The University of Texas at El Paso is giving $1,200 bonuses to faculty and staff next month as a thank you for their work during the coronavirus pandemic.
President Heather Wilson announced the one-time merit payment in an employee email Thursday. The payments will go out Feb. 15 to faculty and staff who are eligible for benefits and have been employed since Aug. 1, 2021. This does not include some adjunct professors and some part-time employees.
“Not only have you continued to teach and advance knowledge, but people worked exceptionally hard to ensure that all students were advised and registered for classes this semester, including a significant number of students who had paused their educations during the pandemic,” Wilson wrote.
Due to these efforts, UTEP will “be very close” to its expected enrollment number for this semester, Wilson wrote. That number was not provided in her email.
Since the start of the pandemic, UTEP enrollment has decreased after more than two decades of continued growth.
Wilson also noted that additional funds became available due to decreased department expenditures, largely due to pandemic-related travel restrictions.
Yannick Atouba, a communication professor, said he is grateful for the unexpected payment but recognizes it was an appreciation gift and not a pay increase.
“I was very happy when I saw the email but then I saw that it said ‘one time’ so I was like, ‘oh’,” Atouba said.
Employed by UTEP since 2014, he last received a pay increase two years ago, he said and hasn’t received word from his department or the university as to when he can expect another bump in pay.
“I understand if the pandemic caused certain things but it’s the lack of communication about these things,” Atouba said. “It’s a bit unsettling because this could easily go on for many years and it’s like, ‘Is no one going to say anything about this?’”
Diana Martinez, an adjunct professor who has taught history and humanities courses at UTEP since 2010, said the bonus would have especially benefited lower-income employees, like adjunct faculty. Because she’s ineligible for university benefits, she will not receive the bonus.
“Many of us are still trying to financially recover (from) when we were living paycheck to paycheck without benefits before the pandemic,” Martinez said. “There is equality and then there is equity.”
This is the first employee bonus given under Wilson’s tenure. She assumed the university presidency in August 2019.
Jewél Jackson covers higher education for El Paso Matters, in partnership with Open Campus.