Monday, February 27, 2012

Who Deserves Compensation For Their Work?

I haven't blogged about it much because I don't want the annoying people who find everything written about it so they can troll their little hearts out to come squat all over my blog, but I'm one of the thousands of graduate assistants at the University of Minnesota who supports unionizing. After a strong majority of grad assistants at the U signed union authorization cards, we asked the University administration to accept our majority and file for a union with us, since they have repeatedly said they respect grad students (just not enough to listen to us, apparently).

As in any movement to improve people's lives, there's always a few sour jerks who can't stand the idea that someone's life may be improved. These folks, predictably, have argued that we're lucky to get what we have, and besides, there's a recession going on and the university doesn't have any money. So union supporters such as myself have responded that, sure, we're lucky to be employed in this economy, but that doesn't mean we don't deserve basic respect. And as for the recession part, well, the U always seems to have money for football stadiums and whatnot, but not for the people doing the research and teaching that I would argue are somewhat more fundamental to the mission of a university.

Well, in the midst of this on-going argument over unionization, here's yet another example of how administrative compensation is way out of control. If you don't have time to read the article, it notes such things as how the out-going UMD chancellor was handed well over a half-million dollars on her way out the door as she retired, because she's just a cool person, I guess.

Those same people who argue against unionization tend to argue that admins receive these absurd retirement packages because they're necessary to draw the top talent. Not only has this never been proven (or even attempted -- show me a university that has tried hiring admins without ridiculous pay and bonuses), it's funny how this argument only applies to administrators. When grad assistants ask for some more crumbs, we're told to shut up and be grateful for what we have. When admins are handed over a half-million dollars just because, we're told this is absolutely necessary and only an idiot would argue against it.

But what these huge (and hugely unnecessary) admin bonuses and retirement packages demonstrate is not market values or other such nonsense, but that the University's funding problems (much like the nation's at large) are not really about the amount of money in hand, but the priorities for using said money. The half million dollars given to this former chancellor would easily pay the salaries, tuition, and fringe benefits for well over a dozen grad assistants, who will provide much, much more than that for the university in the form of teaching and research. As opposed to that chancellor, who will provide nothing to the university, seeing as how she's leaving and all.

But then again, what would I know? I should just shut up and be happy that there's still plenty of money to make sure my social superiors continue to live in the lap of luxury...

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