Students pay profs, should get to decide how much

The average assistant professor at a Midwest private university in 2009 made $50,800 that year. Butler currently employs 91 assistant professors.

The Butler University Board of Trustees voted down a proposed equity raise for faculty and staff  on Saturday.

One might hear this and say that educators are seriously undervalued in this country. As far as that matter is concerned, it’s true.

To help fix this, Butler students should have a louder voice in making their professors eligible for raises, using the surveys they already fill out.

A word of warning: Everyone should be very careful when talking about the price tag that goes with education. However, it has got to be discussed, especially when this much money is on the line.

In 2009, Butler’s gross revenue was  $163.5 million. It’s the rough equivalent of 3,000 brand new 2011 Corvettes, if that helps contextualize the number.

Obviously, that amount is not completely unreasonable.

The university has to pay for maintenance, construction of new facilities, equipment, technology and, of course, the salaries of faculty and staff.

Butler University employed 3,203 individuals, including professors, at a combined cost of $76.9 million in the same year.

Some of these individuals go above and beyond the call of duty, and this is not always recognized.

Others might coast by with less than average effort.

Quite simply, individuals who surpass their students’ expectations should be valued higher than their peers when it comes time to decide who gets more consideration for raises.

One crude but effective way to do this is with cash.

The administration should give students more power to help in this situation. And students should take the end-of-year idea forms very seriously.

This proposal is not some radical new system. No one is saying that students should dictate the employment of their professors.

But they should have a greater say. They’re paying an awful lot of money to attend this school.

The university should use the reviews that students already fill out at the end of every course.

The administration already uses that data to make some decisions, certainly. “We use the idea forms as one piece of faculty teaching evaluations,” Stuart Glennan, LAS associate dean, said.

Glennan said this is “one small part” of considering faculty for raises, promotion and tenure.

Read that again: those end-of-semester questionnaires can affect how likely professors are to get raises.

Administrators should consider them even more.

Of course, it’s hard to tell exactly how much most individuals earn.

Butler is a private, non-profit organization, and so it does not have to document every action it makes to the public, normally.

However, one thing that can be obtained is the IRS 990-S form, return papers that certain tax-exempt non-profits like Butler must file.

Give it a quick look.  It includes the figures above and also lists the top-salaried employees at Butler.

Some of them make quite a lot.

On average, of course, professors do not earn a lot. Several of them deserve a lot more. In all likelihood, some do not deserve quite as much.

A stronger student-review system could help correct this.

Of course, this is a two way street. Students need to take the surveys seriously. They should not race through the surveys with sickening speed—like some currently do.

If students don’t take the surveys seriously, it can be downright poisonous. Whatever value a thoughtful response might have had is wasted by that lack of thinking.

Students should give professors the respect of an honest response. And that response should be considered more heavily when pay adjustment come up.

Almost every Bulldog has probably had a professor who did not fulfill his or her expectations.

And, conversely, there are many who couldn’t be valued highly enough.

I personally have had several educators who went completely beyond my standards and really challenged me to grow personally and intellectually.

And sadly, none of them are among Butler’s top earners.

Perhaps if those little surveys were used by both students and faculty a bit more effectively, that would change.

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