By Tendayi Moyo
Elizabeth Cannon makes a lot of money. She was recently reappointed as president of the University of Calgary — a job with a base salary of $480,000 per year.This easily lands her in the top-one per cent of wage earners in Canada.
Like in 2010, her contract was posted online to make students reflect on how poor they really are, or because of transparency, or something.
It’s definitely unfair to assume that the president leads a lavish lifestyle, but it’s difficult to look at Cannon’s salary, benefits and bonuses without losing control of your eyebrows.
But the president’s office is not hoarding all of the school’s executive pay. With a base salary of around $400,000 a year, provost and vice-president academic Dru Marshall also earns more than most university presidents in Canada.
President Cannon is an accomplished person. With two BScs, an MSc, and a PhD in geomatics engineering, it’s safe to say that our president is a distinguished academic. Her resume boasts extensive public and private sector service and features a long list of awards and achievements.
If Cannon were to stop working in the public sector, there is little doubt that she could find lucrative opportunities in the private sector.
This brings up the fairly reasonable argument that to retain talent at public institutions we have to pay executives salaries comparable to those in the private sector.
But with no intentions of diminishing the importance of their work, the combined salaries of our president and vice-president are more than the salaries of the President and Vice-President of the United States combined.
Moreover, U of C faculty members are doing influential work and have plenty of opportunities to abandon the public sector, though full professor salaries generally range between $80,000–$135,000.
As a full-time student who lives well under the “low income cut-off ,” I’m certainly not tormented by the plight of the university professor. Nonetheless, attracting and preserving talent at the faculty level is also vital and comes with a much smaller price tag.
The U of C is not the only school with well-fed executives. The upperechelon of Canadian society is littered with university management.
It is also worth mentioning that the national median income is around $30,000 and the average salary in Alberta hovers around $58,000, according to Statistics Canada.
I’d like to think that our university executives stick around because they are genuinely passionate about what they want to do.
Paying the president well over half a million dollars in salary and extras just to keep her around is short-selling her integrity. I think she’d do it for less.