Outrageous Chancellor Pay Package

The Cap Times has an article today titled “Pay will limit chancellor search.” It seems that $322,000 plus a recently renovated mansion to live in, a state car, and “generous benefits” is simply not enough to attract quality candidates. The problem, they tell us, is that this compensation is low compared to that received by the leaders of our peer institutions. The article says that the regents “will consider increasing pay by asking taxpayers or the [UW] foundation to contribute more.” I say absolutely not. I object to implementation of the CEO pay plan model in academia in general and at the UW in particular, and think this is the right time to take a stand.

What is the possible justification for this kind of compensation package? Is it based on results? If so, its implementation here has been a spectacular failure, given the state that we now find ourselves in. Demoralized faculty and staff, continually rising tuition, a deteriorating relationship with legislators, loads of support for biotech but scraps for everything else, spiralling numbers of and pay for administrators, falling support for graduate students, and on and on. And it’s not just the UW – this is happening all over the country, in tandem with these astronomical salaries for university chancellors and presidents.

I always read about these huge salaries and wonder what people do with the money. Our future chancellor will not need to pay for their housing, transportation, or insurance. So they’ll need the $322,000 (or even more) for… their wardrobe? Their art collection? Trips to Dejope? And now we’re being told that it’s not enough. Sorry, but I can’t buy it. We need someone who will take the job because they love the University and want to lead it out of this morass. I think we should actually lower the pay. I believe that there are honest, dedicated people out there who would take the job at or below its current rate, and do something about the fact that this once-great university is crumbling away before our very eyes.

(Read another take on this topic here.)


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5 Responses to Outrageous Chancellor Pay Package

  1. JCS says:

    First off, many thanks to GWP for starting this forum. It’s badly needed and very timely.

    This ‘CEO model’ is a serious PR problem for the university: I heard someone who understands state politics extremely well say last week that it’s a problem already to justify the chancellor’s salary compared to the governor’s. If I look around, in fact, I see anything but a clear correlation between salary and performance among administrators AND faculty, in part for the reasons laid out in the earlier post on the Toxic Two Percent.

    Anyway, thanks.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I had almost the identical reaction as MAM when I read the Cap Times story. I was thinking about what university presidents and deans of law, business and med schools make these days. Now, I confess that I wouldn’t want any of those jobs. Nonetheless, the amounts almost guarantee a major gulf between administrators and faculty. I was thinking about a requirement that candidates have published an article in a respected journal in their field in the last 5, 10 or ? years and taught a class with more than 5, 10, 20 or ? students during the same period. I think that this would cut the candidate pool drastically.

  3. GWP says:

    I’m fascinated to see that the existence of this site, new as it is, has already been picked up by a BYU professor (formerly of the University of Wisconsin School of Law), who posted his own response to the above article at
    What I can’t quite figure out, at least on the first couple of readings, is whether he really considers huge compensation packages for university chancellors, and more generally the CEO model for chancellors, to be a Good Thing. My own sense is that good chancellors have skills that are quite distinct from those required of CEOs in the business world, especially at a campus like UW-Madison.
    I agree, by the way, with the suggestion by Anonymous that the next chancellor should be drawn from among those who are intimately familiar with academia as a career and a calling, not as a generic corporate enterprise to be lumped together with auto manufacturers and insurance companies. But I hope that’s already a given in the minds of those involved in making that decision.

  4. JCS says:

    Mr. Verb has reacted to the Conglomerate Blog post, with a linguistic twist on things, as is his wont:

  5. ESR says:

    There are three things about the ‘Conglomerate’ comment which I think should be noticed.

    (1) There are implicit assumptions that the Chancellor position is and should be viewed as a corporate CEO position and that the only motivating factor for potential CEOs is financial compensation. These should be points of discussion (see GWPs comments on the distinction between UW-Madison and Corporations) and not foregone conclusions.

    (2) Following from above, if we do assume that the ‘CEO model’ is the one for finding our new Chancellor, shouldn’t we be starting our ‘negotiations’ at a low compensation point? Isn’t this good ‘business practice’ to see if you can acquire what you need at the lowest possible ‘buying point’? Maybe the ‘dream person’ that Mr. Verb has spoken of (competent, low salary, good intentions to build UW, etc.) actually exists. We will never know if we don’t look. Also from above, there are many intangible aspects of compensation with the UW Chancellor’s position such as having the background to go get one of the corporate CEO jobs after they’re done at UW, renegotiating salary after success, etc. We also have to remember that ‘supply and demand’ can play a role here too. There are not that many ‘UW Chancellor’ jobs out there and likely many more than a single candidate could do the job. Maybe we should have the candidates who apply for the job specify what their salary should be as part of the application? This would allow us to do a better ‘cost benefit analysis’ of the different candidates (e.g. this person is not so good and wants a lot of money- ding, this person looks really good and has a reasonable request for compensation- could be a winner…)

    (3) I’m waiting for the ‘Conglomerate’ post which is a copy and paste job about faculty compensation based on the critique of the issues raised by this post. Where is the ‘Conglomerates’ outrage that faculty compensation at UW-Madison is lower than peer institutions? Why is it somehow going to be impossible to find a new Chancellor with sub-average peer compensation but UW has been able to do this when finding new faculty? Outrageous, indeed!

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