It’s 7 a.m. and the buzzer is once again disturbing my short lived slumber. With a groan I painstakingly roll out of bed and perform my morning ritual. Take a shower, brush my teeth, throw on some clothes and rush out the door to head to class. Unbeknownst to me an entire army of people have already long been up creating an environment suitable for my education to take place.
No, I am not talking about the professors, lecturers and grad assistants that staff our classrooms. I am instead referring to the gears that keep the machine that is Murray State running. I am speaking, of course, of the un-seen, unsung and underpaid heroes of this University.
The auxiliary staff here at Murray State University. They are the cooks who are up before dawn to ensure that students have the nutrition to make it through the daily grind of class.
They are the janitors, electricians, mechanics and grounds keepers who ensure this campus is able to support the thousands of students who flock to it every day. Without them we could not successfully receive the education that promises us a brighter future.
Yet, have any of you ever thanked one of these people for the service they do us?
Better yet. Has the University administration ever compensated them fairly for their efforts that are so integral to the success of this University and its students? The answer is an unequivocal no.
Every year the administration of Murray State University ignores the rising income disparity of its auxiliary staff. Every year this administration does nothing to fix it. And every year it gets worse for the workers who are trapped in this poverty driven system. Yes, poverty.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services a family of three must gross at least $19,090 to stay above the poverty line. Using information from Murray State’s 2011-2012 operating budget, the average Dining Service cook makes only $15,543 per year.
This means that a worker with an un-employed partner and child is living well below the poverty line. For workers in other auxiliary departments the situation is just as dire.
The average building services technician makes just $17,977 per year. This amount is still under the poverty line for your normal family of one partner and child. I find myself disheartened and disillusioned when an institution such as Murray State exclaims in its mission statement “Teaching, research and service excellence are core values and guiding principles that promote economic development and the well-being of the citizens of the Commonwealth of Kentucky and the region.”
How can this be true when this institution is paying Kentucky citizens’ salaries that in many cases are below the poverty line? How can you promote economic development when you pay your workers such a miniscule amount of money?
These unsung heroes of Murray State deserve better. They deserve the chance to earn a fair wage. They deserve the possibility to have better lives. They deserve an institution that looks at them as human beings and not numbers on an expense report.
I would point to characteristic seven of the Murray State Graduate, “Understand the importance of and engage in ethical behavior and responsible citizenship.” I’ve done my best to follow this attribute that our University holds so high. Now I challenge the administration of this University to do the same.