The gap is widening between Kansas University's highest- and lowest-paid employees.
In the past five years, the average administrator's salary has increased 21 percent, while classified employees - including secretaries, janitors and maintenance workers - saw an average increase of 12 percent.
At the same time, the number of administrators at KU has increased by nine while the number of classified employees was cut by 24. That means fewer front-line employees are doing the same amount of work.
"Everybody understands some jobs have more value than others," said Dennis Constance, a custodial supervisor. "I've never understood why the value of those jobs keeps changing. That's what happens when the percentages change.
"If the chancellor's job is more important than mine, that's fine. But why does the gap have to be getting bigger?"
According to data provided by KU, the average administrator - defined as employees who fall under the "executive, administrative and managerial" category of the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System, a national database - was paid $83,908 in 1997. By 2002, that increased to $101,569. KU spent $7 million on administrative salaries in 2002, up 27 percent from $5.5 million in 1997.
KU spent $42.6 million on salaries for classified workers in 2002, up 14 percent from $37.3 five years ago. Unlike faculty and administration salaries, classified employee salaries are set by the Legislature.
Meanwhile, faculty at KU have seen the largest increase of the three, 28 percent in five years. That was due largely to Senate Bill 345, a 1999 measure that directed millions of extra dollars to faculty salaries for two years in an effort to bring them in line with salaries at other state's universities. It was not funded during this year's legislative session.
In his first faculty convocation speech at KU back in 1995, Chancellor Robert Hemenway promised to cut the number of administrators at the university.
"We will learn to operate the university with a smaller staff and a more streamlined administration," he said.
Seven years later, he says he's been successful, despite the increases. For one thing, he said KU needed more people to oversee its research grants, which have increased to $224 million from $168 million since 1999.
He also notes that salary comparisons between faculty and administration are difficult to make, because many administrators also hold faculty positions.
"We work at keeping the administration lean and efficient, and I think we're pretty successful," he said.
New position questioned
Many students, faculty and staff have questioned Hemenway's decision last year to add staff to KU's university relations department.
He created a new executive vice chancellor position and filled it with Janet Murguia, a former White House official, who is paid $195,000 per year. Her associate executive vice chancellor, Kevin Boatright, is paid $82,000 per year.
Hemenway defended the position and Murguia's salary, about $51,000 of which comes from KU Endowment Association funds.
"She was being offered considerably more than what KU gave her to take various positions she'd been offered in Washington, D.C.," Hemenway said.
Hemenway said many administrators - including himself - could leave for higher-paying jobs.
"Three or four times a year I get calls from search firms asking if I'm interested in other positions," he said. "One reason they call is because they know the job they're calling about pays more than the job at Kansas."
The six-figure club
The number of employees making $100,000 or more at the Lawrence campus has nearly tripled in the past five years, to 153 from 53.
Of those, 111 are faculty members, including 55 faculty whose salaries are supplemented by the Endowment Association.
The highest-paid employee at the Lawrence campus is Athletic Director Al Bohl, who is paid $255,000 per year. Bill Fuerst, dean of the School of Business, is paid $240,926. Hemenway is third with $219,420.
The top-10 salary list includes two full-time professors: Rajendra Srivastava, a business professor who makes $177,703 per year, and Jerry Dobson, a research professor in the Kansas Applied Remote Sensing program who is paid $183,333 per year.
But taxpayers don't pay for all those salaries. Grants and the Endowment Association supplement taxpayer dollars. Dobson's entire salary comes from endowment and grant money.
For employees like Constance, the custodial supervisor, the large gaps in salaries are a call to lobby the Legislature for better pay. Even with the tight budget year - no one at KU will receive raises this year - he said university pay rates should be a state priority.
"When you see disparities like that, it makes you think," he said. "We're all in this together, and it's important funding be equally distributed."