As a tenured full professor at Florida A&M University, I have a 9 month contract that provides me with a salary that is a bit above the average national salary for employees. Since I have tenure, I can only be fired “for cause” or if financial necessity or restructuring are given as reasons. If I am fired, I get to keep my TIAA-CREF retirement, but I am otherwise kicked out with nothing.
The president of my university has a hell of a contract compared to mine. James H. Ammons has a three-year contract which renews every morning, thus effectively giving him employment for life under the same contract. He can be fired for egregious or criminal acts. He can also be gotten rid of by a supermajority of the board-but doing so will require that he be given a severance package equal to three years of compensation. His pay is quite good-$325,000 as a base (by way of comparison, the president of the United States has a base salary of $400,000). He also is guaranteed a bonus. He has never gotten less than 25% of his salary as a bonus and he has received from $81,250 to $113,750. By way of comparison, an assistant professor typically makes about $50,000 a year at the university (that is, Ammon’s bonus alone can be over twice the salary of a professor).
It might be expected that I would now start complaining about this. After all, because of budget cuts faculty and staff have been fired. Programs and majors have been changed and even eliminated for financial (and political reasons). Last summer, many faculty (including me) were told that they would not be teaching in the summer because of these budget cuts (by way of comparison, my salary is $5,000 for teaching a summer class, so I could be hired for 16-22 summers for the price of one year’s bonus). Recently, another faculty member emailed me to say that our department had run out of money to print exams and quizzes (I have been printing mine on my own dime for years). As far as bonuses go, we do get a bonus on rare occasions (instead of raises)-usually $1,000 for the year (taxed at 35%). However, faculty typically get no bonuses, no matter how great a job they do. Doing badly enough, of course, results in being fired. As such, it might strike some as rather problematic that the president of the university is doing so well when the university, faculty and staff are suffering (or no longer faculty or staff).
However, I shall not complain. First, Dr. Ammons’ representative negotiated the best contact he could and this contract was accepted. If anything, I am rather impressed that he was able to pull off such an amazing contract and can hardly fault him for getting the best deal that he could. It makes little sense to fault a man for winning such an impressive victory over the folks who make the contract decisions.
Second, Dr. Ammons is widely regarded as doing a good job as president and it could be argued that he has earned his compensation. After all, he is the president of the entire university and all I do is teach four classes a semester, serve as the facilitator for my academic unit, publish, advise, and so on-far less than what is expected of the president. As such, one might argue, he earns his compensation as I earn mine-I just earn a great deal less.