Class Hide and Seek

The American Council of Trustees and Alumni has just given my home state, Illinois, a failing grade in every area it assesses, from ‘cost and effectiveness’ to ‘intellectual diversity.’ It’s not surprising, given the recent scandals in admissions and the ongoing dysfunctional stasis of the state government. It’s just not that easy to fund a state without an effective state income tax, even in good times. In bad economic times, it becomes impossible.

It’s great to see the ACTA, a bastion of privilege if there ever was one, bemoaning the academic end run the privileged have been running around admission to Illinois universities, and calling for increased transparency and so on. I don’t think they were quite as upset when one of these rich kids got elected president several years ago, but perhaps that’s because he got into Yale, not the University of Illinois, and it was the 1960s, and there was that nasty war that no one really wanted to fight…

The ACTA report is a half-truth red herring (pardon my mixed metaphor) of course, because what they ignore is as important as what they bemoan. They offer no assessment on the salaries of administrative officials, such as themselves, to cite the obvious. It’s an interesting omission, given the prominence of recent stories about the generous salaries of various officials at private universities. A coach, it turns out, (Peter Carroll) is the best paid academic.

Statistics gathered by the Working Group on Extreme Inequity paint an alarming picture of material privilege run amok throughout the U.S. economy, and universities are no exception. In the private sector, executive pay is now on average more than 364 times that of the lowest paid. I’d love to hear about the ratio of the highest to lowest paid employees at public universities. If the ACTA wants “robust debate” it should include these numbers in its report card.

About Ray Watkins

I was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, at Our Lady of the Lake Hospital. I grew up in Houston, as a part of what we only half-jokingly call the Cajun Diaspora. At a certain point during the Regan administration, I had to leave, so I served in the Peace Corps, Philippines, from 1987-89. I didn't want to return to the United States just yet, so I moved to Paris, France, where I lived for three years or so. I then moved back to Austin, Texas, where I had received my Masters Degree, and (eventually) began a Ph.D., which I completed in 1999. I spent a year at Temple University and then accepted a position at Eastern Illinois University where I worked until May of 2006. I now work exclusively on line (although that may change) for Johns Hopkins, the Art Institute Online, and I can be reached most easily via email: raywatkins [that 'at' symbol]

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