Professors and lecturers: a dysfunctional relationship

More pay should come with more work, not less.

My accountant friend and I did some data analysis on ASU’s 2010-2011 employee pay data and found several disturbing trends. There is profound gender pay inequality, as shown last week, and also a repulsive hierarchy of pay.

In Wealth of Nations, Adam Smith rightly points out that university profits are driven by student numbers. He argues that professors should be paid for teaching and should not be allowed to be complacent with title.

ASU disagrees.

The average salary for instructors in the English department is $32,946. The average salary for lecturers is $45,453. Instructors and lecturers have master's and doctorate degrees, just as tenure track professors do, and teach upward of 80 students.

Full professors in the department, meanwhile, have an average salary of $94,702, and most teach considerably fewer students. One makes $114,000 to teach just 38 students. One makes $79,000 to teach 37. Another makes $105,000 to teach nine. And as though the department pays people to do nothing, one rather lucky “Joe” makes $191,000 to teach six.

The argument that those professors earn their money by research and writing does not stand. There are several professors in the department who teach as well as produce. Two notable professors teach around 80 students, make around $100,000, and are writing machines – judging by their CVs. They’re also nominated for Professor of the Year.

The journalism school has a similar problem. Instructors there have an average salary of $29,792 while full professors make $92,900. One instructor is teaching five classes, three with 25 students and two with 30. Another is teaching three classes with 30, and one with 428. Those classes are in person. One makes $33,000. The other makes $36,000.

Their tenured counterparts, meanwhile, have it comparatively easy. One teaches two classes, 30 students in person and 45 online, for $104,000. Online courses are of dubious quality and give no face-to-face interaction with students, so that 45 should be seen as perhaps 10. Another makes $119,000 to teach 14 in person and 30 online.

The trend is present in the math department as well. Instructors and lecturers have an average salary of $55,645, whereas full professors average $109,150. One rather offensive case has a professor making $150,000 to teach just 15 students. Another makes $130,000 to teach 11.

Yet a senior lecturer in the department teaches almost 180 students in person for $68,000. Another senior lecturer teaches 140 in person and 170 online for $62,000. And in a not surprising coincidence, the three lowest paid instructors in the department are among the three most overworked. One teaches three classes of 50, another three classes of 80, and the other teaches three classes of 75 and one of 50, all in person. They each make $42,000.

There is a problem. Instructors and lecturers do the actual work of the university yet are not paid justly for it. There’s no reason professors should be paid more to do less. Additional pay should be warranted by additional work. Teach the same amount of students and produce. If professors can’t cope, they should be fired.


Reach the columnist at

Follow us on Twitter or like us on FacebookClick here to subscribe to the daily State Press email newsletter.

Get the best of State Press delivered straight to your inbox.