In what started as a joke, four East-coast professors are now seriously applying together for the single position of the University of Alberta’s next president and vice-chancellor.
Kathleen Cawsey, an associate professor of medieval literature at Dalhousie University, saw the job posting for the U of A’s next president with a starting annual salary of $400,000. Some back-and-forth bantering between colleagues turned into a very serious application, as Cawsey alongside Renee Ward from Wilfrid Laurier University, Becca Babcock from Mount Saint Vincent University, and Lucie Kocum from Saint Mary’s University, are submitting a joint application for the position which closes June 10. Cawsey and Kocum are the only tenured professors of the group.
With their unconventional application, the professors are hoping to make a statement about the disconnect between university academics and administrators, and spur discussion about the wide salary differences between the two.
“I certainly don’t think I’m going to get this job or anything,” Cawsey said. “But there’s an underlying seriousness that is to do with the state of universities today and the real concern I have about them. I think the best way to change things is through humour.”
Cawsey posted the joint cover letter on Facebook, inviting other friends to apply for the coveted position. In the letter, the professors said the salary is “ample enough” to meet the needs of all four applicants.
“We believe that by job-sharing this position, we would be able to do a better job than any one person could do,” the letter reads. “We know that you, in your wisdom, will see the sensible nature of our application: how by accepting only what is reasonable and fair salary, four extremely qualified individuals can contribute far more to the university and to academia in general that any one person could.”
Dalhousie University’s outgoing president and vice-chancellor, Tom Traves, earned $393,000 in 2012, lower than U of A president Indira Samarasekera, whose salary is ranked among the highest of university executives across the country.
In 2012, she earned almost $1.2 million in salary and benefits.
But Cawsey said students help pay these salaries, they should be aware of how much their professors make, in comparison to university administrators.
“Often students feel powerless when it comes to the upper admin, (but) I think their voices can be heard,” she said. “This is your money, education and environment and place.”
Chair of the U of A’s Board of Governors, Doug Goss, said the hiring decison will keep in mind the university’s status as one of the best in the world.
“We’re going to go out and find the best possible candidates in the world to lead the university,” he said. “It’s a job we take very seriously.”
In a post on Facebook, Cawsey said that if she was offered the job, she would only take it if the U of A commits to hiring five new professors in the humanities — and would forgo the benefits that come with the position.
But whatever the outcome, Cawsey said the letter has been in good fun — a light way of approaching a bigger issue.
“It wasn’t supposed to be angry or revolutionary — it’s meant to make a point.”
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