Annenberg Radio News

USC professors advocate for higher pay

Professors address increased cost of living in an open letter.

An image of a graph demonstrating merit based salary increase for USC faculty over time and rate of core inflation.

The USC chapter of the American Association of University Professors is the group behind the Open Letter, which advocates for USC salaries to reflect the increases in the cost of living in Los Angeles… We spoke to Howard Rodman, its president. He’s a professor and a former chair in the USC School of Cinema Arts.

Rodman says… other universities in the US — including the entire University of California system and other prestigious institutions offer automatic adjusted cost of living raises for their faculty. But USC does not!

HOWARD RODMAN: People who are here who do a good job. Who step up when they’re asked to step up. Who have held their departments together through a pandemic shouldn’t be rewarded by making less money in real dollars year over year over year.

The Open Letter states that because raises have not accounted for the nearly 8% increase in cost of living, faculty are making about 6% less than they were two years ago.

HOWARD RODMAN: And what we are saying as faculty here it’s very, very simple, which is, we shouldn’t be asked to earn less and less and less every year in real dollars for the very real honor and the very real joys and the very real satisfactions of working at USC.

The road to the letter started when the American Association of University Professors circulated a salary survey, encouraging faculty to take the lead in being transparent about their salaries. At USC, unlike public universities, there’s no open information about how much faculty members make, says Howard Rodman.

HOWARD RODMAN: You know, people are more open about their sex lives than they are about how much they make. But here that’s been kept hidden, and I think it works to the detriment of the faculty because we’re operating in the dark.And so we wanted to kind of lift the curtain on the secrecy and the shame of saying, this is my name. This is how much I make.

Rodman said that In gathering that survey data, it became apparent how faculty salaries fell behind the cost of living in LA. Rodman is pleased, and even a little surprised how quickly new signatures are being added to the Open Letter, advocating, simply put, for what is fair.

HOWARD RODMAN: Those of us who have lived through other struggles know that the cost of not speaking up for what’s right is always larger than the cost of speaking up.

Currently, slightly more than 800 faculty members and others have signed the Open Letter. And it continues to garner signatures. For Annenberg Media, I’m Cari Spencer.