The Chronicle of Higher Education came out with its annual survey of compensation for public university executives. The study found the median total compensation for college presidents in 2009-10 was $375,442 (see Public University Presidents Make Efforts to Sacrifice). The Chronicle’s own write up of its study took the stance that public university presidents need to defend their high salaries, and honestly, that was my initial sense as well. How can they justify pulling in such a high compensation, when so many state employees and entities have had to sacrifice jobs, salaries, and budgets in an economic crisis?
I began my writeup of the study with the point that despite years of layoffs, furloughs and budget cuts, university presidents are still doing pretty well. But, upon closer look at the data, and with further thought, I realized that for one, these individuals’ salaries are determined by rules that they didn’t design, so they have no control over their salaries until after they are assigned. And, secondly, there were quite a few willing to give up what they were given in an effort sacrifice with their employees.
While some could argue that theirs’ are small sacrifices considering what they make (as examples, the president of Ohio State University used his bonus to finance scholarships and other university efforts, and the president of Washington State University volunteered to take a $100,000 reduction in his salary), they are sacrifices nonetheless. How many of us, if compensated in the way we think we deserve, would do the same? And, how many of us would want to take on the responsibility they have?There are two sides to every story, and before we judge, we should always look at the big picture. Perhaps we’ll realize that those at the top think more about their employees than we think they do.