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AASHE 2020 Conference presentations (great news)

I have some great news…I’ve been formally notified that I’ve had two proposals for presentations accepted by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) for its 2020 Global Conference on Sustainability in Higher Education. AASHE has provided a welcoming venue for my research since 2016 and provided opportunities for my work to reach administrators, students, and faculty across higher education. I’m delighted to be part of this year’s virtual conference, which runs October 20-22. The theme of the conference is “Mobilizing for a Just Transition,” which I think is particularly fitting now because we will have numerous opportunities to challenge our thinking about why we do things the way we’ve done them as we eventually emerge to the “next normal.”

The first presentation is titled (Some of the) Surprising Findings About Living Wages in Higher Education During a Global Pandemic. I framed the presentation this way so I could include some of the most interesting and surprising things I learned through both my study of living wage policies and practices at 4-year institutions (first quarter of 2020) and my just concluded study of community colleges. This talk is in a 15-minute “On-Demand Lightning Talk” format, so this talk will be fast. I promise it will be informative, and I will do my best to make it fun.

The second presentation is titled: “Your Mileage May Vary”: Creating Your Institution’s Roadmap to Just Employment. This talk is also intended to be inclusive of attendees from both 4-year institutions and community colleges. I’ll be sharing what I’ve learned (primarily through interviews with Chief Human Resources Officers) about the different paths that institutions have taken to enacting written living wage policies or adopting unwritten living wage practices. Participants will be able to apply that information in a way that best fits their institution’s intentions and situation. This session was originally proposed as a half-day pre-conference workshop, but that format has been discontinued with the change to a virtual conference; it is now a 40-minute “SimuLive” session, which will include a live Q&A segment during the session. I’m very happy with both format changes, especially so for this session, which will be available to many more people within the basic conference price.

The terrific folks at AASHE are reimagining the conference from the ground up, and the peek I’ve had at behind-the-scenes looked awesome. You can catch all the details at the link at the top of this post.

I look forward to connecting at the conference with colleagues — both new and familiar — who are interested in social sustainability.  See you in October!


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Special thanks to special people

I’ve been blessed to have a number of terrific SJU students assisting me with the work of wrangling all of the institutional data, databases, and contact information needed to make this project run. They work behind the scenes — and you’ll see them credited in the “People” area of the site — but today is the end of the administrative “academic year” and marks some changes in the group, so I wanted to give them each a personal thank you and a public shout-out.

Danny Phelan (’22) is leaving the project after working this year (a) developing the database of community college contacts, and (b) assisting with the search for publicly available living wage policies at four-year institutions. Thank you and good luck, Danny!

Heather L. Jones (’22) soon starts an internship for the rest of this summer and plans to rejoin the project in the fall. This year, Heather has been working on the search for publicly available living wage policies at four year institutions for the past year. Thank you, Heather, and I look forward to working with you again this fall!

Maggie Koch (’22) is continuing with the project this summer to complete the search for publicly available living wage policies at four year institutions, as she’s been doing for the past year. Thank you, Maggie, I’m delighted that you are available and able to work this summer!

This past academic year I’ve been on research sabbatical dedicated to this project, and I simply couldn’t have covered this much ground without their support. Thank you!

In addition, Vraj Thakar (’22) is working with me this summer researching living wage policies posted on publicly available websites as part of SJU’s Summer Scholar Program. While I’ve been surveying and interviewing CHROs at community colleges, Vraj has been completing the collection of publicly available policies on community college websites. Vraj is at about the halfway point of his project, and it’s been a pleasure working with him. 

Warmly, Ken

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Some introductions: Living wage and the Model Just Employment Policy

Introduction to the living wage and the just wage model

The living wage is a measure of meeting basic living needs. A living wage is market-based and geographically-specific in that costs of living vary within and across the United States. A commonly used method for computing the living wage in the United Stats is the MIT Living Wage Calculator created by Amy K. Glasmeier and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

However, wages are only a part of what is meant by the term just employment. Individuals are dependent upon employers, and the reliability of one’s income has an impact on whether one can live on what they are paid. Thus, policies regarding employment practices, such as scheduling, can result in employees not earning enough money to meet their basic living needs. Said another way, if one is paid a living wage per hour but only working 20 hours a week, or every other week, is can hardly be characterized as a just wage.

Introduction to the Model Just Employment Policy

The Harrison Institute for Public Law in conjunction with the Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor at Georgetown University prepared a Model Just Employment Policy and a guide to understanding its content and intent. Initially, the Model Just Employment Policy was framed as a Jesuit Just Employment Policy, and more recently (2016) as an expression of an institution’s “…connection between its Catholic faith and its moral commitment to promote a just work environment.”