With budget cuts choking the university’s finances, it’s frustrating to see public servants paid like CEOs.
Last year, President Indira Samaraskera was compensated on the order of $1.172 million and had the highest base salary of any university president in Canada. Vice-President (Research) Lorne Babiuk’s total salary package amounted to $829,000 and Vice-President (Finance and Administration) Phyllis Clark’s was $824,000. A little down the ladder, one can see Vice-President (Facilities and Operations) Don Hickey and his sturdy $804,000 compensation. Martin Ferguson-Pell, the Vice-President (Academic) and Acting Provost’s salary numbers totaled $524,000, and the Vice-President of (University Relations) and Vice-President (Advancement) were compensated around half a million dollars each. It seems that this is what academia is all about — paying people’s salaries.
Managing a school the size of the U of A must be terribly difficult, but it doesn’t warrant these outrageous salaries. Considering it’s World Series time, let’s borrow a baseball analogy. When considering how much value a player adds to a team, baseball analysts use a statistic called WAR, or wins above replacement. Essentially, it’s used to calculate how much better a player is compared to a replacement that’s a fraction of the price.
Perhaps this method should be used for our senior administrators. Numbers available from 2012 show the average executive base salary of the other six schools in Maclean’s top seven universities to be $319,000. The average of the executive base salaries at the U of A are $441,000. Because they’re paid more than their counterparts at other Canadian universities, it remains to be seen what they bring to the table that less expensive people couldn’t.
Academic leaders don’t deserve to be paid so handsomely, and we shouldn’t need to offer such lofty salaries to attract top-notch candidates to our leadership positions. The numbers themselves are far less troubling than the trend of paying these people as if they were the head of some multinational corporation.
Just because Samaraskera claims that universities need to be competitive with salaries doesn’t mean we need to pay civil servants accordingly outrageous amounts of money.
These are leaders of an academic institution, and they should be trying to find solutions to our funding crisis. Instead, their salaries are off limits for review and the people who will suffer most from the cuts are students. These salaries represent a set of senior-level administrators who take in staggering sums of money, while over the not-so-distant horizon, there’s the Fall 2014 term, where the weight of budget cuts will be transferred to students’ backs.
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