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Students Stand Thoughtlessly With Staff

As various commentators have said over the years, people are entitled to their own opinions; they are not entitled to their own facts. Today’s D has a fine example of a well meaning student — Phoebe Gardener ‘11, a co-founder of Students Stand with Staff — who has not taken the time to research the data that should undergird her viewpoint regarding the wages that the College ought to pay to its staff:

Fair treatment of our labor force cannot be measured by being better than someone else and staying “competitive” in a market of employers and educational institutions. Rather, it must be measured by our own standards that we set for ourselves against a moral and political compass of justice and equality…

Low-paid college workers are barely able to get by on an average salary of $35,000 to $40,000 in a region in which a family of four needs $37,000 to $45,000 to live.

Actually, the 2011 Living Wage Calculator, as developed by Dr. Amy K. Glasmeier at Pennsylvania State University posits that a family of four will need a wage of $52,383 to live in Hanover and the towns surrounding it in the Upper Valley:

Living Wage2.jpg

Assuming that Miss Gardener sees nothing wrong with both spouses in a family working, in order for a couple to earn the necessary living wage, each adult must earn $26,191/year — or an hourly rate for a 40-hour week of $12.59/hour. Note that in the living wage calculation, $386/month has been budgeted for medical care ($4,632/year).

So where does that leave Miss Gardener? The lowest level of union wage at the College is $15.82/hour — a rate that is paid without regard to family status: this sum is paid to parents in families with two children, and also to single people (lucky them, given that the living wage for a single adult is $8.37/hour) who have recently left high school without a diploma. Two cook helpers at Thayer earning this entry level wage will be paid $65,811/year! Not too shabby for jobs that require no formal education at all. And the above calculations do not take into account the College’s above-market provision of 5+ weeks of vacation and 7-9% pension contributions to the staff.

Once again, there is only one conclusion to be drawn from the data (as opposed to the heartfelt emotions of people who don’t do their research): the College’s staff is grossly overpaid, even from the perspective of people who reject market-set wages and suggest that a theoretical living wage be used to compensate staff.

Addendum: The Living Wage Calculator’s equivalent family-of-four living wage for Princeton, New Jersey is $68,324 — a full 30% above the recommended wage in low-cost Hanover. Yet Princeton charges tuition/R&B/fees each year that are 13% below what Dartmouth charges its students and their beleaguered parents. Does that disparity leave you scratching your head, too?

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