Facing cuts of more than 150 positions, angry employees of the University of Kansas are finally speaking out about the academic caste system that has helped put KU in a $20 million hole.
When interim Provost Carl Lejuez told those gathered at a campus town hall meting, “A lot of what you will see, and I hate that we have to ask people to do this so much, is (doing) more with less,” the attendees pushed back.
Reported Dylan Lysen in the Lawrence Journal-World, “That sentiment didn’t sit well with the meeting’s attendees, some of whom brought up high administrative salaries and wondered whether administrators would be required to take pay cuts.”
This resentment may continue to percolate. For years, university faculty and staff have sat back and watched administrative salaries and costs soar. Historically, administrators redirected their anger towards a Republican state legislature. That strategy may no longer work.
Lejuez did little to quell the revolt. “I make considerably less than the previous provost,” he said, citing his own $410,000 salary. His predecessor, Neeli Bendapudi, had been paid $472,350 salary, but she cashed that in for a $650,000 gig as president of the University of Louisville, augmented by a $250,000 signing bonus.
“I’m happy to be here, I feel very lucky and I understand I make a very large salary,” Lejuez continued. “But each of these things has to be competitive or we will stop having good people.”
For years, university administrators have put their concerns about social justice aside to cash some mighty generous checks. In April, the Kansas Policy Institute secured and posted state salaries for 2017, and the impression one gets from reviewing them is that university faculty and administrators in cash-strapped Kansas are getting rich or something very much like it.
Of the state’s 40 highest paid employees, 39 work for universities, and this does not include coaches who are typically paid out of separate budgets. Seven employees made more than $500,000 a year. Although she resigned a year earlier, former KU Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little was still listed as receiving $511,341 in her capacity as “Special Advisor.” This arrangement later erupted into something of a scandal.
In the way of contrast, the chancellor’s salary at the University of California Santa Cruz is $406,495. Given that the median home price in the Santa Cruz area is nearly four times higher than it is in Lawrence, that chancellor is not getting rich.
In Kansas, some university administrators are literally getting rich. In a university system allegedly keen on social justice, this wage gap is hard to explain, especially when staff and faculty are facing cuts.