Opinion | UI must respect all its workers

Many UI faculty report feeling disrespected, and the university must address these concerns.


Matt Sindt

A member of the audience asks a question at the Faculty Senate Meeting in the Old Capitol. Sept. 13, 2022. (Matt Sindt/The Daily Iowan)

Evan Weidl, Opinions Columnist

There is a workplace cultural crisis running rampant across the nation, and the University of Iowa is not safe from it.

At the UI, instructional track faculty reported feeling like “second-class citizens” compared to tenured track faculty. Those instructors voiced concerns about issues such as job insecurity, low starting pay, and lack of appreciation.

What we are seeing at the UI is a symptom of a nationwide system that corners less experienced workers into being paid less and being treated with less respect. The university must treat all employees with dignity, no matter how long they have been working there or what job they work.

The results of this mistreatment have been staggering. A whopping 50 percent of faculty, staff, and postdocs have seriously considered leaving the UI in the last year. The amount of faculty that say they feel valued by the university has fallen 15 percent since 2018.

Workers across the country feel underappreciated. A survey of 2,000 American workers by OnePoll found that 59 percent have never felt appreciated by their boss.

Feeling appreciated is not just a courtesy that workers deserve — it is a necessary business practice for employers. According to the American Psychological Association, feeling valued is a key indicator of job performance. Of the 59 percent of workers who say they’ve never had an appreciative boss, 65 percent say they’d stay at a job with an unappreciative manager if their coworkers and peers were appreciative.

Making an employee feel appreciated takes more than casual Fridays and a dozen cheap donuts a week. Employees at the UI and everywhere must receive better pay and better opportunities.

There are many steps that bosses and employers at the UI can take to make their instructional track faculty feel more valued. The issues the faculty reported feeling most concerned about were “job insecurity, lack of leadership opportunities, lack of appreciation, low starting pay, and small salary increases.”

If the university is not going to increase starting pay, they must make raises larger if they want to make their employees feel more respected.

The UI will spend $288,793,123 for faculty and instructional officials in fiscal 2023. To pay for a salary increase, the university should consider slightly lowering the pay of some of its tenured professors.

The UI Faculty Senate caps the amount of instructional track faculty representation at 10 percent of any college, or one Senator, whichever is greater. Over 80 percent of the instructional track faculty felt this cap is inappropriate.

The UI should eliminate this cap immediately. It is unfair and disrespectful to the instructional track faculty to deny their representation. If they want a UI Faculty Senate that is truly fair and representative of the faculty, they must scrap the cap.

It is time to change the culture of work in the U.S. Bosses have made workers feel as though they are being provided a service by being hired and that they should always be at the mercy of their boss. Companies — and universities — need their employees more than their employees need them.

Columns reflect the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Editorial Board, The Daily Iowan, or other organizations in which the author may be involved.