Schill on compensation.

A couple weeks ago Dean Michael Schill wrote an op-ed in the LA Times about compensation of professors in the UC system. This is part of an ongoing mini-controversy about what the UCs disclose about professor pay.

There are four major problems with this op-ed.

1. Schill was the wrong person to write it. If someone wants to appear on the pages of Calif’s largest daily paper to defend UC compensation practices, it should be Chancellor Albert Carnesale, or a joint piece by the Regents, etc. Schill’s main motivation seems to be to launch a defense of his own pay, as he was previously identified as a highly-paid faculty member (PS Schill is far from the highest-paid person in the UC system–many members of the medical faculty get paid more.)

2. Schill ignores the core issue. He rolls out a free-market defense why professors are paid as much they are (and, in particular, why he is paid as much as he is). I have no problem with that reasoning.

But the main issue is not how much profs are paid per se. The issue is that the UC Regents have repeatedly violated their own compensation policies by keeping pay packages secret. The original leak of UC salaries through the SF Chronicle was primarily intended to overcome this secrecy. Schill suggests the pay system must be “transparent” and “accountable” without noting this is the core of the current controversy.

3. Schill puts up a smokescreen when he identifies what he calls “the real UC scandal”: the declining share of UC costs borne by the state. True, student fees have gone up a lot during the last few years because of Calif’s financial difficulties. Even so, attending school at a UC is still significantly less expensive than a comparable private school (e.g. UCLA law is about $10K per year less than USC).

I have to wonder if he’s thinking that increased tuition removes one of the competitive benefits of attending UCLA law. If students start saying “Sheesh, for that money I could go to USC”, UCLA might face a smaller applicant pool (Oh wait! It already has.) This leads to less selective admissions, which leads to lower GPA/LSAT medians, which can lead to a drop on the U.S. News rankings.

4. Schill is dismissive of private fundraising. At most universities, private fundraising is all there is. The government is not picking up most of the tab. It seems hopelessly retrograde to imagine that UCLA law can maintain its ranking (let alone move up) without getting into serious alumni fundraising.

Near as I can tell, alumni fundraising at UCLA law is dreadful. And Schill may be an excellent administrator but I’m not aware that he has experience leading a major capital campaign, which is a core competency for deans at private schools. Not that they like it. But it must be done.

To be fair, in Jan 2005 Schill was receptive to privatizing UCLA law. Interesting that he didn’t mention this in his op-ed.

30 May 06

matthewb @ ucla
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