March 31, 2004  
Volume 97, Issue 95  

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Are profs paid too much?
Western releases list of ‘high’ salaries

By Sarah Prickett
Gazette Staff

Western’s list of top-earning staff members shows that faculty salaries are competitive with other universities, despite only minor salary increases, but some critics say they may be too high.

Western’s administration released this past Monday a list of over 400 administrative and faculty members paid more than $100,000 in 2003. Approximately one third of Western’s full-time faculty are on the salary list, which does not take into consideration other sources of income.
“There’s been a general increase, but it’s been fairly consistent with [guidelines set by the faculty association],” said Don McDougall, chair of Western’s Board of Governors, adding the increase was “in the low single digits.”

McDougall said salaries at Western are largely based in comparison to those at other Canadian universities. “Generally speaking, they’re comparable to other universities,” he said, adding salaries may be slightly lower at Western than at universities in major cities because the cost of living is lower in London.

“Seniority is a factor, because there’s a gradual movement through the ranks — it’s not a direct relationship,” he noted. “Someone who’s been here 15 years might not make more than someone who’s been here 12.”

Alan Weedon, vice-provost of policy, planning and faculty, said salary settlements take place each year and involve a performance-based component. “Each department has a set of criteria they apply,” he explained adding this includes both teaching and research aspects.

Benjamin Singer, professor emeritus of sociology, said he thinks professors’ salaries are not generally reflective of the work they do for the university and the students. “You have to consider what the public and the students are getting for their investment.”

He noted that many professors are making considerable amounts of money from non-university sources, in addition to what he feels are overly high salaries. “When I first started back in the 1960s, there were rules regarding outside income — if you were devoting 20 to 30 hours a week to [a private enterprise] and collecting large amounts of money on the side, maybe your salary would be lower,” he said.

“The best job in the world is a tenured [professor] because you get paid a lot and you answer to no one,” Singer said. “[Tenured professors] rarely are fired for mediocrity.”

He said the criterial system does not accurately reflect standards or values such as creativity and hard work, adding the main question is whether promotions and salary raises are actually justifiable. “Some are more than justified,” Singer said, noting many professors take advantage of the system.
According to Weedon, the current system involves evaluations from either a committee or the department chair, depending on the department, as well as student evaluations.

“We need outsiders who are experts in making standards [and] judgments to assess how the university evaluates its professors and faculty members,” Singer said, noting this would not likely be well received by Western administration. “The university has very jealously guarded its autonomy, and you probably wouldn’t win with that proposal.”



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