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Is a 400k salary too much for a university president? Four academics apply to share one lucrative U of Alberta position

The academics applying for the U of Alberta president's post (clockwise from top left: Kathy Cawsey, Lucie Kocum, Becca Fawn-Dew Babcock and Renee Ward) (Photos: Courtesy of Kathy Cawsey)

The academics applying for the U of Alberta president's post (clockwise from top left: Kathy Cawsey, Lucie Kocum, Becca Fawn-Dew Babcock and Renee Ward) (Photos: Courtesy of Kathy Cawsey)

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There's a job opening at the University of Alberta in Edmonton. Indira Samarasekera, the current president and vice-chancellor, is stepping down at the end of the month and the search is on for her replacement. We know of at least 56 university professors and academics who are vying for the job, which starts at $400,000 a year, and they're all applying for it in groups of four.

The group is protesting the high salaries of university administrators across the country, especially as many institutions are cutting back on services and staff.

"There seems to be increasingly a disconnect between the administration and the faculty and the students," Kathy Cawsey, an associate professor at Dalhousie University who is part of the campaign, tells Carol. "There's a disparity between these administrators' large salaries and the rhetoric of austerity that they espouse."

Hear Carol's full interview with Professor Cawsey by selecting the "Listen" button.

Read the full cover letter Professor Cawsey's group is submitting to Douglas Goss, the Chair of the Board of Governors at the University of Alberta:

Dear Mr. Goss and the Board of Governors,

We are writing to apply for the position of President and Vice-Chancellor at the University of Alberta. As you will see from our CVs, we are eminently suited to fill this position. 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 needs of all four of us. Indeed, for many of us one-fourth of your proposed minimum salary would double or triple our current wage.

Our collective experience in academic and administrative leadership totals over thirty years. We have extensive experience in "inspiring the human spirit" through teaching thousands of students in hundreds of classes. Collectively, we have earned twelve post-secondary degrees, including four PhDs, which we believe will surpass the "exceptional intellectual calibre" of any of your other single applicants. We believe that our commitment to higher education is evident in our willingness to job-share and to each take only a fair and reasonable salary, rather than one which is four or five times that of a tenured academic and at least ten times that of a sessional, and that this willingness will prove to society our belief in "the importance of higher education," and encourage others in similar positions to follow suit.

Between us, we possess the "credibility, vision and intellectual depth" to interact with all levels of society and all of the stakeholders of the University of Alberta. Dr. Cawsey, with her experience and background in journalism, will cover the responsibilities of the President/Vice-Chancellor to the media, public relations and other public bodies, while Dr. Ward with her research on monstrosity and hybridity, is eminently suited to interact effectively with various levels of government. Dr. Kocum's knowledge of statistics as well as her work with feminist issues makes her perfect for dealing with internal university administration and productivity assessment, while Dr. Fawn-Dew Babcock will liaise with business and the corporate world while ensuring the academic mission of the university remains our highest priority.

As you can see, four people can manage this job far more effectively than any one single person, however qualified that person might be for a half-a-million in compensation. We can spell off the dreary business of Convocation, with one person attending/presiding while the other three continue on with the much-needed work of the President/Vice-Chancellor's office, rather than having to take a week's hiatus every April. Sick days will be irrelevant, since three other people will be available to fill in if one person is ill or on leave. Most importantly, we each pledge to teach one undergraduate class per year - which we would bet none of your other candidates are proposing to do! - both as a way of "walking the talk" about the "importance of higher education" and our "world class students," and as a means of contributing to the current climate of austerity at the University of Alberta, in which everyone - even in the highest levels of administration! - is called to pitch in and do their bit.

We know that you, in your wisdom, will see the sensible nature of our application: how by accepting only what is a reasonable and fair salary, four extremely qualified individuals can contribute far more to the university and to academia in general than any one person could.

Sincerely,
Kathy Cawsey
Renee Ward
Lucie Kocum
Becca Fawn-Dew Babcock

And just in case you're interested in applying, too, here is a screen capture of the official job notice from the University of Alberta:

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