Archive for Monday, October 9, 2017

Editorial: Pay concerns don’t add up

Though low morale at KU needs to be addressed, the faculty is among the best paid in the region.

October 9, 2017


Concerns raised by University of Kansas professors last week about low pay don’t square with data from the American Association of University Professors.

At a meeting of KU’s AAUP chapter last week, some professors raised concerns that morale at the university is suffering from low pay and the continued shift in financial resources to administration and athletics.

“Low pay is a big thing,” KU professor Ron Barrett-Gonzalez said during the meeting. “We’re seeing a lot of administrative bloat, which is very troubling. Because, as our pay is getting cut, cut, cut, they’re spending more on the (football) stadium and more on themselves in the administration, and weakening the strength of the entire faculty at the same time.”

Barrett-Gonzalez, a professor of aerospace engineering and president of the AAUP chapter, said he spent the last summer collecting national AAUP data that showed the average total salary for KU faculty has dropped by 9 percent since 2009.

During the same time, he said the average annual salary of KU’s top 20 administrators has increased by more than $35,000, according to data from the American Association of University Professors’ Academe journal and state payroll records.

“This is a deliberate decision by the central administration to divert funds away from faculty and to other offices,” said Jonathan Clark, a Hall distinguished professor of British history at KU.

Clark and Barrett-Gonzalez said the pay discrepancies could jeopardize KU’s membership in the prestigious Association of American Universities.

But membership in the AAU aside, AAUP data also shows that faculty members at Kansas are by far the best compensated university employees in Kansas and have among the highest salaries of schools in the Big 12 and the region.

According to the 2016-17 AAUP Faculty Compensation Survey, faculty salaries at KU increased anywhere from 1.4 percent to 3.5 percent in the past year and range from $79,400 for assistant professors to $130,400 for full professors. Kansas State faculty is a distant second with average salaries of $73,600 for assistant professors and $111,200 for full professors. And Kansas has far more professors at the higher end of the pay scale. Kansas employs 173 more full professors and 99 more associate professors than Kansas State, which employs 87 more assistant professors than Kansas.

Professors at KU earn more on average than their colleagues at fellow Big 12 members Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas Tech and West Virginia, and their salaries are comparable to those at Iowa State. KU professor salaries also are higher than what professors earn at other universities in neighboring states including the University of Missouri, University of Nebraska, University of Tulsa and Colorado State University.

Overall, salaries for KU faculty rank among the top 20 percent of salaries at the 1,000 colleges and universities in the AAUP survey.

Concerns about low morale expressed by Barrett-Gonzalez and Clark should not be dismissed. The university’s recent announcement that it is seeking $350 million in private donations to upgrade Memorial Stadium and other athletic facilities certainly could be perceived by faculty as an increased emphasis on athletics at the expense of academics.

One way to address such perceptions is to point out that KU faculty members not only have the best compensation among colleges and universities in Kansas, but also they have among the highest salaries in the region and nation.


P Allen Macfarlane 6 months, 2 weeks ago

If anybody at KU should be complaining about salaries, it's the faculty-equivalent research staff. Their salaries are considerably less than those cited in your editorial.

Bob Summers 6 months, 2 weeks ago

Boo hoo. If you do not like your pay, find another job.

Economics 101

Bob Forer 6 months, 2 weeks ago

And many are. And the consequences are a decrease in the quality of faculty, something you selfishly couldnt care less about.

Bob Summers 6 months, 2 weeks ago

"And many are. And the consequences are a decrease in the quality of faculty",

So by your metrics, the quality left deserves the pay they are getting? Or, are overpaid?

Regardless, the sandlot government overlords at KU are getting what they pay for.

Calvin Anders 6 months, 2 weeks ago

The point, Mr. Summers, is that morale is low. The point is more will leave and it will be harder to attract talented replacements. The point is that the faculty will not cultivate the kind of stimulating and creative atmosphere that brings in more talent if they do not believe they are part of a supportive institution. It's not rocket science.

Sam Crow 6 months, 2 weeks ago

Forer’s comment presupposes that a professor exiting KU is of the highest quality, while the replacement person is of inferior quality.

By logical extension, the one leaving KU for another school can be seen there as being inferior to the person being replaced.

That is pretty pompous thinking.

Neal Becker 6 months, 2 weeks ago


Forer's point is correct. It is the most successful faculty at a given rank that can get a superior offer from a more prestigious university. Faculty who do not receive outside offers or receive them from less than peer institutions tend not leave KU.

Your logical extension is incorrect. For senior hires, there is likely to be no person that the KU faculty member is replacing. It may be a retirement or the receiving department is simply expanding.

Sam Crow 6 months, 2 weeks ago

The academic world which is well insulated from the realities of the outside world is based on pretentious fantasy.

Neal Becker 6 months, 2 weeks ago

Actually KU is not insulated at all from the realities of the labor market. Why teach and KU when you could teach at The University of Washington, the University of Michigan, Australian National University, or University Paris 1 for higher pay?. In my own discipline, KU pays a bit over 75% of what a top department would pay for assistant professors. At that rate, KU will not hire the top candidates and will not retain the best faculty. To think that KU highers and retains the best faculty in the country is a fantasy.

P Allen Macfarlane 6 months, 2 weeks ago

It is thanks to that "pretentious fantasy" that you are able to enjoy the quality of life you now have. I'm not defending academia and their ways particularly, it's the end result of hours of research that is not fantasy.

Calvin Anders 6 months, 2 weeks ago

LJW, your assessment is comparative. You are saying KU faculty should be happy because compared to other area universities they fair pretty well. That doesn't take into account a national trend to focus salary increases on administrators. That does not take into account the national trend towards bloat in spending on offices and positions unrelated to teaching. Just as corporations reflect an increasing wage gap as CEOs and top executives get increasingly disproportionate compensation compared to employees, universities are seeing a similar widening in the wage gap between administrators and professors. Your position seems to be that KU faculty should be happy because faculty at other universities are getting screwed at least as much as they are. That's a pretty unpleasant sentiment.

Sam Crow 6 months, 2 weeks ago

Your comment is quite ironic as that is one of the arguments the Kansas conservatives have about local school funding. That is, as funding to districts increases, so does the ratio of administrators to teachers. Conservatives want funds to not be dedicated to the ever increasing bureaucracy, but rather pushed down to the actual instruction level.

Kansas school districts are packed with associate superintendents, assistant superintendents, executive directors, directors, assistant directors, and associate directors. Not to mention the staff to support them.

Lawrence 497 alone has three assistant superintendents, three executive directors, nine directors, and six assistant directors.

Blue Valley with twice the number of students, has three deputy/assistant superintendents, nine executive directors, and thirteen directors.

I guess it is acceptable in primary and secondary education, but forbidden at the university level.

Calvin Anders 6 months, 2 weeks ago

Sam, I think I might share that very specific aspect of conservative concern about public school funding. I agree that the administration sometimes has too much bureaucracy and the spend on administrators salaries might be better spent on teacher salaries and classroom resources. But I often don't think conservatives have a genuine interest in improving classroom instruction, rather any excuse to slash funding from any and all programs. But the issue at the university level is a little different, I think. We have university administrators pulling down $250K up to over $500K. Granted professors with in high demand fields with distinguished research can earn well more than an average person, but there is still a growing disparity between administrator salaries and those of faculty. Liberal or conservative, it's hard to deny that more and more money is going to overhead.

Sam Crow 6 months, 2 weeks ago

Last year the Salina schools superintendent made $335,000. Shawnee Mission $317k. Blue Valley $302k.

To say conservatives do not a genuine interest in classroom instruction is nonsense.

Calvin Anders 6 months, 2 weeks ago

Sam, I will not try to defend those salaries. I don't think any district superintendent in Kansas should be earning that kind of money. It's indicative of systemic corruption that this kind of waste is happening in public spending. And I should not claim all conservatives are disinterested in classroom instruction. I meant that political efforts to cut funding for public education often seem to seek any excuse to pull funding out of schools. It seems like bloated administrator salaries are used as an excuse to cut funding. The problem is, just like in feudal systems, it's not the administrators who suffer when spending is cut. It's the classroom instruction that suffers.

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