Professors of the world, unite!

Posted: Jun 23, 2004 12:00 AM

Has anyone noticed that public universities everywhere seem to be running out of money? If you?re like me, you are under that impression because they keep calling and asking for more donations every week. Those of you who have responded to such calls by making donations probably did so because the administration convinced you that they don?t have enough funds to meet the basic educational needs of the university.

After reading this editorial, you may no longer feel inclined to dig deep into your pockets to help your local university or your alma mater.

A professor named Dan Embree at Mississippi State University recently published a courageous editorial for The Advocate, the local newsletter of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP).  In the editorial, Embree reports that between the academic years of 1999-2000 and 2003-2004, the top administrators at his university received some pretty generous pay-raises. For example:

President                                         $228,359 to $350,000 (53.3%)
Provost                                           $153,000 to $205,000 (34.0%)
Associate Provost                           $102,000 to $130,000 (27.5%)
VP of Finance and Administration   $138,000 to $190,000 (37.7%)
VP of Agriculture                            $118,965 to $205,000 (72.3%)
VP of Student Affairs                      $130,000 to $167,000 (28.5%)
Dean of Veterinary Medicine            $150,000 to $175,000 (16.7%)
Director of Aircraft Operations        $109,400 to $135,000 (23.4%)

By contrast, Embree reports that during the same time period, university plumbers received an average raise of 4%.  University professors fared even worse, with an average raise of 3.6%.

The situation that Embree describes is not a local problem. It is a national problem. I have written previously about the elitist mindset of administrators at my university.  For example, the position of Chancellor here at UNC-Wilmington has been blessed with a pay increase of well over 100% in the last decade. All this money goes to an administrator who doesn?t have to pay for a place to live. Worse still, her mansion is presently being renovated at a cost of $1.2 million.

By contrast, UNC professors have not had pay-raises in four years. They don?t get a free place to live. In fact, they don?t even get free parking at their place of employment.

So what do professors do to remedy such situations? Usually nothing.

Actually, some of them teach about Marxism in the classroom, despite their inability to detect ?capitalist oppression? among the ranks of their own administrations. Or, perhaps they do detect these injustices but simply lack the courage to confront them. I guess they don?t make communists like they used to.

But what should professors do about such inequities?

It is easy for self-described radical professors to get a hold of the data on administrative salaries and pay-raises under state public record laws. And, of course, it is easy to compare them with the salaries and pay-raises of the faculty and staff at their university.

But once the information is gathered, the game gets a little more difficult. Professors must then emerge from the ranks with a willingness to confront the injustices that are affecting them as well as the quality of education at their institutions. Put simply, these administrators are bankrupting the system of higher education while they live like royalty.

By publishing the outrageous salaries and raises of administrators in the student newspaper, the local newspaper, and faculty newsletter, professors can begin to generate a backlash in the court of public opinion. Undoubtedly, local television and radio stations would also take the story and run with it. Abuses of taxpayer funds always make for popular news items.

Then, the professors could demand that the average pay-raise for administrators shall never again exceed the average pay-raise for professors and staffers.  If implemented, such a rule would make self-serving and corrupt administrators fight for the well-being of others just as they would for themselves.

Until then, things will not change. Administrators will continue to live in mansions. They will continue to give each other enormous pay-raises while telling the faculty that ?the funds aren?t available? for faculty salary increases. They will continue to write positive letters of recommendation for incompetent fellow administrators as a professional courtesy. They will continue to launch expensive ?diversity initiatives? to pad their vitae to get jobs elsewhere. (Of course, their soon-to-be-former employers will continue to fund the initiatives, even after they are gone). They will continue to push for faculty peer review and post-tenure review systems that keep the faculty fighting with each other instead of fighting with the administration (Marx would be proud). They will continue to use the diversity movement as the ?opiate of the masses? (again, Marx would be proud). And professors will continue to fear retaliation from administrators who plan to spend only a few years at their current institution.

As it stands, the professors have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win, if only they find the courage to live the way that they teach.

Mike Adams ( is the author of ?Welcome to the Ivory Tower of Babel.?. He was inspired to write this editorial by his mentor, David L. McMillen. David is one of the few professors with the guts to tell an administrator to go ?piss up a rope.? Few people who are not employed at Mississippi State will understand that one. It?s an inside joke.