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University administrators overpaid: ANSUT

With tuition fees rising at universities across Nova Scotia this year, one might expect the administration and faculty to cut back as well. However, a report released this week by the Association of Nova Scotia University Teachers (ANSUT) shows that salaries being paid to higher-tier administrative positions in the province have been rising consistently over the past seven years.

Presidents’ salaries at ANSUT-represented universities increasing by an average of 27 per cent compared to an average of seven per cent for faculty members.

ANSUT’s report focused on eight Atlantic Canadian universities. Dalhousie and University of King’s College were not included in the report because their members of faculty are not represented by ANSUT.

According to documents released by Dal under the Public Sector Compensation Disclosure Act, Dal president Tom Traves is the highest paid public figure in Nova Scotia with a salary of $397,735.  That salary is only a drop in the bucket, amounting to little more than one tenth of one per cent of Dal’s labour costs, which total nearly $255,000,000. The university is required to disclose the salaries of those 684 employees who were paid over $100,000 last year.

Students will face a 3 per cent increase in tuition fees this year.

At the ANSUT press conference on Sept. 11, a member of the press made the point that high salaries are necessary to attract the best administrators, and may benefit universities in the long term.

Nick Stark, the Nova Scotia representative for the Canadian Federation of Students, says that this type of corporate attitude has no place in the university system.

“Universities are public institutions and must remain so,” says Stark. “Administrators must not be seen as executives of businesses”

Representatives of both faculty and students at Dal disagree with the ANSUT report’s conclusions. David Mensink, the president of the Dal Faculty Association, says that “in such a complex organization, it’s unfair to zoom in on one part,” adding that “a systematic study looking at the costs of running a university would be a useful study.”

Although the report outlines increasing administrative costs in contrast to decreasing faculty costs at other Nova Scotian universities, Mensink says this does not necessarily mean Dal follows the same trend.

In a memo to the Dal community in 2011, Traves said that faculty salaries were in fact increasing and that “first-rate faculty deserve competitive salaries.”

For some, the most frustrating thing is the apparent lack of constructive communication between higher administration and students at the university.

Chris Ferns, president of ANSUT, said at the press conference on Sept. 11 that part of the solution to many of the monetary issues at universities is greater transparency and more involvement of students and faculty in deciding how their money is spent.

“Transparency is in fact required in the agreement between faculty and admin,” says Mensink. “To make flinging accusations about transparency is superficial.”

Although transparency is required between the faculty and administration, many students feel they are still left out of the loop.

“I feel that as students we are sometimes unaware of all the processes that go on in administration, especially pertaining to finances,” says Jacqueline Wigle, a second-year psychology major at Dal.

“I would like to see some evidence as to whether the salary increases of higher tier administration are directly from tuition payments, or if there is more happening in the exchange of funds between students and the university.”

Mensink would like to see more constructive communication. “If we all work together in talking about the rising cost of education and appeal to the government, that could work,” says Mensink. “But if we sling mud at each other we won’t make any progress.”


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