Tag Archives: salary

Universities Are Vocational Schools

Why do students go to college? A new poll has a one-word
answer: money. That’s one of the findings in a broad Gallup survey of college admissions officers done for Inside
Higher Ed
. The admissions officers seem to believe that those planning to
attend college view it largely as a signaling device that directs the best and
brightest young Americans to the best and highest-paying jobs. It is not
primarily about acquiring knowledge (“human capital”), critical learning or
leadership skills, or better perceiving the difference between right and wrong,
but more about achieving the American Dream of a comfortable, moderately
affluent life.

To cite one statistic, 99 percent of admission directors
at public four-year colleges agreed or strongly agreed that “parents of
applicants place high importance on the ability of degree programs to help
students get a good job.” With regards to the prospective students themselves,
“only” 87 percent of the counselors agree that getting a good job is
important/very important.  Most of the
counselors also agree, at all forms of higher education institutions, that
their schools are putting more emphasis on job placement.

Continue reading Universities Are Vocational Schools

Some Hope for Higher Ed Reform

The current conversation on higher ed reform coming is unusually platitudinous even for an election year. This was clearest earlier this year during the battle between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney on the proposed federal student loan interest rate, a subject fairly inconsequential in larger problem of sky-high college costs. In his Democratic nomination acceptance speech, President Obama claimed he would work to “cut college tuition in half” in the next ten years. How he would do this, or if he truly grasped what he was saying, is anyone’s guess.

But Senators Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) and Marco Rubio (R-Florida) have shown a great deal of care in crafting the “Know Before You Go Act.” The bill, currently under consideration in the Senate, will “support statewide individual-level integrated postsecondary education data systems.” More specifically, under the proposed bill the federal government will help states coordinate student educational and postgraduate employment data. The bill’s aim is to help consumers make better choices about the products they are considering. Per a press release from Wyden’s office, the bill focuses on making the following metrics more accessible to consumers:

  1. Post-graduation average annual earning;
  2. Rates of remedial enrollment, credit accumulation, and graduation;
  3. Average cost (both before and after financial aid) of the program and average debt accumulated;
  4. The effects of remedial education and financial aid on credential attainment and a greater understanding of what student success can mean.

We should praise the Know Before You Go Act for several reasons. First, instead of trying to instituting IPAB style price-control to help reform educational choices and costs, it respects the consumer’s volition to make his or her own determinations as to what is best for their particular circumstance. As Rubio said, “We want people to know what the new jobs, skills, careers in the 21st century are. The reason you need to know what your professional prospects are is that you have to weigh that against how much you will borrow.” He continued, “I graduated with $125,000 in student loans. That’s nobody’s fault – it was an investment for me. We want kids to have access to information before they make this investment.”

Secondly, the bill does not create a new federal database to obtain data by tracking students. Instead, its coordinates already extant data gathering mechanisms in the states. In describing this aspect of the bill, Wyden sounded like a Republican. “The new database is state-based and individually considered. The states can do this on their own but there’s a problem. There’s no uniform standards. If there’s no standards…then the system is failing families.”

Lastly, of concern to many conservatives, Wyden emphasized that the bill would produce a glut of computer science or accounting majors, to the neglect of the liberal arts. “This legislation is about empowering students to make their own choices. Are we going to miss out on opportunities for rich liberal arts education? I reject the either/or choice. A lot of universities are starting to pick up on labor trends – after 9/11 and Arabic for instance. Is it liberal arts or an education for a high paying job? That’s a false choice.”

Granted, it still seems Congress is far from addressing the main driver of college cost inflation – federal subsidies in the form of loans for anyone who wants them. Said Wyden, “Federal education policy is at a fork in the road. Historically it is about access. I want to keep that focus – support Pell grants, Stafford Loans, and all of the assistance that ensures access.” Nonetheless, a respected Democratic policy thinker is supporting a bill that is conservative in its temperament. By supplying greater amounts of data to consumers, the Wyden-Rubio bill is the right move in reforming an industry badly in need of more transparency and accountability.

Should We Unionize the Grad Students?

On September 12, the House Committee on Education and the Workforce held a hearing that focused on the subject of unionization of graduate students. Inside Higher ed covered the story.

Here is the issue. Private colleges and universities are subject to the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), which permits employees to seek to unionize through an election process overseen by the National Labor Relations Board. Employees can petition for the NLRB to hold an election and when at least 30 percent indicate their desire for an election, it will be scheduled. If more than half of the workers vote in favor of a union, it then becomes the exclusive representative of all the workers and the employer is legally compelled to bargain with union officials “in good faith.”

Labor unions have been steadily eroding except in the public sector for decades. Their political allies would like to see that decline reversed and are happy to help unions open up new “markets.” That is why the prospect of unionizing grad students appeals to Democrats, who receive almost all of the political support dished out by Big Labor.

Under the NLRA, which is vague as to just who is an “employee” and who is not, grad students are currently regarded as outside the definition. The NLRB, controlled by pro-union Democratic appointees, has held hearings meant to pave the way for change. As expected, the House committee hearing divided neatly along party lines.

I haven’t read the transcript of the hearing, but from the IHE piece and my experience with such hearings, I’m pretty sure that no one brought up the strongest objections to expanding unionization “rights” to grad students.

For one thing, unionization under the NLRA is nothing like a voluntary cooperative effort aimed at improving conditions. Once a union is voted in and certified, it has exclusive bargaining authority over all the workers. No individual is allowed to handle his own affairs any longer. Some grad students would probably like this collectivization, but others would find it abhorrent. Why should their freedom be trampled upon?

Moreover, a union vote is not like a political election. A union voted in today remains in place indefinitely. Grad students who enter school after a union has been certified won’t have any say about it unless they go through the rather difficult process of petitioning to decertify.

Nothing prevents grad students from getting together and arguing their case for better compensation or conditions without relying on federal coercion. That’s how we should leave it.

The Problem with Bonuses for Masters Degrees

Carol Howley, a nursing instructor at Chicago’s Richard J. Daley College, pocketed $307,000 in extra salary over the years by enrolling in doctoral classes at Chicago’s Rush University and receiving her doctorate. There’s only one problem, though: Rush has no record of Howley’s attendence. Cook County prosecutors recently indicted her for theft of government property.             

Howley’s story is symptomatic of a larger problem. As George Leef points out, institutions routinely hand out automatic pay boosts to their employees on the basis of the degrees the employees possess. College nursing instructors are relatively rare, but in America’s K-12 public-school system, where instruction costs total more than $308 billion annually, nearly half of teachers receive bonuses averaging about $3,000 a year just because they have an advanced degree. And these degrees are mostly worthless: only 10 percent of teachers’ master’s degrees are in substantive fields such as math, science, or English, where the teacher’s extra education might do the students some good. Ninety percent of teachers get their advanced degrees in education, a field notorious for its less than rigorous academic standards and its embrace of pedagogical fads. And academic and think-tank research, starting with a 1997 study by University of Washington research professor Dan Goldhaber has consistently revealed that students taught by teachers with advanced degrees make no more progress than students taught by teachers lacking such degrees.             

A master’s degree in education is such a lucrative deal for teachers that the blog Teacher Portal advises its readers simply to “[g]et one!” Sure, the tuition isn’t cheap. In 2009, an online master’s degree from the nonprofit Western Governors University and the for-profit Walden University cost an identical $12,000. Teacher Portal calculated that the compound-interest payoff of a master’s degree in education adds up to $221,000 over a thirty-year career. Teacher Portal concluded: “You may be a [slightly] better teacher but you’ll be setting yourself up much better to live comfortably in retirement…or at least to splurge on a fantastic vacation each summer :).”

A 2009 New York Times forum over the value of advanced education degrees confirmed Teacher Portal’s cheerful cynicism. Several participants who were seasoned teachers deemed their education classes “utterly useless,” “laughable,” and of “zero benefit.” One teacher, who had an undergraduate degree from Wellesley and a graduate degree from Columbia, said the college where she obtained her teaching certificate launched a “sales pitch” for its master’s and doctoral programs in education that emphasized “how little work we would have to do to get an advanced degree.”

Proposals for reconsidering these bonuses remain anathema to the education establishment. Teachers’ unions have resisted any effort to peg teacher pay to any factors except seniority and advanced degrees, and school administrators, boards of education, and state legislators seem to regard across-the-board pay raises for teachers as a way of life. But there is another constituency that is likely to resist ferociously the elimination of master’s-degree salary bumps: the faculty and administrators of the advanced-degree programs in education that are cash cows for the colleges and universities that sponsor them. Kathleen Wilson, an associate professor at the University of Nebraska’s College of Education and Human Sciences, vigorously defended the programs. “I don’t see how they couldn’t make a difference,” she said. “These programs really allow teachers to gain a better perspective in their area of instruction.” Expect that kind of rhetoric on steroids from education professors should school districts try to get rid of the salary bump for advanced degrees.  

Out-of-Touch Faculty Act Out

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the peculiar coup attempt against University of Southern Maine president Selma Botman. As word of a no-confidence motion emerged, the plotters–most of whom were deeply-entrenched faculty–struggled to articulate a rationale for such an extreme move. They seemed displeased that a handful of administrators received raises when the plotters’ salaries had remained flat, but in a recession-suffering state with a legislature determined to reduce spending and an anti-education governor, no reasonable person could possibly blame President Botman for faculty salaries. The plotters also seemed to oppose Botman’s efforts to modernize the campus–but, again, they struggled to articulate a positive vision or explain exactly what Botman did that was wrong.

Continue reading Out-of-Touch Faculty Act Out

Adjuncts and the Devalued PhD


If you are a college student today enrolled in four classes during any given semester, it is likely that only one of your teachers is employed by your school in a permanent position that comes with a middle-class salary, job security, and benefits. The other three are contingent faculty, often called “adjuncts”; they have job titles like “instructor” or “lecturer” rather than “professor” but their roles in the classroom are the same. According to the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), adjuncts at U.S. colleges and universities now comprise “more than 75 percent of the total instructional staff.”

But the vast majority of adjuncts–who typically either have Ph.D.s or are in the advanced stages of completing them–earn a fraction of what their tenure-track colleagues do. Their contracts are offered on a course-by-course, semester-by-semester basis and often come without benefits. Unlike most tenure-track faculty, few adjuncts even know until just a few weeks before the semester starts which classes they will teach, if any, and many take part-time jobs off campus–or at multiple institutions–to supplement low pay and forestall the crisis of a semester with too few classes to pay the rent.

Continue reading Adjuncts and the Devalued PhD

Gainful Employment: A Detriment to Competition


Today the Obama Administration unveiled its long-anticipated and highly controversial final gainful employment (GE) regulation  that ties program eligibility for federal student aid to new metrics that are based on student loan repayment rates. Under the new GE rule, a vocational program can qualify as leading to gainful employment and remain eligible for federal aid if one of three metrics is met:

1.     At least 35% of former students are repaying their loans;

2.     The estimated annual loan payment of a typical graduate does not exceed 30% of discretionary income;

3.     The estimated annual loan payment of a typical graduate does not exceed 12% of total earnings.

The rule requires that a program fail to meet one of the three metric three times in a four year period before becoming ineligible for federal student aid, with 2015 being the first year that a program can lose eligibility. Education Secretary Arne Duncan defended the metrics as a “perfectly reasonable bar…that every for-profit program should be able to reach. We’re also giving poor performing for-profit programs every chance to improve. But if you get three strikes in four years, you’re out.”

Continue reading Gainful Employment: A Detriment to Competition

A Coddled Professor Speaks Out

A good deal of outraged reaction greeted “Fat City: Thank You, Illinois Taxpayers, for My Cushy Life,”  an article posted on the Weekly Standard’s website on Friday by David Rubinstein, a recently retired (after 34 years) sociology professor at the publicly funded University of Illinois-Chicago.

 The article was a hoot and a half.  Rubinstein chronicled in detail the charmed lifestyle of a tenured full professor at a prestigious research university: the “2-2” loads (translated into English, that means teaching just two classes per semester, at least one of those classes often a tiny graduate seminar); the no-dress code, so that profs could show up in class unshaven and wearing T-shirts and jeans if they liked; the easy hours (no classes before 11 a.m. if you liked), hugely long vacations, especially over the summer, and academic conferences aplenty, often in exotic European locales, all paid for by his university–that is, by the taxpayers of the state of Illinois. Best of all were the retirement benefits (including, at UI-Chicago, a generous health plan), constitutionally guaranteed because Rubinstein taught at a state school and contractually guaranteed because of the institution of tenure itself, which means lifetime employment. Rubinstein wrote: “Why do I put ‘worked’ in quotation marks? Because my main task as a university professor was self-cultivation: reading and writing about topics that interested me. Maybe that counts as work.”

            Even funnier than Rubinstein’s piece, though, was the reaction of other college professors to his emperor’s-no-clothes take on professorial life at a top-tier university. National Public Radio’s website reposted the piece, and nearly all of the 38 academics who submitted comments completely misunderstood Rubinstein’s point, leading you to wonder how smart people with Ph.D.’s really are. Most of the commenters, reading Rubinstein’s piece as a personal confession rather than a description of prestige-university culture, excoriated him as a “slacker,” a “whiny contrarian,” and a “nobody” who had somehow weaseled the University of Illinois-Chicago out of vast sums of salary. One of Rubinstein’s own colleagues, Peter Hales, an art history professor at UI-Chicago, sniffed, “The UIC I taught at was a place of passion, energy, and hard work.”

Continue reading A Coddled Professor Speaks Out

Why College Still Matters

A growing chorus of critics says a college education is finished as the ticket to economic success and a middle-class life.

The economy of the future, these critics suggest, actually requires far fewer college-educated citizens, because the U.S. economy is generating tens of thousands of jobs that require little or no higher education. 

In essence, the critics of American higher education policy are challenging the long-standing belief that all U.S. citizens should have a decent chance to pursue a college degree, regardless of what kind of neighborhood they grow up in, what kind of schools are available to them, or whether their parents have university degrees.

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Harvard Professors and the Complication with Libya

 The embarrassing decision by the Monitor Group, the worldwide consulting firm founded by Harvard professors, to register retroactively as a foreign lobbyist organization over $3 million worth of work it did from 2006-2008 for Muammar Gaddafi’s Libyan government, is the culmination of a story with two morals. The first is that even Harvard professors, high salaries at that institution notwithstanding, are not immune to the lure of consulting fees. The second is the usual one of the double standards that liberal-leaning pundits, academics, and politicians typically apply when deciding whether to condemn or ignore dubious conduct involving dictators

Until President Obama, a favorite of progressives, decided on a military intervention in Libya, the typical liberal reaction to Gaddafi, a populist/socialist rhetorician in the Hugo Chavez mold, was at best indifference. Indeed, liberal public figures and intellectuals all over the world, including South Africa’s Nelson Mandela, led the successful calls for the 2009 “compassionate” release from a Scottish prison to Libya of Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi, a former Libyan intelligence agent and the convicted mastermind of the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, that killed 270 people, mostly U.S. citizens. (Megrahi, diagnosed with prostate cancer, was supposed to have had just three months to live–but in fact, after receiving a hero’s welcome in Libya shortly after his release, he is alive to this day and said to be reasonably healthy.). Former U.K. Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s Labor Party government also apparently played a key role in securing Megrahi”s release. But when it came to the Monitor Group, the left has been denouncing the consulting firm’s Gaddafi connections for years–mostly because Richard Perle, assistant secretary of defense under President Reagan, chairman of President George W. Bush’s Defense Policy Advisory Board, and stalwart supporter of the war in Iraq, traveled twice to Tripoli in 2006 to meet with Gaddafi as a paid adviser to the Monitor Group. And now, after Obama’s  decision to wage a bombing campaign against Gaddafi, liberals have suddenly become pro-war patriots–and a new round of grandstanding against Monitor has ensued. One Harvard professor, Harry R. Lewis of the computer science department, speaking at an April 5 meeting of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences called for Harvard to publicly condemn Monitor’s co-founder, Michael E. Porter of the Harvard Business School, for “taking money” from Libya to whitewash Gaddafi’s government.
Two professors connected with Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, Robert Putnam and Joseph Nye, former dean of the School and former assistant secretary of defense, traveled to Libya, under a $250,000-a month consulting arrangement between the Libyan government and Monitor that was supposed to identify opportunities for political and economic reforms in that country. The $3 million or so that Gaddafi’s government paid Monitor included $450,000 for a “visitor program” designed to cover travel to Tripoli by influential intellectuals. They included, besides Putnam and Nye, Francis Fukuyama, author of The End of History and at the time affiliated with Stanford, and Lord Anthony Giddens, former head of the London School of Economics. Covington & Burling, a law firm hired by Monitor to assess the legal situation, recently concluded that some of the firm’s work in Libya constituted acting in a public-relations role that obliged Monitor to register with the Justice Department under the 1938 Foreign Agents Registration Act. Now, Putnam, at any rate, says (according to the Harvard Crimson and the Boston Globe) that he was “misled. If I had known that a primary purpose of the visit to Libya was to influence public opinion in the United States, I would not have gone,” Putnam told the Globe.            

Continue reading Harvard Professors and the Complication with Libya

College Presidents–Do They Make Too Much Money?


The Chronicle of Higher Education‘s recently released annual survey of the salaries of university presidents provides empirical support for the proposition that higher education today appears to be less about achieving lofty goals like disseminating knowledge, building character, promoting virtue and expanding the frontiers of what humans can do than it is about something far more mundane: keeping the members of the academy happy and well fed.

I believe strongly that free markets work remarkably well and that includes the market for labor. The reason LeBron James, Oprah Winfrey and CEOs of highly profitable top corporations (including for-profit universities) are exceedingly well paid (many millions of dollars annually) is that their contribution to their employers is huge and can usually be pretty well measured–so markets dictate that they are paid, roughly, what they contribute to output at the margin. The Cleveland Cavaliers sank as a basketball power when Mr. James moved to Miami, and with that the revenue stream generated by Mr. James’s talents fell as well.

Traditional higher education, however, is a different matter. Markets are not truly “free” (indeed, they are rather expensive!) Gordon Gee, the president of Ohio State, cost that institution over $1.8 million in compensation last year (double the next highest paid public university president). But did that school have a good year because of President Gee? Who knows? Are students learning more?  Is Ohio State broadening our horizons of human potentialities more than in the past? Is President Gee worth roughly three times the salary of his predecessor? Is he well over twice as productive as the long-time president of the school’s arch athletic rival, Mary Sue Coleman of the University of Michigan? Again, who knows?

Continue reading College Presidents–Do They Make Too Much Money?

Every Professor an Entrepeneur?

What if all college professors were forced to be higher-education entrepreneurs, with salaries pegged to the number of students they attract to their classes? That’s the model recently proposed by a Texas professor who styled himself “Publius Audax” on a Pajamas Media blog. Publius launched his proposal, he wrote, as the solution to a projected $25 billion budget shortfall over the next two years that is likely to hit the Texas higher education hard. Publius’ argument is that his “entrepreneurial professor model,” when coupled with other reforms would “harness the power and efficiency of the market” to make public higher education cheaper and better. The other reforms include abolishing tenure, eliminating state subsidies to public campuses, getting rid of “core curricula” (which nowadays are nothing more than pointless distribution requirements, and allowing private “charter colleges” (both nonprofit and for-profit) onto public campuses in order to provide more competition.

Hmm, my own undergraduate alma mater was founded by a highly successful entrepreneur, the railroad baron Leland Stanford. What if college professors were more like Leland Stanford and less like the brilliant but economically illiterate head-in-the-clouds types who taught at Stanford when I went there?

Here is how Publius’ entrepreneurial professor model would work: All professors and lecturers would receive a base “living wage” of $30,000 plus benefits. Beyond that it would be up to the professors themselves to generate a “tuition-based bonus” for themselves consisting of 50 percent of the tuition income generated by students enrolled in their classes, “up to a maximum of 320 students (960 student hours).” All instructors would be allowed to teach up to eight classes a year. In order to gin up the price competition further, professors, department heads, and even entire colleges could offer tuition rebates to students, the money to come out of the professors’ salary bonuses. Professors with ultra-large classes could hire teaching assistants—but the money would again have to come out of their salary bonuses. And to ensure that professors wouldn’t game the system by handing out easy A’s to all comers, there would be a strict grading curve. No more than 15 percent of students in any given class could receive an A-grade, and another 15 percent would have to either flunk or receive a D. Professors whose grades deviated from the curve would lose their bonus for every student whose grade exceeded the curve. This would not only keep the professors in line, Publius argues, but would “transform the campus culture, replacing partying with studying” as students scrambled to stay out of the bottom of the class.

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What Happens When College Is Oversold

waiters.bmpAs I wrote here last week, newly compiled data shows that a great many college graduates have been settling into jobs that do not require higher education. The data, prepared and released by the Center for College Affordability and Productivity (CCAP), show that a majority of the increased number of college grads since 1992—some 60 percent– are “underemployed” or “overqualified” for the jobs they hold. Thus we have one-third of a million waiters and waitresses with college degrees. Some 17 percent of the nation’s bellhops and porters are college graduates. A new CCAP study From Wall Street to Wal-Mart: Why College Graduates Are Not Getting Good Jobs, released today along with this essay, carries even worse news: the proportion of college-educated Americans in lower-skilled jobs has more than tripled since the 1960s, going from 11 percent in 1967 to 34 percent today.
Why are more and more college graduates not entering the class of professional, technical and managerial workers that has been considered the main avenue of employment? Anyone who has read Charles Murray’s great book Real Education (New York: Crown Forum, 2008) has good insights into why this problem has arisen. Truly, Murray argues, only a modest proportion of the population has the cognitive skills (not to mention work discipline, drive, maturity, integrity, etc.) to master truly higher education, an education that goes well beyond the secondary schooling experience in terms of rigor of presentation. Reading and comprehending 200- to 400-year-old literature is useful for advanced leadership -but difficult. Educated persons should read and understand Locke’s “On Human Understanding” or Shakespeare’s King Lear -they are insightful in many ways, but the typical person of average intelligence typically lacks both the motivation and ability to do so. Mastering complex forms of mathematics is hard -but necessary to function in some areas of science and engineering.
Following up on Murray, the move to get more college degrees creates a huge problem. The number going to college exceeds the number capable of mastering higher levels of intellectual inquiry. This leads colleges to alter their mission, watering down the intellectual content of what they do. Rather than studying advanced mathematics, physics or –as I did– 18th century French literature in the native language, more students are studying business administration, communication skills, and doing vocational-school type work on the intricacies of health care provision or administration. Instead of five or 10 percent of students getting “A” grades, we give 40 percent or more. We have created a Potemkin Village -a few truly good universities that come close to meeting the former academic standards, but a vaster melange of institutions that are often neither “higher” nor even “education” in the classical sense, particularly since the typical student spends less than 30 hours a week on academics. Bottom line: too many people go to college.

Continue reading What Happens When College Is Oversold

What Is Texas A&M up to?

image001.gifSomewhere in America the president of a public university is getting hammered by the chairman of the board of regents. The hammerer—let’s say he owns a chain of automobile dealerships – is arguing that the president must get faculty costs under control – or else.

“Admit it, John,” the chairman says to the president. “Your faculty are a bunch of lazy, overpaid whiners. You’ve got six months to figure out a pay-for-performance plan, or start looking for another job.”

A former physicist who understands well the hornets nest he’s about to fall into, our beleaguered university president is left with little choice but to come up with a quick and dirty plan.

“Give me a spreadsheet,” he orders his senior vice president for budget and planning. “I want every faculty member in this system to have a dollar value attached to his or her name, reflecting their net contribution to our bottom line. Then I want a faculty salary schedule to reflect that.”

The president got his spreadsheet. A former physics colleague who was awarded a Nobel Prize some twenty years ago saw his salary slashed in half. Though he’d become a star teacher since his Nobel, his research grants had been dwindling for years. By contrast, there was the recent hire in the Construction Management program. She was a new Ph.D. who was already bringing in tons of industry money for “research.” In contrast to the Nobel Laureate, her salary would shoot up 35 percent. Our university president could think only about what Albert Einstein once said: “Everything that can be counted does not necessarily count; everything that counts cannot necessarily be counted.”

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”Gender Gap” Mania

Inside Higher Ed had a brief notice yesterday, “Worldwide Gender Gap in Academic Salaries in Science,” that, though accurate as far as it goes, is revealingly, almost humorously, incomplete and misleading.
Here is the IHE piece in its entirety:

A worldwide analysis by Nature of the salaries of men and women in academic science has found that men’s salaries were 18 to 40 percent higher in countries for which there were significant sample sizes — Australia, Britain, Canada, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Spain and the United States. The general pattern was for salary gaps to grow over the course of careers, with men’s salaries starting to gain relative to women in the three-to-five year period after the start of a career in Europe and after six years in North America.

The American higher education establishment, and apparently those who report on it, suffer from gap mania. Everywhere they look there is some “gap” to be corrected, and some uncorrected, often hidden (read “structural”) discrimination causing it. To see that attitude at work here, I encourage you take a look at the Nature article linked above. If you do, you will see that it is not “a worldwide analysis … of the salaries of men and women in academic science” at all. Entitled “For Love And Money,” the Nature article begins by noting, in bold, that “[t]he self-reported contentment of researchers with their chosen profession depends on more than just salaries, according to the results of our international career survey.”
The purpose of the survey, in short, was only incidentally to examine men’s and women’s salaries. Rather, it aimed “to track contentment with one’s job by region or by job attributes such as health care, the degree of independence or mentoring potential,” and it was not limited to “academic science.”

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Why Faculty Unions Could Destroy Our Universities

After decades of trying, the Democrat-controlled Wisconsin legislature, with the encouragement of the union-backed governor, passed a statute allowing unionization of faculty in the University of Wisconsin system. Recently the first campus, Superior, voted to unionize their faculty by a 75-5 vote. I believe that ultimately faculty unions will seriously damage public universities in Wisconsin and elsewhere, particularly at “flagship” campuses that produce and require serious faculty research.
I do not say this out of hostility to unions. I have been an advocate for organized labor and taught and directed organizations connected to the movement. I was the last director of the Industrial Relations Research Institute and also worked with the university School for Workers, which has a long history of training union stewards, organizers, leaders of locals. In my book, Democracy, Authority, and Alienation in Work (University of Chicago Press, 1980), I argued that for industrial democracy to work in practice, a union was required as an ultimate protection for workers.
But those connections were to blue-collar workers, in the trades, in manufacturing, or in service positions. They did not include “professional unions,” the largest being kindergarten to twelfth-grade teachers, but also including other professions and of course faculty unions. Blue-collar unions were and are necessary to both counteract very asymmetric power relationships with management and to establish decent and living wages and benefits. The great era of American unions from the 1930s to the 1970s did that and the result was a burgeoning middle class that aided the prosperity of the nation through jobs that fathers and mothers held with pride.

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The Times Misleads Its Readers about CUNY

On Friday, New York Times education reporter Lisa Foderaro penned a curious article about City University of New York Chancellor Matthew Goldstein. The substance was clear: to quote Terry Hartle of the American Council of Education, Goldstein’s “compensation, while a significant amount of money, is relatively modest for the best public university presidents in the country, and I would certainly put Matt in that class.” Hartle’s evaluation seems self-evident: by virtually any standard, CUNY has dramatically improved under Goldstein’s leadership. Moreover, Goldstein’s current salary, as CUNY Board of Trustees chairman Benno Schmidt told Foderaro, is “below the median” in comparison to heads of “other systems of similar size.”
This, in short, seems like a non-story: CUNY’s widely (and justifiably) praised chancellor has a salary that’s below the median among his peers.
So what headline did the Times choose? “Growth of CUNY Chancellor’s Salary Outpaces Rise in Faculty’s Pay.” That statement speaks not to anything about Goldstein but to the ineffectiveness of the CUNY faculty union, whose leadership seems more interested in extraneous matters such as demonizing Israeli security policy—and thereby losing political support from key legislators—than in achieving faculty raises.
More problematic, by providing little context about the union head’s previous behavior with Goldstein and withholding key information about one of her interviewees, Foderaro conveyed the false impression that a faculty consensus opposes Goldstein’s pay level.

Continue reading The Times Misleads Its Readers about CUNY

The ”Pay Cut” Crisis

Both the Chronicle of Higher Education and Inside Higher Ed have reported on a newly-released study regarding faculty salaries from the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources. Both articles highlight how, in the past year, around a third of professors around the country have seen their salaries reduced. (Only at private, research universities has the average professor enjoyed a salary increase in the past year.) Both articles also suggest that the decline might last for some time, because higher education tends to lag behind the economy in reviving from recessions.
It seems to me that both articles buried the lede. We live in a time of nearly-double digit unemployment. Nearly 20 percent of Americans are underemployed. Yet higher education has been all but immune from faculty layoffs.
That, of course, should come as little surprise: though faculty salaries (especially in the humanities and social sciences) might not be as high as many professors would like, job security is higher for the professoriate than for just about any other profession. It’s almost impossible to fire a tenured professor (unless he or she commits the type of massive research conduct associated with the likes of Ward Churchill), and only a college that wants to sacrifice all pretense of academic quality will dismiss untenured assistant or associate professors during economic downturns.
The AAUP, however, views the new figures as cause for grave concern. As the Chronicle reports, “University officials should seek faculty input on pay cuts, and state officials must chose priorities correctly, Mr. [AAUP director of research and public policy John W.] Curtis, said. ‘I do think we’re at a pretty critical juncture at looking at higher education as a public good and as a resource that contributes something to society. Unfortunately, a lot of governors and legislators are looking at higher education as only an expense.'”

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Out Of Her Depth?

Ruth Simmons, president of Brown University, quit the board of directors of Goldman Sachs, citing the “increasing time requirements associated with her position as President.” What she didn’t cite were the two or three weeks of steady criticism from financial analysts and students and the student newspaper in response to belated awareness of her lucrative remuneration from Goldman Sachs and her comments on her role on the board.

Simmons, who juggles membership on several boards, received $323,000 a year as a Goldman director and she leaves the board, which she joined a decade ago, with $4.2 million in Goldman stock, plus 10,000 options that could raise her take to $5.7 million.

In an interview with the Brown Daily Herald, Simmons, the only African-American on the Goldman board and one of only two women, stressed that as a director on several boards, her goal was “to make certain fields more accessible to women and minorities,” and implied that that she served on boards to learn something about economics.

The interview, which preceded the Simmons resignation, immediately drew strong criticism from Felix Salmon, a blogger at Thomson Reuters Corp. who called for a change in the composition of Goldman Sachs’s board because he said some of Simmons’s comments indicate that she lacks the business sophistication to challenge management.

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Two New Stories And A Job Notice

Santa Cruz, Ca.–As California works to plug an epic budget shortfall, severe budget cuts are threatening the twin qualities — excellence and access — that have defined the University of California as the world’s leading public research university. At UC Santa Cruz, faculty, students, and staff worry about the impact the state’s financial meltdown is having on the campus, and will have on the social and economic health of the state…” The repercussions of California’s $26.3 billion budget gap are being felt campuswide. For example, the University Library has reduced hours and staffing and is canceling almost $800,000 worth of serial subscriptions, among other measures, according to University Librarian Ginny Steel. “We’re down to core services at this point,” Steel said….


Santa Cruz, Ca. — UC Santa Cruz’s Academic Senate voted overwhelmingly Wednesday to condemn a major student fee hike and furloughs for full-time employees whose annual salary is $40,000 or less… A 13 percent state funding cut to the UC system during the past two years has translated into $50 million in slashing at UCSC. The campus has seen staff and instructor layoffs, course cuts and the elimination of more than 50 unfilled faculty positions….


Online job notice
The University Library of the University of California, Santa Cruz, seeks an enterprising, creative, and service-oriented archivist to join the staff of Special Collections & Archives (SC&A) as Archivist for the Grateful Dead Archive. This is a potential career status position. The Archivist will be part of a dynamic, collegial, and highly motivated department dedicated to building, preserving, promoting, and providing maximum access both physically and virtually to one of the Library’s most exciting and unique collections, The Grateful Dead Archive (GDA)… Appointment Range: Associate Librarian III – Librarian I, with an approximate salary range of $52,860 – $68,892, commensurate with qualifications and experience….

A Tangled Web At Berkeley

In his Prologue to the Canterbury Tales Geoffrey Chaucer distills the betrayal of trust by corrupt public servants into a memorable expression: “If gold rust, what shall iron do?” This is the metaphor that his honest parson lives by, and it reflects on the venal churchmen among the pilgrims who betray the ideals of the church and set a terrible example when they should be a guiding light. This theme—one of high expectations for integrity cruelly disappointed—is timeless: it is exemplified yet again by the sorry tale of malfeasance in the Chancellor’s office at UC Berkeley that follows. Yet Chaucer’s miscreants are not cardinals and bishops, but only a lowly monk, friar and pardoner, while Chancellor Robert Birgeneau of UC Berkeley is the leader of the flagship campus of the greatest public system of higher education in the world. And while Chaucer’s folk cloak their transgressions in the mantle of devotion, Birgeneau wraps his in the mantle of diversity.
Already in late 2007 California’s deteriorating budget led to reductions in UC’s state support, and President Robert Dynes announced that his system-wide staff would be reduced. A severance pay incentive was offered to those who retired voluntarily, but when the Regents were asked by recently appointed President Mark Yudof in November 2008 to approve severance pay of $100,202 for Linda Williams, alarm bells went off: Williams had transferred from her job as Associate President in system headquarters to the position of Associate Chancellor at nearby UC Berkeley without missing a day’s employment. She sought severance pay though she had never been severed. Astonishingly, President Yudof recommended it and the Regents approved the recommendation.
It said much about the entitlement mindset at UC that top administrators were surprised by the outcry that followed. The public easily grasped that it was offensive for Williams to ask for $100K of public money as a “severance package,” but that simple point seemed lost on UC’s leadership. President Yudof hid behind the notion that the rules for UC’s buyout program were not his responsibility, having been written before he took office. That left an obvious question unanswered: why didn’t he tell Williams that what she was asking was unseemly, and that it would be an embarrassment to the university if he sought regent approval of this payment when a deepening financial crisis was forcing an increase in student fees? The culture of administrative self-serving in the President’s office that had brought down the presidency of Bob Dynes was apparently still in place—a great disappointment for those who hoped that Yudof would be a new broom.

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Endowments Plummet, Salaries Cut

Harvard’s Endowment has suffered a staggering eight billion dollar loss, or a loss of at least 22% in the last four months. That’s the worst endowment drop for Harvard in 40 years, and dwarfs most comparable recent plunges in University endowments. Read on.
Given uniformly dolorous news in the financial sector, it’s encouraging to see that the Stanford Provost and President have taken a 10% salary reduction, and each Stanford dean has pledged additional salary cuts, reports the Stanford Daily.