Retrenchment, Day 31

There's a persistent urge in American society (and among many historians) to avoid at all costs saying there's such a thing as class conflict in America. Yeah, sure, maybe this has existed in other places and maybe even still does. But America is the land of "We the People" and every four years we elect a president, so surely that's not a feature of our existence?

Of course, wherever there are people in the mainstream, there are folks on the fringes who seem to feel compelled to poke at that "Master Narrative". For whatever reason, I am one of those people. As a result, it's probably natural that one of the things I wonder about, when someone like a university president gets up there and says, "I feel your pain and I wish there was another way, but we're going to have to let 27 faculty go." My immediate thoughts are along the lines of,
did you really try all the alternatives before you decided on this one? And, do you really feel our pain?

There's an interesting website in Minnesota (maybe other places too) that lists the salaries of public employees. It's not completely up to date, but it says, "In 2021 Bemidji State University (BSU) reported 47 employees making more than $100,000 per year; by comparison the average salary was $68,823. The highest reported pay was $10,818.77/Bi-Weekly for FXXXX HXXXXXX [the former president]" (I'm not going to mention names in this, just to talk about positions).

A couple of years ago, the former president made $281 thousand dollars. The provost made over $200 thousand. The VP of finance and administration (the one who made the $2.5 million "mistake" with the budget) made over $190 thousand. The other members of the administrative leadership made between $140 thousand (the average for Admin levels 8, 9, and 10) and $110 thousand (Admin levels 6 and 7). That means the president and the nine people in the his cabinet probably pulled down about $1.456 million. I'm guessing because, like the president, several of these people were not employed by the state in 2021 and thus are not listed on the website. However, it's difficult for me to believe they're making less than their predecessors, so I've gone with the previous numbers as a conservative estimate.

There are another dozen or so managers of departments who are not cabinet members who probably get Admin level 6 through 10 paychecks. So let's estimate another $1.5 million. And for balance I should note that there are probably two dozen or so faculty who earn over $100 thousand. Most of those folks have been at BSU for between 15 and 40 years. Also, for the record, my salary is less than the average. Although I'm sure there are a lot of people (instructors, staff) getting less than me and probably under even more uncertain conditions as far as job security goes. I don't claim to feel their pain. My wife works too and we're doing alright.

Now $281 thousand is only four times the average income of a BSU worker, which is a whole lot less than some of the horrible multiples we've been hearing about executive pay vs. worker pay in American business today. So maybe we shouldn't be concerned? But still, I wonder whether a group of people who each make more than they can easily spend in Bemidji, when they get together in a third-floor conference room overlooking campus, are really able to see what's going on, on the ground. On campus and in the community beyond it.

I've said a couple of times before that management ought to take a pay-cut until things turn around. Not only would that show solidarity, but a $10% haircut on $3 million in management salaries would save a couple of faculty jobs. The administration is so interested in getting closer to regional businesses and emulating their cultures and practices. In a lot of businesses, executive pay is tied to performance. Maybe management should share our pain, rather than just claiming to vicariously feel it.

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