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of our institutions. Making little effort to hold the line on
coaching salaries and feeling embarrassed about presidents
being paid less than football and basketball coaches, some
governing boards simply apply the
same misplaced sense of values to the
For presidential pay to be
escalating at a time when institutions
are cutting budgets, laying off faculty
and staff, denying access and raising
tuitions undercuts the credibility
of the institutions and damages the
relationship between them and the publics they are meant
to serve.
Governing boards are urged to exercise caution in the
matter of presidential compensation and not follow the
herd. I have long believed that multi-year contracts are more
important than high compensation because they afford the
president some security when he or she is forced to make
decisions that will seriously alienate one or more stakeholder
Academe is increasingly market-driven in everything
from curricula offerings to enrollment management and
corporate sponsorship of research. Nowwe are seeing a
seemingly market-driven escalation of presidential salaries.
While respecting market economics, our colleges and
universities have always stood for values that rise above market
considerations. The liberal arts embody a set of values by
which an educated person is more than a candidate for the
labor force, and scholarship is about more than what will sell
in the market. These values are seriously compromised when
presidential salaries escalate while faculty and staff salaries
Robert Atwell is president emeritus of the American Council
on Education.
While compensation
is important, it is not
the major driver of
presidential aspirants.