ASU Compromises on Teacher Contracts

Following months of protest from teachers, Arizona State University officials Thursday abandoned their plan to increase the number of classes writing instructors are required to take on each semester.

Instead, the teachers will be able to choose whether to teach five classes or four, as they were required to do during the 2014-2015 school year.

The university also agreed to retool the teacher’s contracts.

Last week, the university offered the teachers a base pay of $36,000 to teach five courses per semester with some adjustments for time served, which teachers said would have meant more work for less money for much of the staff.

Under the new deal, those who teach four classes will make $36,000 annually, while those who teach five will get $40,000.

"The situation still isn’t perfect... But this is progress." — Paulette Stevenson

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ASU hopes the move, which represents a raise between a couple hundred and a couple thousand dollars for most of the staff, will “strengthen the delivery of critical instruction that teaches students how to be effective, clear, and thoughtful writers,” according to a statement provided to New Times.

Overall, Paulette Stevenson, 33, one of the ASU writing instructors who helped organize the contract negotiations, said the teachers were pleased with the new arrangement. However, for five veteran teachers who had acquired merit raises over years working with the university, $40,000 is a pay cut.

“We’re feeling victorious,” Stevenson said, adding that the teachers were particularly relieved that ASU had agreed not to require them to take on five classes per semester. “We had some real concerns about how it was going to affect our ability to serve students. They listened.”

Instructors have been rallying against the five course requirement since December, when ASU announced the change. In April, a number of teachers hit the streets with signs and megaphones to call on the university for fair compensation. About a week ago, more than half of the department’s 60 writing instructors penned a letter rejecting their contracts.

Because their classes are capped at 25, writing composition instructors often have the most personal contact with students. However, they are among the university’s lowest-paid teachers.

ASU pays its instructors less than the national average for public, four-year universities, which the Chronicle of Higher Education estimates at $48,027.

“The situation still isn’t perfect,” Stevenson said. “But this is progress.”

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