What You Pay for

Over four to one. It’s a sad statistic. A friend sent me a story in Slate exposing, once again, the (some would say) criminal inequality of university administration to the “talent.” Turning our eyes to Canada, the piece by Rebecca Schuman narrates how when administrator Indira Samarasekera of the University of Alberta announced that she was leaving, her position was applied for by four faculty members of Dalhousie University as a group. Intended as a pointed joke, the faculty members, led by Kathleen Cawsey, noted that if all four were hired the salary of Samarasekera would cover all of their salaries with a substantial raise. Universities continue to insist that administrators should pull down corporate salaries for what, to the eyes of everyone else, is a job with no point. Long before even a Dean had been born, faculty taught because that’s what they do. As perennial overachievers they require very little managing to do their jobs. The more corporate universities have become the more pronounced faculty abuses of they system have grown. Coincidence?

In my current ancillary job to the calling of my life (the classroom), I spend a lot of time on college, university, and seminary websites. One of the interesting dynamics I’ve noticed over the last few years is that when you want to find faculty (the only ones likely to write a truly academic book) you have to wade past tabs announcing trustees, administrators, and other dead weight. Almost as if institutions of higher education find the subject experts to be an embarrassing afterthought. When we send our children off to take the SATs and have them sign up for honors courses and college-placement classes in high school, we’re probably not thinking about what trustees they will be emulating or administrators they will be ignoring. There was a time when people associated universities with the faculty talent they could draw. And the subsequent benefit to paying students.

How the times have changed...

How the times have changed…

Samarasekera’s $400,000 salary will be, undoubtedly, claimed by another faceless administrator. Universities across the United States and Canada will help to recoup their costs by hiring more adjunct faculty and slashing permanent positions. And parents will weep all the way to the bank’s loan officer. Our children are being taught “business ethics” in real time. Tuition will go endlessly up to make sure we can afford the best paid deans of this or that, and the most comfortably paid coaches whether or not their teams win or lose, because, we all know in advance who the losers are. One thing is for certain, they will not be the administrators or coaches. They will, however, be the ones paying to sit in the classroom.

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