Sunshine Laws

I don’t often agree with the ACTA (American Council of Trustees and Alumni); in fact, to my way of thinking they are one of the best barometers of reactionary thinking in education. But I do agree with at least part of their December “Must Reads” (“Letting in the Sunshine“), in which the ACTA pays the Arkansas legislature a half-compliment.

It’s a good idea, the ACTA says, for universities to be completely transparent when it comes to administrative salaries; the legislature got that right. But the law is only necessary, they say, because the universities themselves haven’t stepped up to the plate. It’s the idea of a law that the ACTA finds so unnecessary. I think that the law is exactly the point, though.

In effect, the “Must Read” is a thinly veiled warning: either we (administrations) deal with the rising (or perhaps coming) public anger at the exploding costs of college in general, and the wildly inflated salaries of certain high level administrators in particular, or we will face increased regulation. The worry, of course, is that the legal regulations will limit administrative “flexibility.”

In the short term, in other words, universities need to deal with the public by going public. In the long term, this will help ensure that they can do whatever they want once the outcry subsides. That’s exactly why Sunshine laws that require public institutions make all salaries public are so important. We need more than superficial changes that allow administrators to get by. We need laws.

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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