How much is that in ponies?

by CarlD

I’ve worked through my private amusement enough to speak publicly about the recent revelations concerning compensation packages for retiring administrators returning to teaching in the North Carolina university system. I didn’t exactly snort my coffee when this popped up a week ago on the front page of the Raleigh N&O, but I did stare off into space for awhile.

Among the things I learned from former UNC Chancellor James Moeser (a music professor, and apparently a good one) is that it takes a year at a salary of $390,000 to prepare to team-teach one course; teaching the course, on a 1/1 load, is only worth $117K however. Doing the conversion for my standard 4/4 load plus 1/1 overload, 6 preps, I earned $4,680,000 for preps (each prep worth $390K X 2 for team-taught X 6) and also $4,680,000 oddly enough for teaching ($117K X 4 X 10) last year. I may be off by a zero or two because I’m a humanities guy not a math guy, but Moeser is too and you get the idea. Looking at my actual paycheck, I seem to have discounted my services some.

Moeser, befitting his high station and ticket, is nicely analytical about it all. “There’s no question I have benefited enormously, having the cushion of this time away to reflect and gain a sense of what I want to do,” said Moeser. “Could I have done it without a research leave? Sure. But I would not have been approaching the fall with the same excitement and anticipation as I am.” Thanks, Jim! Now I know what’s been missing from my teaching — excitement and anticipation!

From Beverly W. Jones, historian (go, team!) and ex-Provost of NC Central, I learned that historians, or Provosts, or Black people, or women (all of which she is and ex-Chancellor Moeser is not) are only worth $208,000 annual-rate to prepare for a full slate of teaching! Scandalous. Fortunately Dr. Jones figured out she could do the preps and then just retire, pocketing the money. Way to stick it to The Man, Bev. But I may be giving her bandito cred she doesn’t deserve. Apparently her reason for retiring was that while on prep leave she became interested in a research project on Helen Gray Edmonds, a longtime NCCU history professor, and didn’t think she could do research and teach at the same time. “I found it’s really going to be a monumental study,” she said. “I realized I’d really need the time to do it. Hopefully, I can teach a course after this book is done.” One suspects this interpretation of the mutual exclusivities of the various facets of academic labor would surprise most Tenure and Promotion committees, but it’s nice work if you can get it.

Meanwhile in a prior post on “superstar markets” our friends at orgtheory.net come right to the point and note that “[a]cademia, like many cultural/intellectual markets, has the property that a small slice of the top gets the most rewards. Very non-linear.” Ah-yup. The article Fabio recommends to support this is full of math, so although its assumptions seem awfully fishy it must be right.

Thanks to Mikhail for breaking the seal on this story, also linking InsideHigherEd.

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3 Comments to “How much is that in ponies?”

  1. Welcome to the Pareto curve, a.k.a., power law, world of winner-take-all markets. Finance, sports, news, why should academia be any different?

  2. I didn’t teach last spring myself, so I am technically also “returning to the classroom” on Monday after 6 disorienting months in the land of non-teaching, and even though I was still paid a regular salary, I feel the need to request some cash to smooth the transition – I’m going to write a letter to my dean, citing the story, I wonder what would happen?

  3. Well Mikhail, the dean can either pay you for your excitement and anticipation, or suffer the consequence of your loathing and diffidence. (Be sure to phrase your letter in the form of a ransom note.) I think it’s a no-brainer, but in faculty lore I suppose that describes most deans.

    And welcome back.

    John, I can’t think of a reason!

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