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Now, there’s an honest professor

Published: Sun, November 22, 2009 @ 12:00 a.m.

By Bertram de Souza (Contact)

By Bertram de Souza

A staunch defender of Youngstown State University, reacting to this writer’s criticism of the bonuses paid to 400 employees, sent along a copy of an article in The Chronicle of Higher Education headlined “Kent State U. Says It Will Pay Bonuses to About 800 Professors.”

“In a year when many college employees are going without raises or worse, more than 800 lucky faculty members at Kent State University will get cash bonuses, the result of an experimental incentive program the university started last year,” Kathryn Masterson wrote in the Oct. 16 edition.

Apart from the fact that Masterson’s observation about college employees going without raises certainly doesn’t apply to YSU, the premise of her article is solid.

The idea of public servants receiving bonuses in the midst of an economic recession is enough to trigger a tax revolt.

At Youngstown State, 400 members of the Association of Classified Employees are pocketing $4,500 each. Why? Because of the increase in the university’s enrollment this fall.

What did the members of ACE have to do with the enrollment increase? Nothing. The only reason they got the bonuses is that the administration under President David Sweet and all but one member of the board of trustees wanted to buy labor peace.

What is even more insulting to the taxpayers is that the bonuses are on top of pay raises granted to the employees. And, if you ask them, they’ll say they deserve every dime of the largess.

Real performance

Now, compare that with what is going on at Kent State. First of all, the bonuses for faculty members — they range from $2,500 to $2,800 — to be included in their paychecks on Dec. 1 are for their performances in three areas of strategic importance, according to The Chronicle story: freshmen retention, external research support, and fund raising.

“Right around Christmastime — that will be great,” said Timothy D. Smith, a journalism professor and first vice president of Kent State chapter of the American Association of University Professors, the union that negotiated the contract. “I think we were as surprised as anybody that we were going to get the money. Delighted, I might add.”

And then Smith made an admission to Chronicle writer Masterson that is deserving of high praise, applause and imitation.

This is what Masterson wrote:

“One reason the bonus might be extra nice: Mr. Smith says he didn’t do much that was different this year to earn it. He teaches upperclassmen, so he doesn’t have much contact with the first-year students the university is fighting to retain, and his department doesn’t pull in the mega grants that the hard sciences do. He’s happy to meet with alumni and donors, he says, but isn’t often asked to help with fund raising.”

Now, there’s an honest professor.

But honesty only goes so far. If he didn’t earn the bonus, he should not accept it.

The idea that university employees are deserving of more than the lucrative salaries and benefits they already receive is mind boggling.

At YSU, the increase in enrollment had nothing to do with all the supposed hard work. It had everything to do with the economic recession.

When there are no jobs and no prospects of any, people return to college — in the hope of improving their marketability. And yet, $4,500 for each of the 400 or so ACE members is pocketed with no shame.

But apart from the obvious greed the bonuses represent in this climate of economic uncertainty, Ohio’s universities and colleges, which were spared major cuts in state funding, could be in for a reality check next year.

Optimistic projections?

As the biennium budget debate revealed, the revenue projections may well be overly optimistic. And, if spending cuts have to be made, higher education will take a hit because every other department and agency in state government has already been slashed.

At that point, trustees will regret the unnecessary giveaways to employees and will have to do one of two things: increase revenues through tuition hikes or cut expenses.

Word of advice to the ACE employees: Don’t spend those bonuses just yet.


1apollo(1227 comments)posted 6 years, 5 months ago

Good luck. They too must be the best of the best and therefore deserving of this $4500 bonus. Heck, in Boardman they just gave out $500 bonuses to the police simply because the township didn't get branded with the state fiscal watch tag. Must be nice to be union with the taxpayers footing the bill! Evidently there is no shame and no perk too costly or ridiculous.

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2SpeedBuggy(8 comments)posted 6 years, 5 months ago

I thought these people were suppose to be ambassadors of the university no matter what their job description or pay level is. It is their job to be there for the students, lets face it that's who paying the bill. As for the increase in enrollment it certainly is known that in tough economic times enrollment goes up. I for one cannot afford to send my kids to the big (i.e. OSU, BGSU, OU, Miami and so on) so we have elected to send our kids to YSU. Certainly we did not base our decision solely on economics. YSU is a good school and produces a great product, but to say that the ACE membership deserves a raise because enrollment is up and their participation is part of that is ludicrous. I will continue to send my kids to YSU and will have to grin and bear it every time we get our tuition bill knowing that I am paying the bonuses to such deserving employees. One question I asked on a previous article about these bonuses that never got a response, does the ACE membership get discounted tuition for them selves or immediate members of their families, and if so are they paying the hike to cover these bonuses?

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3northsideperson(366 comments)posted 6 years, 5 months ago

The size of the enrollment incentive was excessive, but it was agreed on by both sides. No-one could project the economic downturn at that point.

I'm sure the next contract will have changes.

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4penguinswin(21 comments)posted 6 years, 5 months ago

I have one thought for Betram. He reminds me of a north end of a steer going in a southbound directions. He's just a troublemaker.

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5YSUPenguin(30 comments)posted 6 years, 5 months ago

SpeedBuggy, Yes the ACE employees get free tuition for themselves and their dependents. Nice, huh? And they are still the most ungrateful and miserable people I have ever come into contact with.

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6penguinswin(21 comments)posted 6 years, 5 months ago

YSUPenguin - There you go making a broad generalization of all ACE employees. My boss happens to think I am very much underpaid for all I do on and for this campus. Have you ever donated to any scholarship for students or to the annual fund on a consistent and regular basis. This enrollment incentive bonus allowed me to triple my donations in several areas. As for Tuition remission, my kids actually attended YSU unlike many of the APAS (Admin Prof.) and Faculty people. Several of the advisors in engineering sent their kids to OSU for engineering. Bah Humbug, tiny tim (YSU) will always get my support. The more I make the more I support!

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7candystriper(575 comments)posted 6 years, 5 months ago

Children of YSU Professors have attended free for 30 years or longer. What is the discount for grandchildren of the Professors?

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