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.

2002 faculty living wage resolution


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.

2006 rally

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.

Chairs Letter graph


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:

2012 March Large Living Wage Sign


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.


4 thoughts on “History

  1. These photos really take me back. Gotta admit – it’s a little depressing to see how inflation erodes away our successes. It would be great to see so many years of students’ activism finally pay off – permanently.

  2. This quote was given by a staff member to the group that did the sit in, as they met with VP Finance Tom Botzman:

    Find out how much God has given you and from it take what you need.
    The remainder is needed by others.

    -St. Augustine

    How cool is that?

  3. The chart (Administrators’ Salary Increases Outpaces Faculty Increases, Tuition, and Inflation) is very disturbing. It would appear that the tuition hikes of the past decade are largely supporting the raises of a very small number of employees, meanwhile most professors and staff effectively received pay cuts (as inflation rose faster than their pay). I’d really like to see years 2009-2013 and staff pay added to that graph so we can better understand the current conditions.

  4. This is a very worthy cause, but part of the solution is going to have to be increasing the school’s endowment. The school really runs on a tight budget compares to other Liberal Arts colleges that it competes with.

    At this point, helping the St. Mary’s student body to grow (consistently, over time) and also lobbying and fundraising will all help the cause more than protesting.

    The schools needs a bigger endowment more than anything else. Right now it’s 30 million, which sounds like a lot, but it’s not, if you dig into the details.

    The best way to ensure a living wage at SMCM now is to come up with new ways for the school to grow financially and prosper.

    This means figuring out how to increase its endowment, both public and private funding and the total number of students.

    Here is a “challenge vision”– the “vision” that I would like to share is that St. Mary’s College of Maryland will continue to grow, in all ways, every year for the next 10 years.

    (In spite of national enrollment trends projected out to 2024 that go in the opposite direction– shrinking freshman enrollment as a national trend).

    I believe that St. Mary’s College can be different and can go contrary to this trend.

    This will also help solve living wage problems at the school along the way…

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