Are top university administrators overpaid?

Academics are applying for the open University of Alberta president’s job in groups of four – because even 1/4 of the salary offered would be a substantial increase in pay. The original foursome offered to each teach one undergraduate class a year (to “walk the walk”) and described how they would split the job in line with their academic areas of expertise (“Dr. Ward with her research on monstrosity and hybridity, is eminently suited to interact effectively with various levels of government”). There are now fourteen sets of academics applying for the job, in addition to the less-innovative single applicants.

“We’re not seeing the results of all this money that’s being raised, we’re not seeing it in the classroom and in the core functions of the university,” noted Dr. Kathleen Cawsey in an interview. “The goodwill generated if the administrators took a pay cut would be enormous.”

I’m actually equivocal about the current salary of Berkeley’s chancellor, which is (iirc) about half a million dollars. He oversees one of the most prestigious universities in the nation (with one of the largest student bodies, and more saliently one of the largest faculty senates), and he came in with a proven track record of administrative competence as well as strong academic credentials. I’ve been impressed by Dirks’ commitment to his job so far and I know that it’s one of those jobs where if you do it well, you’re working all day, every day. Even his wife has official responsibilities. I would rather pay a lot of money for someone to do the job well than a little bit less money for someone to do the job extremely badly.


I don’t know that I would be comfortable asking for half a million dollars a year when budget cuts throughout the university means that graduate students work three or four jobs to make ends meet, where free coffee and printer paper are seen as “luxuries”, and I’m told to hold office hours in a cafe if I can’t hold them in my overcrowded office space.

1/4 of a university president job, though? That sounds pretty sweet.

Read the original cover letter and listen to a radio interview on CBC; coverage on Slate and Inside Higher Ed.

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