A gentleman identified as “chancellorial chairman for teaching across disciplines at the University of California at Riverside” (there’s a title for you) writes a letter to the New York Times on college presidents’ salaries, a topic frequently discussed here at BloggEd. He notes:
If higher salaries for administrators could be shown to enhance the fundamental purposes of a university — teaching and research — then the raises might be justified. But there is an important sense in which the higher pay actually does the opposite: it undermines those basic functions. It puts out the message that to succeed in academic life is to climb the administrative ladder: department chair, dean, provost, president. Generally speaking, the further one goes on this ladder, the less teaching and research one does. In the end, a campus can have a Nobel Prize winner who is paid only a third of what the president gets, and the most brilliant teacher on campus will be paid even less. The pattern sets up perverse incentives: Want to maximize your pay? Don’t work too hard on teaching or research. “Success” lies elsewhere.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I resent the top brass as much as the next bloke, but this seems seriously wrongheaded. For one thing, the writer, Perry Link, sets up a false choice: pursue academics/research and get peanuts, or pursue the administrative track and get big bucks. It would probably only occur to a tiny percentage of my fellow professors to go after administrative jobs, and only a tiny percentage of us do so. Such jobs are all about sitting through meetings, raising money, going to boring cocktail parties, and telling people things they don’t want to hear. We don’t like that. We like teaching, research, and writing. And you know what? We are paid pretty well for doing them.
Chancellorial Chairman Link also doesn’t seem to understand proportions. The median salary for presidents of private colleges and universities (which were revealed in the survey he is responding to) is $358,000. Maybe three dozen college presidents in the whole country, public and private, make over a million dollars a year. And why wouldn’t they? They are responsible for the operation, success, and survival of multimillion-dollar organizations in a very difficult time. Amy Gutmann of the University of Pennsylvania runs an institution with 31,000 employees and a $5.5 billion budget, and has to sustain a $6 billion endowment. Her $1.2 million in compensation doesn’t seem so terribly out of whack.
I would be interested in what some of my economically literate readers, like John Caskey or Andy Cassel, would have to say about the matter of presidential compensation.
In the meantime, I am saving my ire for coaches at big-time athletic schools, like my old buddy Urban Meyer of the University of Florida. He gets $4 million. And all he has to do is win football games.