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Editorial – Anyone interested in a pay cut?

by The Concordian November 22, 2011
Perhaps if the provincial government had indeed zoomed in on how much Concordia pays its senior administrators, or how much any Quebec university pays its big bosses for that matter, the Charest Liberals would seriously rethink their stance on increasing tuition. Maybe, just maybe, they would instead focus on working with the money that is already given to universities and advocate for better spending.
Because paying a university president $350,000 and allowing him to fly business class to British Columbia for $4,000, more than a Quebec student’s tuition for a year, is not proper spending. Firing Judith Woodsworth from the Concordia presidential position and awarding her a severance package of over $700,000 is not proper spending. Why has no one in power realized this by now?
There has never been a clear, coherent answer to that question, just like there has never been a reasonable answer to why students must pay for tuition period.
As demonstrated on the front page of this week’s issue of The Concordian, students pay so much into this institution we call a university, which then takes some of those much-needed funds from students and hands them over to senior administrators.
It’s safe to say that the VPs who dominate the GM building are certainly not strapped for cash and left scrounging for food and support, unlike many students. These two contrasting realities have existed since universities were created, and yet nothing has ever been done to bring them closer together. Why does a university president, who oversees an institution of 45,000 students, need to be given a salary that rivals that of the Quebec premier? Why does a Quebec student need to pay $325 more for tuition a year between 2012 and 2017 when that same student must watch millions go toward senior administrative salaries and severance packages?
The student population isn’t even at the frustration period anymore. They’re mad, mad as hell to be exact.
As seen during the Nov. 10 protests against tuition hikes in downtown Montreal, students are fed up with having to pay money to institutions that all have their histories of bloated, expensive bureaucracies and which have not exactly been champions of transparency.
Quebec premier Jean Charest says students need to pay their “juste part,” or “their share.” If that’s the case, and students really do need to pay more to better their universities, then why doesn’t the same rule apply to senior university administrators? Why don’t they take a pay cut (a gigantic pay cut in the case of some administrators) and allow for the money saved to be invested in what really matters at universities: teaching excellence, quality library material, and an overall safe and healthy campus life? The provincial government seems to think that this kind of goal can only be accomplished by telling students to pay more, but it’s high time they start to consider that this goal can equally be reached by telling senior administrators that they should be paid less.
There is no denying that President Lowy and the multiple vice-presidents, assistant vice-presidents and other senior officers at Concordia put in their hours. Some of them are undoubtedly working exceedingly hard and truly care about the state of this university. But if they really care about the institution they work for, they should think, and think hard, about the largest segment of this institution’s population: the students. There are almost 45,000 of them, many of whom must depend on student loans to get through their degrees, amassing tens of thousands of dollars of debt in the process.
Many students are already struggling financially, so again, this begs the question: why does the government ask students to pay more, but not ask senior administrators to be paid less? The ruling factions of the university’s governance structure will tell you that these massive salaries (not to mention the huge allowances related to housing, travel, etc.) are needed to compete against other universities on the education employment market.
But if these senior administrators really care about the university first and their paycheck second, they shouldn’t be hesitant in accepting a pay cut. Most people get by quite easily on a base salary of $50,000 (while many others work around much less). Will a gross salary ranging between $50,000 to $100,000 really be so detrimental to a senior VP’s life that it will stop them from completing their duties? It’s highly unlikely that such a salary reduction will prevent certain VPs from still doing the rounds and giving the university’s donors the proverbial handshake.
In the long run, smaller salaries for senior administrators would only make sense. Students would still have access to affordable, quality education; members of the university’s higher levels would still be able to carry out their duties and live a decent quality of life; and the university as a whole would greatly benefit from the sudden influx of cash. Because as we’ve been told time and time again, we really need the money. So let’s be generous.

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