Competitive with whom, exactly?

5 years ago

One of the reasons the recent tuition hike by the Charest government has been so controversial is because of the way salaries have gone up in Quebec over the last several years. Leaving aside the shockingly large severance packages being given to parting administrators, the salaries of senior administrators have increased 180% overall and 450% at Concordia University in Montreal alone.

A reasonable person might wonder if this was perhaps a long overdue increase. After all, aren't we always hearing how educators are so woefully underpaid? Well, yes we are. But we aren't talking about educators here. In fact their salaries have been barely increased over the last decade at all, and collective agreement negotiations between administrations and various faculty unions have lasted several years in many cases. 

To put it in perspective, the President of Concordia University makes more money per year than the Prime Minister of Canada. The President of a publicly funded university overseeing roughly 45,000 undergrad and graduate students and 14,000 employees on two campuses approximately 7 kilometers apart makes more money than the Prime Minister of Canada. 

Maybe it's just me but something is wrong there.

This leads back to the corporatization of education. It was decided that large salaries needed to be offered to senior administrators lest we lose the best and brightest to corporate jobs "we must be competitive with our salaries" is heard over and over in media soundbites from university PR hacks. Which brings me to my question.

Competitive with whom, exactly? 

Why do we want to compete for people who wish to run corporations? A university is a corporate body legally, absolutely. It is incorporated under the Quebec Companies Act. But it's certainly not a corporate institution in the sense of being a money making product manufacturer. So why are we competing for corporate drones to run our educational institutions? Shouldn't we have educational experts running them?

Obviously, the people running the institution need administrative experience. Common sense regarding money. And sure, the VP finance should probably be someone with financial expertise. But none of those positions require being a Fortune500 contender. And any of them without an understand and love of education are useless.

If someone would rather work for seven figures for a corporate enterprise selling... anything... rather than manage an educational institution for low to middle range six figures, this isn't the person we want running the educational institution! Their goals, aspirations, and expertise are different, and not suited for the educational setting.

So let's stop buying into the inflated "competitive" salary myth. There's nothing shameful about shelling out over $300 thousand combined with a cushy expense account. This isn't cheap. It's very generous, for the right kind of person. The kind of person who wants to be in academic administration. The kind of person who loves their job and wants to create a place of inquisitive higher learning. The kind of person who knows the $700 thousand "missing" from their salary can pay the tuition of 200 students for one year. The kind of person who knows education is valuable enough to keep it accessible. The kind of person with enough real world experience to be firmly grounded and recognize that is plenty enough money for anyone to live quite well on, who appreciates not everyone in the academic world can get that and most never will.

Those are the kind of people we need to be competing for. 

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