Oregon’s most proletarian professors protest bottom 10 percent pay


Brian Elliott“I don’t have any job security,” said Portland State University philosophy professor Brian Elliott at a Nov. 19 union rally. “That’s why I’m here.”

Full-time PSU faculty are represented by American Association of University Professors (AAUP), but this year’s union contract talks have not produced an agreement, and the two sides begin mediation in December.

Elliott, who wore a cap and gown to the rally, was a tenured professor in University College Dublin, but followed his wife to Portland in 2008.

“There I made $100,000 and had a job for life,” Elliott. “Here I make $40,000 and have no job security whatsoever.”

AAUP is pushing a number of proposals to improve job security for non-tenured faculty. For example, they would be on year-to-year contracts instead of term-to-term as now, and two- or three-year contracts after they’ve worked there four years. PSU administration said ‘no’ to that.

PSU is proposing a 1 percent across-the-board pay raise — less than inflation — at a school where faculty are among the least-paid in the United States. AAUP is proposing a series of raises, including a 2.5 percent cost-of-living raise, a 1 percent across the board raise, and bigger raises when faculty are promoted.

The two sides are scheduled to meet with a mediator Dec. 18 and 19.


  1. I attended grad school at PSU in the late 90’s. I receive their slick alumni magazine, soliciting money with propaganda from a well-oiled publicity team, and look at the impressive physical transformation of the campus, with hundreds of millions of dollars spent on new construction. The true mission of PSU is, reprehensibly, to turn a profit and attract new customers.
    I am in support of these and all itinerant professors who call attention to the ridiculous cost of college education. I would like to see a see a breakdown of per hour wage v number of students enrolled/cost-per-hour.

  2. To Tyler: Maybe not for life, but they are being the lowest wages in the country for what they do, PSU is considered a good college, for both its courses and quality, but not even being able to be assured limited tenure past each term is pretty terrible.

    At a number of colleges I have had the chance to see, they at least give a one to two year contract, after the teacher has shown they have the qualities and abilities that are desired for the courses they teach.

    The fact that PSU continues to do this to accredited professors who have shown over the years that they are more than competent and more than achieve the results that they themselves set out for themselves, insuring that the students learn the most they can and retain, but are treated in such poor job security conditions that PSU is not what they should be, as a learning institution, but instead as a corporation bent on generating as much flexible income for the Board over the quality of the professors and learning for the students.

    It is no wonder that more and more Professors are looking outside of Oregon, for all its beautiful landscape, for better opportunities than here.

  3. So if students can’t afford to go to college without taking on huge debt (which I have painfully real evidence of), and professors can’t afford to teach because of poor pay, WHERE IS THE MONEY GOING?

    • Hans,

      PSU’s administrators, especially the University president, Wim Wiewel. Look him up, and his salary. It’s disgusting. Also, as mentioned by “B. Lahart” above, construction. Constant. Fucking. Construction.

  4. To be perfectly honest, people (staff and faculty) at Portland State know exactly what they’re getting into when they agree to work there. The university is a mess (politically), they have no clear direction for how to care for the students once they get there (personally or academically) or even what kind of students they want to attract, and a vast majority of the infrastructure is crumbling–which is why there is always construction.

    People who work at Portland State don’t do it for the money or prestige of working for the university. They do it because they get to live and work in/near downtown Portland. That’s why a majority of the students attend the university. It sure isn’t for the “quality education” that’s offered there. So, I find it kind of disingenuous that someone would be shocked/disgruntled about their status in the bottom 10%. I didn’t like being paid the measly amount I was when I worked there, but I also knew what I was signing up for.

    Then I got a better job. At a better university. With better pay.

    And as a side note, while I’m all for increasing the pay of educators, and lowering the cost of tuition, until you get the state governments on board, any increase sought by staff and faculty will be taken out on the students. So any professor or person wanting to support one group will invariably hurt the other. Kind of a jaded outlook, but I’d like to see someone else’s perspective on it.


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