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Monday, May 28, 2018

The Kings and Queens of Academia

     On average, presidents of private and public institutions of higher learning make, in annual salaries, benefits, and perks, more than $450,000 a year. Even the heads of small, private liberal arts colleges make five or six times more than the highest paid professors in their institutions.

     Presidents of at least twenty public universities earn well over $1 million a year. For example, the president of Ohio State University pulls in $2 million a year in benefits and salary. Graham Spanier, before he was fired as president of Penn State in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky pedophilia scandal, took in $3 million a year. Spanier "earned" $600,000 a year as a tenured professor even though he didn't teach. (This is even better than getting paid not to grow corn.) $1.2 of Spanier's compensation was deferred, presumably for tax purposes. He received $700,000 for a one-year sabbatical. (Why would a college president need a sabbatical? What would he do? Talk about having both hands in the candy jar. Spanier was later sent to prison in connection with the Jerry Sandusky child abuse scandal.)

     In my view, at a time when higher education costs are rising along with student debt (now at $1 trillion), these ridiculously excessive compensation packages amount to white-collar crime against students, parents, and taxpayers. Being head of a college or university should be a relatively low-paying job. A college president shouldn't be paid more than a full professor. And why do these administrators need free housing? How did the compensation of these kings and queens of academia get so far out of whack? This is lunacy.

     Janet Napolitano, after bungling the job of Homeland Security chief, was chosen (out of 300 candidates) to head the University of California's 13-campus system. (How did that happen? Didn't anybody check on her past job performance?) Napolitano received a relative modest annual salary of $570,000. In addition to $8,916 a year in car expenses (you'd think she could afford her own car), she was paid $142,500 to cover her "relocation" expenses. (Most people would be happy to just have their new employers pick up their U-Haul bills.) Napolitano was given, of course, free housing.

     Eventually, the 55-year-old chancellor took up residence in the Blake Mansion, a 3,500-square foot monstrosity built in the 1920s for movie stars like Fatty Arbuckle. Located in a community called Kensington four miles north of the University of California at Berkeley, the estate had been vacant since 2008. As a result, Blake Mansion was in a state of disrepair.

     The chancellor's home was rehabilitated at a cost of $6 million. The renovation project took three years. During this period, the state paid $10,000 a month to rent a suitable palace for the newly crowned academic queen.

     I'm sure residents of bankrupt, looney California are sleeping well knowing that Ms. Napolitano was living like royalty. University of California students, realizing how Queen Napolitano's reign had significantly improve the quality of higher educations, were jumping for joy. 

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