Monday, April 30, 2007

Highly paid professionals

The student newspaper created a little flurry of discontent among the faculty by publishing the salaries of the most highly paid employees in the college. Forty out of the fifty top earners are the poor underpaid faculty. I mention it here only because three of the top ten are chemistry instructors (half our department). Alas, I am not one of the chosen three. The publication of this (already public) information caused the usual slightly defensive flurry of correspondence justifying the incomes. We are highly paid professionals; lawyers and doctors wouldn't be examined like this; we really work longer hours than people realize etc. Alas, all this will not change the general perception that a college professor, or any kind of teaching gig, is really one of the cushiest numbers a person can land on. The defense of the salary scale is based on the generally accepted premise that one should earn progressively more for each year of experience. No other factors enter into consideration: no numbers have to be made; no performance standards have to be met or are applied. One might tentatively float the question as to whether a professor of twenty years on the job is worth twice a newbie? Once one has crossed onto the Holy Grail track of the E train, it is merely a question of kicking back and letting the years accumulate. Yes, of course many faculty members remain highly dedicated and productive and contribute far and wide as the years progress; but do they all? And there is no distinction in terms of the numbers. Lawyers tend to earn money by winning cases. Those that lose cases don't earn as well. It would be very interesting to entertain the notion of performance incentives in education. As long as there are teachers' unions, it will never happen.

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