From PSAC Local 901 Blog on February 5, 2011
We are now approaching University budget season. Alongside the presentation of the new budget, one should expect the usual chorus of explanations for the University’s financial crisis: “times are tough”; “government funding is uncertain”; and “costs are rising”. Advocates of such arguments are quick to avert our attention—not only by relying on sweeping generalizations, but also by pointing fingers at particular employee groups.
Regardless of where one stands, few people would dispute the chronically underfunded state of post-secondary education. On the issue of salaries and staff, however, the conversation seems strangely one-sided. Too often, proponents of unsustainable budget-slashing initiatives are too quick to argue that employees (faculty, staff, and now TAs and TFs included) are demanding too much, and that there is a need for tighter fiscal constraint within those groups. While faculty, staff, TAs and TFs are often pitted against students in what has become an annual budget showdown, there has been little critical attention paid to compensation costs at the top of the university pay scale.
Between 2004 and 2009, the number of top administrators making over $100,000 at Queen’s increased from 11 to 26—an increase of 136% (down from a high of 27 in 2008). Over this same period, the total compensation earned by top administrators at Queen’s increased from over $2.2 million in 2004, to over $4.6 million in 2009—an increase of 111% (also down from a high of over $5.3 million in 2008).
At the top of the pay scale are the University’s Principal and several Vice-Principals. In 2009, Queens’ top 6
executives collectively earned over $1.53 million, which is over 1/3 of the total compensation earned by all 26 top administrators that year. Included in this figure is the compensation earned by former Principal Karen Hitchcock, who continued to collect compensation (in the amount of $293,549) after her departure in April 2008.
Considering the University’s current budget difficulties, this information raises several questions. For instance,
why has the number of top administrators at Queen’s University more than doubled at a time when the institution claims to face increasing financial difficulty? And, why is it that departments have been asked to slash operating budgets while the budget for top administrator compensation has increased?
Moreover, assuming an average TA earns $4,700 per semester and an average TF earns $6,500 (this varies among departments), the compensation earned by the University’s 26 top administrators in 2009 is equivalent to the compensation earned by 721 TFs or 998 TAs. The increase in administrators’ compensation between 2004 and 2009, alone, is equivalent to that earned by 524 TFs or 379 TAs in 2009.
The importance of this is that the gap between the higher and lower earners at Queen’s is widening. Some departments recently estimated the average income per graduate student will soon fall to about $20,000 per year. At current compensation levels, that would mean a top administrator at Queen’s would earn, on average, over 9 times more than the average graduate student and an executive administrator would earn over 13 times more. The gap is much more startling if you consider the fact that most of time, the wages graduate students earn on paper, as TAs or TFs, are an illusory number rolled into funding packages that are balanced with delicate calculus (but that’s another article).
If we consider the growing disparity in the compensation-gap, the rhetoric from Queens’ Principal and Vice-Principals concerning the need for fiscal constraint seems disingenuous. Additionally, there is no justification for the rapid increase of top administrators—particularly at a time when departments struggle to service an increasing number of graduate and undergraduate students. On the heels of another 2.5% cut to departmental budgets, there has been no fiscal leadership from top administrators at Queen’s. If they expect to lead, they should try to lead by example.
More to come….
S. and M., on behalf of PSAC local 901