By Jenna A. Robinson
Last week, the UNC Board of Governors committee meetings began to run behind schedule when the Committee on Personnel and Tenure went into a prolonged closed session. Outside, observers wondered what could possibly take so long. On Friday, the full board did the same, meeting behind closed doors for two and a half hours, according to the Raleigh News & Observer.
The newspaper revealed why in this article: “The UNC Board of Governors approved pay raises for some chancellors on Friday but did not disclose the new salaries.”
The salary amounts were released publicly Monday. Twelve of the system’s chancellors received raises from eight to 19 percent. Carol Folt and Randy Woodson, chancellors at the state’s two flagship campuses, received $50,000 and $70,000 raises, respectively.
It’s no wonder that the Board addressed these increases behind closed doors.
In this era of economic doldrums, across-the-board faculty raises have been very low. Average faculty salaries on the UNC campuses have increased less than 2.5 percent over the past seven years. (Some professors have gotten big boosts from a special faculty retention fund, but that has been the exception rather than the norm.) Rank and file UNC employees will receive a $750 bonus this year.
At the same time, tuition and fees continue to increase. Students, faculty, and low-on-the-totem-pole staff, as a body, have felt the effects of this poor economy.
But administrators are apparently exempt from the laws of economics—and from North Carolina’s constitutional promise to provide education in a relatively inexpensive way.
The nature of the increases shows that the board isn’t responding to a particular need or demand. They’re just blindly following higher education “consultants” over the fiscal cliff. Are we expected to believe that 12 of the 16 university chancellors are currently entertaining other, competitive offers? (Highly unlikely.) Or that they’ve all suddenly exceeded expectations on performance? (We know they haven’t. Graduation rates are still abysmally low.)
I don’t usually agree with members of the liberal American Association of University Professors, but in this case, they’ve got it exactly right:
“This hardly seems like a good faith effort to comply with North Carolina’s constitutional stipulation that ‘the benefits of The University of North Carolina and other public institutions of higher education … be extended to the people of the State free of expense.’
In approving this administrative pay raise, the Board of Governors is slavishly following an alarming national trend.”
Jenna A. Robinson is president of the Pope Center for Higher Education Policy.