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Nadworny: On Golden Parachutes

08/18/11 5:55PM By Rich Nadworny
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(HOST)  Commentator Rich Nadworny was surprised by a Golden Parachute sighting in Vermont this summer - and he's not talking about bird watching.

(NADWORNY)  I've been chewing on the news that Daniel Fogel is leaving his position as president of UVM earlier than expected. And what struck me most about this entire story was the deal that arranged for Fogel to teach English at UVM at a salary of $195,000/year.

I mean, who knew that liberal arts teaching positions paid so well! When my dad was hired as an associate professor of economics at UVM back in 1952, his starting salary was less than $5,000/year. My poor mom thought he was dragging her to Vermont to live in abject poverty.

And yet, after teaching for 32 years at UVM and retiring in the late 1980s as one of the best and best loved teachers there, if I do say so myself, his salary was not even in the same galaxy as Dan Fogel's new gig. I wish it had been.

So as an old UVM brat, Fogel's salary agreement strikes me as untoward; too much like the old-boys back-room deals we're used to seeing at the worst run corporations in the country.

The thing that puts it over the top for me is that for the past decade, when it comes to funding and faculty, UVM has placed a much greater educational emphasis on business majors at the expense of the liberal arts majors. But if you read the recent studies from the National Survey of Student Engagement you'd find that business majors spend less time preparing for class than do students in any other field. 

The study also found that when business students take the entry test for an MBA program, they score lower than students in every other major.

I wish we could assume that the UVM administration has realized their mistake and is now committed to paying liberal arts professors top dollar - and that they'll go on a hiring spree to bring in more faculty to these departments - because, let's face it, for $195,000 you could hire several really, really good professors. But that isn't likely unless some secret marketing research shows that what incoming freshmen really want is a hot Henry James class.

All this makes me think of my dad and his old colleagues - like Milt Potash, Sam Bogorad and others.  They were worth their weight in gold because of what they did for the Students. They were World War II vets who used the GI bill to do something they loved rather than something that would make them money, so they became university professors, rather than doctors or lawyers.

Unfortunately great teaching apparently isn't worth as much these days as running an educational institution as if it were Goldman Sachs.

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