicles and took a 5% pay cut. This looks like an attempt to quietly give back that pay, with interest, on the backs of students who will be facing double-digit tuition increases. And I don’t see them offering any kind of compensation to the people who were laid off last year or just this month in my office.”

Todd Freeberg, UCW Secretary and faculty member in the Psychology Department, said, "They use the argument that they are giving these large raises to match better what these folks would make at comparable institutions. This is so that UT can stay competitive at keeping quality people, which is a perfectly valid argument. However, they unfortunately fail to use that same logic when it comes to raises for faculty and staff."