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CAUT Bulletin Archives

June 2014

Groups apply to share uAlberta president position

The presidential search committee at the University of Alberta has received some unusual applications. In addition to the typical individual job seekers, 14 groups of four and one of three have submitted an application.

Eager to make a point about sky-rocketing administrative salaries, all of the group applicants have put their names forward to job-share the position, while proclaiming that even if split four ways, the posted salary remains ample.

The groups, composed largely of academic staff from across the country, also include a foursome of University of Saskatchewan students, and “a few Americans and a Brit,” said Kathy Cawsey, an associate professor at Dalhousie University who helped organize the movement.

“I don’t think we’ll get an answer, never mind the job,” Cawsey said in reference to her own group’s application. “But it would be great if we got a reply addressing the concerns we advanced in our application.”

Cawsey got the idea of a group application after spotting the advertisement to fill the shoes of retiring U of A president and vice-chancellor Indira Samarasekera, which posted a $400,000 “minimum” salary.

Samarasekera’s salary has in fact ranked among the highest of university leaders in Canada for the last few years. In 2013, she earned close to $1.2 million in pay and benefits.

While most other administrators earn far less, many still take home salaries and benefits that exceed those earned by Prime Minister Stephen Harper or US President Barack Obama.

Wanting to raise awareness about “the disparity between these administrators’ large salaries and the rhetoric of austerity that they espouse,” Cawsey joined forces with Dalhousie colleagues Renee Ward and Becca Babcock, and Saint Mary’s University professor Lucie Kokum, in wri­ting the application for the job.

They also set up a Facebook page called “University of Alberta President/Vice-Chancellor Application,” and got the ball rolling for other groups to apply.

“And now it has spread far wider than we expected,” Cawsey said. “We’re delighted.”

As Cawsey’s group points out in their sometime jocular application, their four backgrounds clearly demonstrate obvious commitment to “the importance of higher education,” while collectively bringing to the table “twelve post-secondary degrees, including four PhDs, which we believe will surpass the ‘exceptional intellectual calibre’ of any of your other single applicants.”

“As you will see from our CVs, we are eminently suited to fill this position,” their letter continues. “Indeed, we believe that by job-sharing this position, we would be able to do a better job than any one person could do — and the salary is certainly ample enough to meet the need of all four of us.”

While they do not expect their “quirky” application to earn them an interview, Cawsey said it’s a start toward demanding “slow, incremental change” that needs to happen in order to reverse the disturbing pattern of ballooning administrative ranks and salaries.

“We don’t necessarily object to university administrators being very well paid,” she said. “But we object to their increasingly huge salaries while facing a trend of faculty cuts, rising tuition and student debt, and the growing divide between the priorities of administrators and academics.”