Duke protesters demand better pay, benefits for faculty

Posted April 21
Updated April 22

Photo credit: Stefanie Heim

— Protesters gathered Friday evening at the Nasher Museum at Duke University, asking for better pay, better benefits, and job security for faculty.

The protest coincided with the university's celebration of its $3.25 billion Duke Forward fundraising campaign.

The Duke Faculty Union organized the protest, and the group claimed that more than 40 percent of faculty members are not tenured or tenure track.

They said that faculty work on a contact basis that lasts a year or less, and earn an average of $30,000 per year.

Organizers said to pay for what they have proposed would cost a small fraction of the fundraising campaign the university just wrapped up.

​“Duke University and Service Employees International Union are negotiating in good faith. We’re optimistic that we will reach a mutually satisfactory agreement,” a Duke University spokesperson said Friday night in a statement.


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  • Joe DeSantis Apr 23, 7:25 a.m.
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    A simple check of the North Carolina Public Schools teacher salary schedule reveals: As of June 1, 2016, the starting salary for a first year teacher with a bachelor's degree is $35,000. That does not include local supplements provided by most counties. In large counties like Wake, that supplement is several thousand dollars more in addition to the state salary schedule. I view the $30,000 figure used in this story with even more skepticism.

  • Ben Hill Apr 23, 12:03 a.m.
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    View quoted thread

    Exceptional points Joe, I am in complete agreement.

    Also, tenure is something that is earned. Have these purported 40%+ of faculty demonstrated a history of accomplishments worthy of tenure? The private sector expects results, academia should expect the same.

  • Matt Smithe Apr 22, 11:17 p.m.
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    View quoted thread

    Unfortunately what you are asking for would take an actual journalist. I don't think that WRAL employs any of those these days.

  • Michael Bawden Apr 22, 10:41 p.m.
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    Raise tuition! $32,000 i believe is starting salary for public school teachers. Maybe these "professors" should teach in public schools. Better benefits and tenure. This is all based on poorly written article.

  • Joe DeSantis Apr 22, 7:27 p.m.
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    All valid points Linda, but this article made no distinction between any faculty classification (full professors, assistant professor, associate professor, lecturer, instructor, etc) in discussing average salaries, nor did it acknowledge faculty classifications in throwing out the $30,000 per year salary figure. Seems the reporter fell into the "myth of the mean" fallacy and just ran with the faculty union/protesters talking points. I would like to see an update to reflect what the average annual salary at Duke is for a "full time" faculty member, even at the first year Instructor designation. And some recognition by the reporter that all faculty positions are not full time and some adjuncts teach as little as 3 semester hours per term, which certainly impacts contact hours and "average" annual salaries.

  • Linda Tally Apr 22, 6:07 p.m.
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    A 40% non-tenured track faculty is not standard in the industry, although it may get to be. And the number of Visiting Professors utilized from other schools does keep the Duke "junior" faculty on a pretty much temporary basis. Tenured faculty positions are hard to reach, and the pay is very low for the non-tenured folks, comparatively. The school can - and probably will - up the pay grade and strengthen the tenure numbers, but right now it's rough since departments would rather draw in proven researchers with their own grants from other institutions to fill open tenure positions.

  • Joe DeSantis Apr 22, 1:40 p.m.
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    There's some very vague reporting in this story. A certain percentage of college faculty are not tenured or not on tenure track for a number of reasons: temporary appointments, various stages of academic careers, visiting professors, status as adjuncts. Some faculty are hired on a temporary or limited basis due to fluctuations in enrollment, demand by department for popular majors versus lack of demand for less popular majors, etc. Some faculty are hired to teach a limited number of courses per semester so to suggest that the average annual salary for a full-time faculty member even at the first year instructor level is less than $30,000 per year bears some scrutiny--that's less than a first year public school teacher in the state of North Carolina. Might want to dig a little deeper and compare apples to apples and oranges to oranges.

  • John Kramer Apr 22, 12:59 p.m.
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    I always thought Duke paid better than places like UNC, NCCU and NCSU. Is this not true?