I have a friend who used to say that class was simple to understand; it’s where you sit on the plane. In the front are the big, comfortable seats in first class where they serve wine; the rest of the plain is crowded and the service isn’t so good. You get a soda if you’re lucky. The Chronicle of Higher Education summary of faculty and administrative salaries (Faculty Salaries Vary by Institution Type, Discipline) show that, in academia, class is all about where you sit on the committee.
Charts are never that exciting, of course, but these are worth browsing if only to dispel the myth that high education is a meritocracy, or rather, to dispel the myth that a meritocracy is egalitarian. It’s clearly a self-serving and self-perpetuating system. The gap between the highest paid professors is startling by itself: nearly $200,000 a year at Harvard versus $40,00 for the lowly no-rank instructor at the two year institution. The have protect themselves; the have-not slide farther down.
Even more amazing is that while the rest of the system seemed to be collapsing for lack of finances, and tuition rising, presidential salaries rose about 5 times faster than the rate of inflation. The usual justification for these inflated administrative salaries is that without them schools could not compete for what they call the best talent. I am pretty sure I have said this before: if the best talent is driving our schools into the ground, shouldn’t we redefine “best”?