SIUE can’t fill open jobs because of low pay and that hurts students, professors say

SIUE faculty and staff members called for equitable funding with the Carbondale campus

Southern Illinois University Edwardsville faculty and staff members called for equitable funding with the Carbondale campus during a state Higher Education Committee hearing on the state’s appropriation.
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Southern Illinois University Edwardsville faculty and staff members called for equitable funding with the Carbondale campus during a state Higher Education Committee hearing on the state’s appropriation.

Professors at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville say their pay is a reason SIUE can’t fill some vacant teaching positions.

The union says average teaching salaries are lower there than for their peers at other Illinois colleges — including the university’s sister campus in Carbondale — despite SIUE’s $27 million in savings.

“Our salaries are so low now, new faculty won’t come here. That affects course offerings and the quality of students’ education,” Brian Henderson stated in a union news release. He is an SIUE English professor and the union’s secretary.

The university didn’t respond when asked to comment on the issue of open positions.

Union president Kim Archer said the lowest-paid professor with a Ph.D. but without tenure is about $42,000, compared to $50,000 at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

The lowest-paid SIUE professor with tenure makes almost $55,000, which is the same pay as a brand new professor at the University of Illinois Springfield. The average pay for full professors at SIUE — $83,000 — is about the same as U of I Springfield, but it is around $20,000 less than Governors State University and Western Illinois University in northern and central Illinois.

The number of unfilled positions at SIUE wasn’t immediately available. Archer, who teaches music, said she has heard from union members that it is a campus-wide problem, particularly affecting the College of Arts and Sciences and the School of Education, Health and Human Behavior.

She acknowledged that some of the positions are open because a search hasn’t started or is ongoing or because the paperwork to request a position is still in progress.

Meanwhile, contract negotiations between SIUE and the union have been going on for more than two years. Archer said professors are getting “impatient and frustrated.”

SIUE spokesman Doug McIlhagga said the university recently agreed to start meeting weekly to negotiate.

“There are a number of outstanding proposals that have economic dimensions and are naturally of great importance to both the University and Faculty Association,” McIhagga wrote in a submitted statement in response to the union’s news release. “The University recognizes the importance of all of our faculty, including the group represented by this union. We remain deeply committed to ensuring student success and the University’s impact, and we understand that finalizing this contract is important in doing so.”

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McIlhagga added that full-time professors received pay raises of 2% in 2017 and 2018 and 1% in 2019. The union estimates it would cost SIUE about $255,000 for another 1% raise for the faculty.

Mark Poepsel, the SIUE union vice president, stated in the union’s news release that it is more expensive to live in Edwardsville than in places like Carbondale and Western Illinois University’s home in Macomb, where professor salaries are higher. Poepsel teaches in the Mass Communications Department at SIUE.

“Expenses keep going up, but the administration seems to care more about increasing its savings account than investing in its people,” Poepsel stated. “We lost 8% earning power during the budget impasse. That means it cost my family thousands of dollars for me to keep working here.”

SIUC receives a larger share of the state funding for the SIU system than the Edwardsville campus, which has been a point of contention for years that gained momentum recently.

Carbondale is the flagship campus, but enrollment there has been declining while Edwardsville’s is increasing. SIUE’s enrollment surpassed SIUC’s for the first time this fall.

Some have argued the university system should send more money to Edwardsville’s growing campus, while others have argued that would harm SIUC’s programs and Carbondale’s economy.

The SIU board of trustees agreed to spend an estimated $97,000 on a study that will soon tell them how much money should be given to Edwardsville and Carbondale campuses after months of debate about it.

There had even been state legislation proposed to split up the divided university system before the study was approved.

By April 13, 2018, state representatives with ties to the metro-east had filed a three-bill package related to the Southern Illinois University system. Here are the events that led up to the proposals in Springfield.

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The metro-east is home for investigative reporter Lexi Cortes. She was raised in Granite City, went to school in Edwardsville and now lives in Collinsville. Lexi has worked at the Belleville News-Democrat since 2014, winning multiple state awards for her investigative and community service reporting.
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