Saturday, January 16, 2010


In November, Salon posted AP's top compensated private school presidents according to their filed taxes. My alma mater's prez made it at #5, which I didn't really want to see, especially because he came in about $100,000 over the NYU guy. This is mostly because about 70% of interactions I have had with NYU kids over the years-- NYU undergrads who are still in school-- has gone like this--

NYU kid: Where do you go?
Me: Columbia.
NYU: Oooohh. CO-lumbbiaaah.
Me: Oooh. Fuck off.
NYU: Columbiiaaah. Polohhh. Yachts. Rooohwwwwing.

Despite the fact our tuition ends up about the same and I'd wager we have just as much nasty little New York private school grads as they do in our graduating classes. It's just hard to draw out the vowels in NYU into a sort of blue blood accent thing.

But beyond this silly faux rivalry that only crops up when you have nothing else to think about (and the other kids always bring up), I had trouble with Salon's posting this list because it seemed like it was trying to imply something but the original poster was too lazy to think about what, exactly, was being said.

I had a great experience at Columbia with the professors, the classes, facilities, co-workers, and the other kids there, and so I am happy to defend it. I don't pretend that there is transparency where there is not, and I don't pretend to get mad at what little gets through the bureaucracy just so I can have something to be outraged by. I think Columbia has made some ostensibly stupid decisions, like giving into the hunger strike kids to pour more money into some kind of ethnic studies program-- whatever that means-- and pouring sunshine and justification into their liberal middle-class/white guild souls. I certainly think they need to make sure that the kids are better taken care of, and I think, like everyone, that I-- and, especially, my family-- should not have been forced to incur so much debt. But I also think they-- PrezBo included-- have made some wise decisions, including allowing the President of Iran to speak, despite what the hysterical groups on campus tried to suggest. (And waiving some overdue fees too after I graduated, but that's because they were lazy, I think.)

So I thought, ok, who cares, I don't care if PrezBo and his hair are getting fabulously overcompensated, nothing I can do. Nothing I can do. Columbia has a stupid amount of money, and it should be seen in context, right? Thing is, Salon ran the list without commentary, they're being as lazy as I am, so it's cool. But what are they saying, or trying to say? They're clearly trying to elicit an immediate reaction-- because indeed, that is too much to be making, for anybody to be making-- but now what? There is no breakdown, no indication of what percentage of the universities' endowments these salaries are being snatched from. A well-compensated president means he probably has a name in the field and can thus solicit donations and attract top-of-the-field professors, which increases the prestige of an institution and frankly, makes (or would I guess in a different economic climate) your degree & diploma worth a little more.

And just like any professional, he is extorting the institution (think baseball players)-- his skills for millions, or else he'll take it somewhere else (maybe to NYU, Harvard, Brown!) The downside, and source of understandable moral objections, is that he is a single individual occupying a massive part of the budget, in part necessitating those donation solicitations that ensure he has a job as top salesman-- one of the many reasons I did not contribute to any of the senior funds. C and J have recently been having huge problems with getting their tuition covered, despite having already completed 75-90% of the degree. College is fun and it is stimulating, and when within the community it is easy to forget that you are dealing with a sprawling business, easy that is, until they suddenly decide they "can't" give you money. Yes, then it is especially frustrating to realize that this one guy is making a bazillion dollars. But Salon didn't discuss any of this and the more incendiary comment on the post (kill them, etc, education should be free) doesn't even discuss why it is such a problem that these salaries are so outrageous-- something I would have liked to see from a respected source that would know more about the politics and ideas behind both education and economics. I want a description of reasons to be opposed to this logically, morally, theoretically, not just emotionally, which is all posting a list sans commentary will result in.

The best comment on the post came from october271986, who copied a similar list.

1. Charlie Weis, Notre Dame $3,300,000

2. Pete Carroll, Southern Cal $3,000,000

3. Kirk Ferentz, Iowa $2,850,000

4. Mack Brown, Texas $2,550,000

5. Bobby Petrino, Louisville $2,500,000

6. Jim Tressel, Ohio State $2,450,000

7. Bob Stoops, Oklahoma $2,400,000

8. Tommy Tuberville, Auburn $2,200,000

9. Joe Paterno, Penn State $2,100,000

10. Philip Fulmer, Tennessee $2,050,000

11. Bobby Bowden, Florida State $2,000,000

12. Dennis Franchione, Texas A&M $2,000,000

12. Urban Meyer, Florida $2,000,000

Notice where the presidents' list starts--
1. Shirley Ann Jackson, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute: $1,598,247

2. David Sargent, Suffolk University: $1,496,593

3. Steadman Upham, University of Tulsa: $1,485,275

4. Cornelius M. Kerwin, American University: $1,419,339

5. Lee C. Bollinger, Columbia: $1,380,035

6. Donald V. DeRosa, University of the Pacific: $1,350,743

7. John E. Sexton, New York University: $1,297,475

8. Jerry C. Lee, National University: $1,189,777

9. Nicholas S. Zeppos, Vanderbilt: $1,275,309

10. Amy Gutmann, University of Pennsylvania: $1,225,103

As the poster points out, #1 paid Ms Jackson would be the 34th highest paid coach. Now I like college football as much as the next guy-- okay, maybe not as much, but I enjoy it-- but if this puts anything into perspective, it is that fabulous amounts of money are being drained into the accounts of individuals all over the country, for a wide range of difficult to defend reasons.

With the crisis in the UC system (as well as the accompanying poorly planned protests which begged the question why didn't you protest when the government made the cuts, why wait until the schools were forced to carry them out) and the mounting inability to afford higher education, particularly by the middle class whose economic situation is virtually ignored by the formula for calculating financial aid, it is definitely an uncomfortable experience to see how much money is going to one individual in an institution that is supposed to be the sum total of all its participants in quality and output and, implied by this, is supposed to be a result of an even distribution of investment in each individual. But frankly, killing these guys & making education free (that commenter also makes what are either bad jokes or sincere I-wear-Che-shirts statements about kulaks, so I'm not sure what he/she is up to) is a silly suggestion because it does not address the problem. I still believe one of the first steps is to eliminate ETS (and here is where I say violently, if necessary, by tearing their ability to hold tests violently away) and breaking apart all markets-- test aid, test prep-- that have formed around it.

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