Wednesday, September 20, 2017

UCONN Budget Cuts

Politics in Connecticut reached a new high in futility last week.  The failure of the Democrat Governor and Legislature to agree on a budget finally led some Democrats to throw up their hands and join with the Republican minority in passing a budget. Governor Dannell Malloy, however, has said that he would certainly veto the Republican budget bill.

Despite the Governor’s assurances, the usual suspects at the University of Connecticut are up in arms at the proposed cuts to UCONN in the Republican bill. It is hard to sort out the actual details but Republicans claim that their budget will cut $200 Million over two years from the State’s grant to UCONN. Officials at the University claim that the cut is more like $300 Million over two years. 

The President of the University immediately predicted doom. If the budget went through, schools in the system would be closed, programs would be curtailed, class sizes would increase, and faculty would be let go. Today in the Connecticut Post, my hometown paper, graduates of the University took out a full page ad claiming that the cuts would “decimate” the University. I quote:
President Susan Herbst said they would include closing UCONN Health and some regional campuses; ending some Division I sports; closing some academic departments and potentially some schools and colleges; enacting major reductions to all financial aid; and ending international programs, among others.
In other words, if forced to make cuts, Dr. Herbst would strike at the most needy, the lowest of the low. For example, regional campuses that serve students who can’t make it into the prestigious campus at Storrs would be cut. Small sports that actually are played by UCONN students would be cut, but mega-semi-pro businesses like basketball and football would probably go untouched.

A post I put up a few weeks ago on the salaries of top administrators at Syracuse University, a prominent private university in neighboring New York State, prompted me to check out the top salaries at state supported UCONN. Fortunately, the State provides a website that lists all the salaries and compensation of UCONN staff. There does not seem to be too much difference between Syracuse and UCONN.

The top 45 employees at UCONN all make in excess of $400000 a year, and the top 100 all make over $325000 per year. At the top, of course, is famed Woman’s Basketball coach, Geno Auriemma, who makes in excess of $2 Million a year. Most of the top earners would seem to be doctors and faculty at the UCONN medical center. Even retired basketball coach Jim Calhoun still has faculty status and made over $300000 in 2016

A few years ago I read about a business owner who found his business threatened during an economic downturn. To save his business as well as the jobs of his employees he came up with a plan that was a marvel of simplicity and fairness. He called it the 5-10-15 plan.

Here’s how it worked. The top third of wage earners in the company, including himself, took a 15% cut in pay. The middle third took a 10% cut, and the bottom third took a 5% cut in pay. In this plan, the CEO took the greatest hit. No one, not even the lowest paid clerk or janitor lost their job. Everyone shared in the pain but it was worth it because the business survived. Even the newest hires, traditionally the first to be cut, were spared.

I know it is rare to see such a plan enacted anywhere, whether in business, education, or government. When have you ever heard of a boss giving the axe to himself in any way? Even when the jobs of higher paid managers are cut, they usually bump some underling out of a job. When Susan Herbst, the President of UCONN, talked about the cuts that would decimate the University, she certainly was not talking about decimating the top 100 at the University.  

A 5-10-15 plan would work very well at the University. The Governor has asked all citizens to share the pain. During the Governor’s administration taxpayer’s have already been subjected to two large tax increases as well as increases in various fees. Students and their families at UCONN have already been asked to share the pain with increased tuition and larger class sizes.

President Herbst would do well to consider at 5-10-15 plan for her University. It would hit those at the top hardest, and those at the bottom the least. No schools need be closed or programs cancelled. The plan could even be phased in over two years to alleviate the pain.  


Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Democrat Bigotry

Senator Feinstein
Recently, Democrat Senator Diane Feinstein of California grilled Amy Coney Barrett during confirmation hearings for her nomination by President Trump to the United States Court of Appeals. Barrett is a Professor of Law at Notre Dame University as well as the mother of seven children. She is obviously an intelligent, successful woman but Feinstein found a fatal flaw.

Poring over an article that Barrett had co-authored 20 years ago, Feinstein objected to the fact that Barrett was a Catholic, in particular a Catholic with a deep respect for Catholic dogma. She questioned whether Barrett’s respect for Catholic dogma would interfere with her fairness in upholding the laws of this country.

Amy Coney Barrett

Can anyone begin to imagine the furor if someone had dared to ask Ruth Bader Ginsberg, a current Supreme Court Justice, whether she thought her Jewish heritage and beliefs would prevent her from upholding the Constitution? Even today, just imagine if someone were to question a Moslem candidate for office about his or her devotion to Islamic teaching or law.

It is obvious that for Feinstein “dogma” is just a code word for the Catholic teaching on abortion. She certainly wasn’t talking about Church teachings about the Immaculate Conception or the Assumption of Mary. She admitted that she and other defenders of women had fought long and hard on behalf of women’s reproductive rights. Ironically, she chose to say this to an intelligent, career woman who had also chosen to have seven children.

She didn’t come out and say it but Feinstein and her Democrat colleagues on the Committee came close to arguing for a religious test for Federal judges. Senator Dick Durbin even went so far as to ask Barrett what kind of Catholic she was. He asked her to define an “orthodox” Catholic and asked if she was one.  In other words, if she is a Catholic who follows the teachings of her Church about the sanctity of life, she would not be qualified to hold office.

There is an article in the Constitution that prohibits a religious test for those who would hold office in this country. It is in Article 6, Section 3, and comes almost at the end of the document. Here is the text.

The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.
The framers of the Constitution were very familiar with the term “religious test.” Ever since the Protestant Reformation Roman Catholics had been brutally persecuted in Great Britain. Nevertheless, Catholicism persisted in the British Isles but even when outright persecution tapered off, Catholics were still forbidden to practice their faith in public, a practice that extended to most of the colonies in America. Of course, they were forbidden to hold office.

At the end of the 17th century Parliament even passed a number of “Test Acts” that required all public officials to be members of the Church of England. The Test Acts not only excluded Catholics but also Protestants who did not adhere to the Anglican church. Jews were also excluded.

Although most of the framers of the Constitution were members of the Church of England, there was enough religious diversity in the new country to lead them to eliminate a religious test to hold office. As if that was not enough, the famous First Amendment made it clear that the new government would not have the power to establish a State religion.

In objecting to an otherwise qualified candidate just because she is Catholic, or because she has Catholic beliefs, Feinstein and others are coming close to setting up a religious test and violating the Constitution they have sworn to uphold. Anti-Catholic religious bigotry lurks behind their code words and innuendoes.

The greatest and most respected judge of the recent past was the late Antonin Scalia, a Catholic. In this brief video he gave Senator Feinstein, an extremely dogmatic and orthodox liberal, a lesson on the Constitution. 


Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Not for Profit

I have long been struck by the animus in certain sectors of our society against profits. Commentators often complain about obscene profits in the private sector. Left-wing advocates of universal health care want to reduce payments to doctors and cut or even eliminate drug company profits. Many students today graduate from college with no desire to work for a profit making company. Working for a non-profit appeals to their moral sensibility.

The aversion to profit making comes from a long indoctrination that begins in the earliest days of school but becomes especially pronounced after four years at most colleges and universities even while they turn out an increasing number of business majors.

The other day I came across a website that listed the top 20 wage earners in 2015 at Syracuse University, one of the largest private universities in the country. It is a tax-exempt or so-called non-profit institution.

At the bottom of the list was a senior vice-president whose base salary was only $282000 but whose total compensation came to $324000. She was stepping down from Syracuse after 30 years of service but did manage to get a gig as President of the Foundation of a public university.

Three more vice-presidents followed but # 16 was an academic, the newly appointed Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, the largest school in the university.  Her base salary is $311000 but total compensation is around $360000. Her predecessor was #15 on the list. In his last year his salary was $366000 but total comp was around $393000. He returned to a faculty position and although a faculty salary will not land him in the top twenty, I suppose his pension will more than make up the difference. Five more vice presidents round out the bottom 10 with Number 10 being a senior vice president whose total comp is over $500000.

There are some even more interesting cases as the salaries get higher. Number 9 is the Dean of the school of Citizenship and Public Affairs whose total compensation was $560000. However, he stepped down as Dean that year to become a mere Professor at the University. Incidentally, he had formerly been an under-Secretary of State during Hillary Clinton’s tenure at the State Department.

Number 8 on the list of top wage earners was a former Provost, the top academic position at the University. He left the University in 2014 but still collected his full salary during 2015. His base salary was $482000 but benefits brought his total comp to $565000.

Number 7 was the Woman’s basketball coach who finally made the top 20 list after his team had a very successful 2014 season. I wonder if anyone complains that the $565000 the women’s coach makes is only a quarter of what the men’s basketball coach makes at Syracuse. Of course, he still makes considerably more than any full professor or any of the minimum wage adjuncts who teach many courses at the University.

If we skip to number 4 we find the former head of the University’s athletic depart who resigned his post in 2015. He insisted that his resignation had nothing to do with an NCAA investigation of the practices of the athletic department. The University found another position for him as a special assistant to the President. His base compensation was $757000 with total comp of $846000.

The Chancellor/ President of the University made the top three but his compensation in excess of $900000 was dwarfed by that of the two most prestigious and powerful members of the University.  The head football coach made in excess of $1.5 Million and the Men’s basketball coach, the legendary Jim Boeheim, made over $2 Million.

Syracuse is a private institution and it can pay its high-ranking employees whatever it wants. However, I imagine that the salary structure is much the same at public institutions all over the country. It is obvious that most of these people are part of the well-educated administrative class that profits greatly from its not-for-profit status.  I suppose that like Syracuse most of the people actually doing the teaching do not make the list of top-salaried employees. Isn’t it ironic that while liberals make up more than 90% of college faculties, they seem to ignore the income inequality under their own roof?