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Public employees: A day in the life of a 'lazy' state worker

By Pilar Melero

Feb. 14, 2011 0

It's Sunday morning. I've just finished breakfast and called my parents to tell them I am not coming to brunch. The rest of my family, all private-industry employees, are there, enjoying Dad's specialty: menudo.

I am home, with a list of things to do: write two exams, write two letters of recommendation for students, check the online class discussion board to see if my students have any questions as they make their way through this week's readings, grade 25 advanced Spanish compositions and 60 Spanish 141 paragraphs. If I have time, I may take a look at 10 job applications so that I am ready for my meeting tomorrow. I did not get to them yesterday. I only made it through 25 because I was busy doing research for a paper I need to write before this week is over; grading 37 exams and 90 pieces of homework.

I am missing the menudo brunch at my parents' house, and yesterday I missed my son's basketball game, as I have missed most.

I did not do these tasks during the week because I was teaching. I teach 4 1/2 classes this semester (I share one with another faculty member; we are substituting for a professor who passed away the week before we began classes in the fall). I was also grading, meeting with students who needed a little help before an exam, responding to e-mail from students and doing committee work. I also attended presentations by job candidates to replace the deceased faculty member and made written recommendations to the hiring department based on my observations. I had volunteered to serve in the hiring committee.

A week of similar work awaits me, as I get ready to head another job search and prepare to turn in merit evaluations for every member of our faculty in the Languages and Literatures Department - more than 50 of them - as head of the merit committee. I also need to write a paper for an upcoming conference, and, oh, yes, teach.

I do all this for the same amount of money that I was offered for a public relations job in the private sector in 1998, before I spent $50,000 on a PhD. Actually less now that now that I took a temporary pay cut through a furlough to help the state get through its tough economic times.

Am I complaining? No. I love my job. All aspects of it, from teaching to research and even committee work. And scheduling is flexible enough that I can usually attend my son's Christmas concerts. I am also able to start my workday after I put him on the bus, and on most days I am home by the time he gets home so we can have dinner together and help him with his homework, even if after dinner I go back to grading, preparing classes - working.

There are other things that make up for the lack of adequate pay: a nice benefits package. But if you've heard the news coming out of our state Capitol, that's on the chopping block, too. It might be time to think of heading back to the private sector.

Pilar Melero of Elkhorn is an associate professor of Spanish, Chicano/a and U.S. Latino/a literature at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. E-mail meleropilar@yahoo.com

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