My name is Elicka Sparks, and I’m a professor at Appalachian State University. I’ve been at ASU for 17 years teaching criminal justice. I’ve always loved my job. I love my students and my research, which does some good in the world.
I’ve been the college’s Outstanding Teacher of the Year, I’ve written a couple of books and lots of articles in peer-reviewed journals, and I help my students academically and with tough personal problems they sometimes face. I volunteered to direct our departmental honors program for years, I’ve shown up at the hospital many times to visit sick and hurt students, and gone out in the middle of the night for students who’d been sexually assaulted or were suicidal.
I’ve done all of these things because I love my job and my students. I invite a class over to my house and make them a home-cooked meal every semester. When they graduate, I go to their weddings, baby showers, and just generally offer support and encouragement.
I still love my students, but I’ve stopped loving my job. It hurts my heart to have to write that, it’s hard to love your job when you’re taken for granted. They don’t care about what I offer our students, or about the research I do. I’m not special in this regard — they don’t care less about me than they do any other professor.
I woke up this morning and read about the football coach’s new contract. The list of compensation he’ll receive is mind-boggling. This year, he’ll receive a royalty of $145,000 a month, and that’s just to start, because he’ll get a raise of $25,000 every year. I’ll bet Coach Clark loves his job. I’ll bet he feels appreciated by ASU every single day. Most years, I don’t even get a raise.
I’m a full professor. But with nearly 20 years as a professor, and with an excellent record in teaching, research and service, embarrassingly, I make $75,768 a year.
Many of my students become police officers, and their average starting pay in North Carolina is almost exactly $25,000 less than my salary with a Ph.D, and almost exactly the same amount when you factor in my monthly $955 student loan payment.
Let that sink in for a minute. How much does ASU compensate me? As much as a young person with no experience and a newly minted bachelor’s degree. Can you imagine how that makes me feel? In a word — demoralized.
A small raise is being bandied about this year, but it won’t happen. We’ll get some new building, a new coach, a bunch of new administrators who make far more than we do, and heartfelt apologies because, they’ll tell us, the money just isn’t there. I’d like to make what people think professors make. I’d like to think that my hard work is valued. I’d like for someone — the board, our chancellor, the state legislature — to just care, because I’d really, really like to be able to say I love my job again.