St. Mary’s Wages, the St. Mary’s Way is the culmination of efforts by many individuals and groups over the last decade and a half. Here we highlight a few key moments in that timeline.
The Faculty unanimously pass a resolution to institute a Living Wage on campus. At the time, the lowest paid SMCM employees earned $15,700 (equivalent to $20,386 in 2013 dollars). The faculty suggest using as a benchmark the eligibility cutoff for food stamps for a family of four, equal to 130% of the poverty line. At the time, that would have raised lowest pay to $23,920. The Student Government Association passes a similar resolution. The strategic plan includes larger raises for people with the lowest incomes.
By the fall of 2004, the lowest salary on campus has risen to $20,000 ($24,732 in 2013 dollars).
In a number of meetings and rallies supporting the staff, students gain support for a living wage.
A group of students enter President Maggie O’Brien’s office and refuse to leave. They arrive at a list of demands that included a Living Wage and they documented the week-long sit-in online. Their efforts garnered significant press and the President agrees to form a subcommittee, which recommends a proposal to the Board of Trustees that would set the lowest wage at $24,500. Shortly afterwards the union agrees to a contract that lifts the lowest pay on campus to exactly that number ($27,602 in 2013 dollars).
In the midst of the Presidential Search, all 23 tenured department chairs & area coordinators send a letter to the Board of Trustees noting the sharp increases in executive pay – and relative stagnation of faculty pay.
During a time of wage freezes, a small number of staff and administrators receive raises, including the President who gets a $15k bump in salary. The lowest pay on campus, still $24,500, has dropped in purchasing power (in 2013 dollars, it’s worth $24,927). Students renew the push for a Living Wage. A campus forum draws nearly 100 people to the Schaefer Lecture Hall. Students introduce the idea of a 10:1 salary ratio – restricting the President’s pay to 10 times the lowest pay on campus. In early March, the SGA Senate passes a resolution that includes the 10:1 ratio. During admitted student days, a vocal march of 100+ students winds its way across campus to demand an audience with President Joe Urgo:
The incoming class of first-year students is 30% smaller than anticipated, leading to a push for $3.5M in budget cuts. The Admissions Advisory Committee report puts the blame squarely on policies implemented by the President and VP for Admissions and Financial Aid, both of whom quickly depart the campus.
A concerned group of faculty, students and staff draft the St. Mary’s Wages, the St. Mary’s Way proposal, with the goal of bringing the SMCM salary system in line with the college’s Mission and the St. Mary’s Way.