Administrators don’t need a raise, continued

Eric Murphy

There’s an argument in the editorial "Admins don't need a raise" today that I think needs some elaboration—it’s often difficult to explain an argument as fully as one would like in fewer than 300 words. First, here’s the paragraph I want to expand on:

“Employees with frozen wages have watched administrative salaries climb by leaps and bounds. The new provost got a 14 percent bump over her predecessor. Kaler’s own salary is 25 percent higher than former President Bob Bruininks’. Though the faces change, those positions’ salaries are increasing while other salaries are frozen, so the money systematically trickles up.”

This paragraph is trying to point out the phenomenon of school-hopping by top administrators across the country. When an administrator changes jobs, he or she usually gets a hefty pay bump; plus, both the former and current universities of said administrator wind up paying more for the same work.

Let’s take for example the case of Karen Hanson, our newest provost who began her job here February 1. She was formerly the provost at the University of Indiana, where she made $302,000. When she was hired in the same position here, we decided to pay her $390,000. The first and easiest problem to identify here is that a (nearly) one-percenter is getting a “raise” of $88,000, more than most University employees make in an entire year. But by offering this salary, the University of Minnesota is also paying 14 percent more for a provost (former provost Tom Sullivan made 14 percent less than Hanson, according to the Daily). Doesn’t the spirit of a salary freeze imply that we would pay a new provost the same salary as the old provost? Would Hanson really have turned down an offer of (roughly) $340,000, still a 12.6 percent raise for doing the same job she was doing before, but at a new university?

But it gets worse: the University of Indiana suffers too. Indiana’s new interim provost is Lauren Robel. In her old position as Indiana's Law School Dean, Robel was already making more than Hanson was as provost. If Hanson got a 29 percent raise for a lateral move, how much of a bump does Robel figure to get for a promotion, assuming she is named Indiana’s new provost?

So the dynamic here is that already very wealthy people are getting significantly wealthier (which maybe we can tolerate under certain circumstances), but more importantly that both schools wind up paying significantly more than they did before to get the same job done. If you’re wondering what’s driving bloated administration costs, that’s it (or part of it, anyway).

And yet when talking to rank-and-file employees, the University cries that it is so strapped for money that it has to freeze their salaries and can’t spare an extra cent.

–Eric Murphy