University of Tennessee lecturers rally in support of fair pay

Lecturers of the University of Tennesee, students and faculty rallied together under the shared idea that the UT lecturers should earn higher pay for the work they do.

“None of us should have to worry about how we’ll pay the bills, how we’ll pay for maternity leave, how we’ll pay for our student loan debt, how we’ll cover emergency surgeries, how we’ll fix our car, send out children to college, or how we’ll retire, but many of us do,” Anne Langendorfer, a lecturer of 10 years in the English Department at The University of Tennessee, said.

On Oct. 31, faculty, students and staff joined together to demand equal pay for lecturers at UT which are paid less than those at other colleges in the South. Therefore, UT Lecturers are demanding “to institute a guaranteed minimum salary of at least $50,000 per year for all full-time faculty working at UTK, a minimum salary of $59,500 per year for full-time faculty promoted to Senior Lecturer, and a minimum salary of $68,500 per year for full-time faculty promoted to Distinguished Lecturer.”

“My husband, who is full-time, and I, who am part-time, each work multiple jobs so that we can do what we think is our life’s passion,” Jeni Wallace, a lecturer at UT, said. “But as everyone is pointing out you can’t eat passion, and you can’t send a child to school on passion.”

Other lecturers point out the inequality in salaries across Knoxville and within the university itself.

“Like me, many lecturers at UTK are making less than our K-12 colleagues with equivalent degrees right here in Knox County,” Langendorfer said. “When the chancellor gets a raise this year it will be more than my entire salary.”

These professors are asking for signatures to present to the provost chancellor in hopes of reaching their goal. The movement is asking for a thousand signatures and is only a few hundred short of their goal. They are hoping to have fair pay instituted by the Fall 2020 semester.

“No one should have to struggle to make ends meet. No one should have to struggle to support themselves and get their basic needs meet, especially those who care so much about the future of education, of us, about students,” Evora Kreis, a student at UT, said.

The rally not only caught the eye of students like Kreis but also gained support from a woman named Elan Young. Young is a former lecturer from a university herself and wanted to support those rallying at UT.

“I feel strongly knowing from personal experience how difficult it is to survive on the wages that institutions think is appropriate,” Young said, “I know I needed to be here today to show my support.”

At the beginning of the rally, Anne Langendorfer read a quote from a poem by Emily Dickenson:

“I’m Nobody! Who are you?
Are you – Nobody – too?
Then there’s a pair of us!
Don’t tell! they’d advertise – you know!”

Throughout the rally, Langendorfer referred back to this poem and she compared the underpaid lecturers to ‘nobodies’ in the eyes of the University. At the conclusion of her speech, Langendorfer addressed the chancellor and provost.

“Chancellor Plowman and Provost Manderscheid, we stand here together, a bunch of nobodies, to call on you to uphold our shared values. Teaching matters. Learning matters. Our student’s education matters. Value our work. Do the work.”

Ralliers present their signs in support of the push for fair pay at the University of Tennessee Knoxville on Oct. 31. Photo/ Gracie-Lee Strange
Supporters of fair pay for lecturers march on Andy Holt Tower at the University of Tennessee in the rain on Oct. 31. Photo/ Gracie-Lee Strange

Edited by Maddie Torres and Grace Goodacre

Featured photo courtesy of Gracie-Lee Strange