Editorial: Why you gotta be so Hartless?
President Ann Weaver Hart should have shown solidarity in the face of budget cuts and lay-offs and declined bonus awarded by Arizona Board of Regents
In March, the state legislature cut $99 million from university budgets—$28.4 million from the UA alone. The Arizona Board of Regents and all three university presidents protested heavily—albeit fruitlessly—arguing that the burden this cut placed on students in terms of higher tuition and reduced programs would be severe.
And yet, on Friday, the Board of Regents approved pay raises and bonuses for those same university presidents. UA President Ann Weaver Hart will receive a significant $753,700 in total compensation for her work in fiscal year 2015. At the same time, the $99 million in state budget cuts continues to wreak havoc, leading to 320 lay-offs at the UA.
Are the presidents now going to protest themselves?
If the regents and Presidents Michael Crow, Rita Cheng and Hart are truly concerned about the financial state of Arizona’s universities, they would have rejected these raises. The presidents’ decisions to accept them reflect fundamental failures of leadership.
When professors are being forced into early retirement and students asked to pay more than ever for their education, these raises feel like a “let them eat cake” moment.
Regent Mark Killian defended his vote to approve the raises, arguing, “These institutions have become billion-dollar business enterprises. If you are going to go out and hire people to run a billion-dollar enterprise, you have to invest in them.”
But the UA is not just a billion-dollar business enterprise. It’s a public institution, publicly funded to fulfill a public good.
Unlike the University of Phoenix, the UA is not-for-profit. The regents and presidents are not obligated to make money for shareholders but rather to educate the citizens of their state. And education costs money.
The regents only get one pot to split among all of the universities’ needs. Instead of spending that money on students, though, the regents have decided to increase Hart’s housing allowance.
Killian maintains, though, that “[the presidents] are way underpaid.”
Let’s unpack that. The average public university president makes $428,250. President Hart will receive 76 percent more than that. President Michael Crow of Arizona State University, with a compensation of over $1 million, will receive 145 percent more than the average.
Meanwhile, spending per student in Arizona decreased over 50 percent between 2008 and 2013. During the same period, tuition increased a little over 80 percent, and it has only risen since.
The university presidents are not underpaid, but their students are underfunded.
Adjunct faculty have to organize protests to be compensated just above the poverty line and still face reduced positions and transient contracts. The number of graduate assistantships and undergraduate work positions have been affected by the recent cuts.
While UA Chief Financial Officer Gregg Goldman praised decision makers for finding ways to cut funds with minimal impact to students, reduced faculty and staff means increased class sizes, heightened program fees and longer wait times, all at a cost to students’ education.
At Friday’s meeting, Regent Rick Myers said, “What matters is: are we making a difference in the state of Arizona?”
The difference the regents are making for the state of Arizona is that students are receiving a worse education than ever before.
The regents and university presidents could not have prevented the budget cuts; that was a matter of the state legislature. However, the presidents’ refusal to turn down their raises seems hypocritical and exhibits a lack of solidarity with the rest of the university community.
“We can’t afford to lose these people,” Killian said, referring to the university presidents.
If Presidents Crow, Cheng or Hart would leave their positions on the basis of being slighted a raise, they might be in the wrong business. This job will never maximize their personal bottom lines.
State universities can’t—and shouldn’t—compete with Fortune 500 companies on compensation. Instead, leaders of state universities get their compensation in the form of sleeping easily at night, knowing that they are providing a necessary public service.
Editorials are determined by the Daily Wildcat Editorial board and are written by its members. They are Jessie Webster, Jacquelyn Oesterblad, Katelyn Kennon and Nick Havey. They can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter on @DailyWildcat.