Faculty pay raises good news for entire U

The Yudof-Express just keeps on rolling, carrying the University to a brighter future. The latest good news from University President Mark Yudof and the Board of Regents is the inclusion of $95.9 million to raise faculty salaries in the University budget proposal. While this addition only continues initiatives Yudof’s administration instituted last year, the demonstration of his continued devotion is not only impressive, but also a boon to everyone associated with the University. Before professors start making deposits on new boats, however, they must remember that the Yudof-Express will pass through some hazardous terrain.
Faculty will only see their raises if the budget is approved by the Republican-controlled Legislature and if Gov.-elect Jesse Ventura signs off on it. Neither is assured.
During the recent election season, Republican legislators campaigned for lower taxes. Lower taxes mean cuts somewhere, and Republicans are notorious for funding their pet-projects with cuts in education spending, among other social programs. The responsibility of convincing the Legislature that the $1.28 billion dollars, and particularly the money reserved for faculty salary increases, will be well-spent, falls squarely on the Yudof administration’s shoulders. But this responsibility is nothing unusual; the Legislature often carefully picks through University budget proposals attempting to cut away the chaff. The University knows how to prepare.
The real challenge for Yudof and the regents may be convincing Ventura that the spending proposals are worthwhile. Unlike the Legislature, Ventura is a wild card. His position toward student financial aid, one of the few solid stances he took during the campaign, was painfully clear to students. He does not support state-funded aid, and believes students bright enough to be in college should be bright enough to find a way to pay for it. Hopefully he will neither generalize this maxim — if the University leaders are smart enough to lead the campus, they should be smart enough to find a way to finance it — nor assume that faculty members are hiding in the ivory tower and should go get real jobs if they want to make more money.
The simple fact of the matter is that if Minnesota wants to have a first-rate University system, it must compensate faculty members competitively. Despite the tendency of many college professors, particularly in the humanities, to lean toward socialism, one would be hard-pressed to find a faculty member who would turn down a substantial pay raise. When excellent professors depart for other universities, they not only damage the reputation of the University, but they also lower the quality of the education all University students receive.
We congratulate Yudof and the board for continuing their commitment to making the University a gem of which the entire state can be proud. When, during the next legislative session, the Legislature and Gov.-elect Ventura recognize higher education is important to Minnesota’s future, faculty members will receive well-deserved raises. In a world in which professional athletes who make millions have been known to go on strike, it is pleasing to see that teachers will be paid closer to their real societal value.