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Personal Economy #6

I used to teach college. Straight out of grad school I landed a full time job teaching at a university in NYC. I took it and I moved to New York. In Chicago-money I would have been well off, but in New York as a full time faculty member at a university, my standard of living was worse than my standard of living as a grad student in Chicago. One of my colleagues said to me “I wouldn’t move to New York for less than $75,000” wish she’d told me that before I moved, I wasn’t making close to that.

After that year I returned to Chicago and started to teach part time at an art school and a couple of universities but had to take other part time and freelance jobs in order to be able to afford to teach. I worked at galleries and museums doing installation work. I taught more classes than a full-time faculty member for two years, just divided over multiple schools. But still I added career development adviser and an admissions officer to teaching and prep work to pay the bills. I worked 5 or 6 days a week, usually each of them at a different job so when I came home from building walls or hanging art I had to shift gears and write a lecture for the next day.

I received my contract for my third year at the art school and found that despite all of my teaching experience and professional accomplishments (museum shows, awards, reviews, etc) I was literally tied for the lowest paid person on faculty. I got paid as little to teach as anyone could at that school. I was offered the same money as someone who had just finished school, had never taught and never exhibited and, of course, still no benefits. When I complained about my contract amount I was told, “tough, you’ll get a raise next year” and “you can apply for a merit raise” I wasn’t even asking for a merit raise, I was asking for parity, for fairness. Because I was team teaching and didn’t want to abandon my collaborators I agreed to teach that year but told them I would not return the following year. I ran into the Dean in the elevator and she tried to convince me to stay, saying that I was a valued colleague and an important member of the school community, she wasn’t able to explain why my contract didn’t reflect that. Now I just work those freelance jobs I worked before, I make about the same money, don’t have to stress out about lesson plans and the like, have more time to work on art and get paid as a visiting lecturer to speak to classes at that same school multiple times a semester. I still don’t have heath insurance.

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