Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Cost of "Top Talent" Part II

The Pioneer Press editorial published on Sunday is even harsher than the Star Tribune editorial.  The Pioneer Press sees the compensation of the senior administrators as evidence of an overall profligate use of the financial resources of the University:

This is the tip of the iceberg.  Don't believe that institutions that spend tax dollars in this way in this instance don't spend like this in general. . . .
There's linkage between this situation, spending practices in general and the seeming inexorable cranking up of tuition costs year after year.  Remember that next budget cycle when the University cries poor.

See the March 11, 2012 editorial on Vacation Pay :  $455,000.
Yet the Regents and the President appear as unable to take action as they were to foresee the reaction of the public to the use of the resources of the University to enrich senior administrators with extravagant annual compensation, "transitional" compensation, and golden parachutes.  Instead of taking action the Regents issue a news release in which they praise the President for his "careful, watchful and prudent approach" and pledge to review policies.  See the University News Release
Have they not read the comments of the readers to the news reports in the Star Tribune and to the editorials? 
The public is coming with pitchforks to tar and feather them, and they are going to hold a committe meeting!  
Before we see a collapse of public support for the University without precedent the administration should take significant actions to restore confidence.  It should begin with the immediate issue that served as the spark for the firestrom.  The President should set the example by relinquishing his right to receive compensation of $610,000 for a one year leave.  Then he should request all the departing administrators to voluntarily relinquish their "transitional" compensation and golden parachutes.  (The request should be made both in private and in public.)  The responses would tell us whether these good people, all of whom were paid very well for their services, are willing to put the best interests of the University ahead of the pursuit of personal wealth.  
Then the administration should turn to the process of reforming the modern corporate university in which the values of Wall Street have replaced the ideals of public service.  It should change the culture that looked to "the market" to set the tone and the direction of the University and eventually led to the excesses that provided the tinder for the firestrom.  See:
Course Correction in Higher Education;
Questions of Value;
University Inc. Part II;
Going to Market Part II.  (See in particular the comment of Professor Cramer, chair of the Faculty Consultative Committee, quoted in the penultimate paragraph.)

Michael W. McNabb
University of Minnesota B.A. 1971; J.D. 1974
University of Minnesota Alumni Association life member


William Messing said...

It is interesting that the Star-Tribune published a column written by four Deans which attempted to defend the center for interdisciplinary research. This comical piece defended what is indefensible, namely the pissing away (an expression I used when I asked Kaler a question on March 1, following his State of the University speech) of money that should be used to support the true mission of the University, namely the educating of its students and the furthering of research and scholarship. These Deans would pervert the mission of the University and apparently are well on their way to doing so.

William Messing
Professor, School of Mathematics
University of Minnesota

Anonymous said...

My husband is a full professor at a liberal arts school in the Twin Cities. He suggested that no administrator at any college or university be paid higher than the highest paid professor at the school. Seems reasonable to me.