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Northwest Voices

Seattle Times letters to the editor

November 19, 2008 at 4:02 PM

Higher education / presidential pay

No wonder

As a taxpayer in the state of Washington and as an American who was understands higher education from both a public- and private-system perspective in this state, I am outraged, appalled and disappointed with the news that the chief administrators of the University of Washington and Washington State University are being paid six- and seven-figure compensatory salaries [“Emmert, Elson earn their pay,” editorial, Nov. 18].

The front-page story indicating a “$ 600 million cutback” systemwide only exacerbates with highlight this grievous situation [“Higher ed prepares to cut $600 million,” Nov. 19].

Why are public tax dollars authorized to pay public employees compensation on this scale? This is wrong and should cause every citizen in this state to sit up and take notice. I fail to see how a college or university president deserves this kind of money, in comparison with the city manager of Tacoma, for example, who is responsible for a population center of over 200,000 thousand with an annual salary of about $180,000.

In the prevailing economic crisis both statewide and nationally, it is clear that there are people and agencies who need to be replaced. The State Board for Higher Education should be held accountable, including the Legislature and governor, for support of these perks at the expense of each and every citizen. No wonder we are in a mess.

There are educators, students, staff and citizens of this state who will be required to sacrifice again and regardless of other contributing circumstances in our local and national economy, these “private-sector salaries” aren’t helping the situation. It seems to reflect the greed and excessive nature of the market.

The argument that we need to pay this scale of salary to attract “qualified leaders” is nothing more than fluff and nonsense. There are people more than qualified to lead our state institutions of higher learning who don’t require or could even accept this unjustified payment for services rendered.

I trust someone might investigate further into the process by which taxpayer dollars are used to underwrite such a travesty, when so many folks are suffering and can’t even make it with two incomes, much less one.

— Troy Jella, Seattle

We can’t afford this

Do the people of Washington state need to pay nearly $1 million annually to retain great people to lead our universities? Of course not.

A truly great leader would not extort an exorbitant salary from the citizenry — a real leader would accept a decent salary sufficient to support his or her family as a supplement to the great opportunity to lead.

Let’s drop the notion that public institutions need to pay extortionate salaries “to compete with the private sector.” We can’t afford this foolishness any longer. And we don’t need leaders who think they should earn a fortune on the backs of the people.

— Greg Bartholomew, Seattle

Comments | More in Education, Washington Legislature

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