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March 2, 2008 - 5:45am



A war's raging between two in-house bloggers at the Chronicle of Higher Education. One's an overpaid university president (he recently left his position); the other's a professor who's an activist on behalf of contingent faculty. Here's a scene from it.

There won't be many more battles. The president's position is indefensible. He will withdraw.

Yet the larger battle over crazily compensated university personnel -- whether presidents, coaches, or, as in the case UD will now examine, political appointees to the faculty -- goes on.

A history professor at the University of Florida takes up the case of a powerful state senator handed a lucrative, almost teaching-free faculty position at UF without that school's faculty having even been notified, let alone given a chance to review his credentials. "Many political science faculty learned about their new colleague only after reading the newspaper," the professor notes.

Hiring freezes, salary freezes, almost fifty million dollars in additional cuts to the Florida system recently announced... the writer describes the miseries of departmental life without supplies, conference money, etc., and says, before he gets to details of the senator's appointment, it's been "demoralizing" for everyone "to watch the university president take an Olympian-sized bonus."

Indeed the gross and growing disparity between presidential - and other administrative - salaries, and faculty salaries, is a much-remarked-upon scandal; but here we have a deteriorating state system continuing to lavish money on one of its university presidents. UD wonders why she never sees presidents, under these terrible circumstances, turn down the bonuses...

About that new appointment's credentials. His first public statement about them was a lie. He said he had an MA from the University of Arkansas, and that he was working toward a Ph.D. there. He does have an MA, but Arkansas announced it hadn't heard from him in eight years, and that he's not associated with any of their programs.

Could it be any clearer that this man's been handed a do-nothing job at a high salary because he's an influential politician, and the university wants to make him happy?

"One wonders," concludes the writer, "what ethical lessons [our students] will take away from his appointment."

They're the same lessons students in states like New Jersey and Alabama have learned: Some public universities are patronage machines.


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