Put faces to dollars

By Brianna Wellen

Once again, Columbia’s top paid staff members have been revealed, and once again, I am rethinking my career choice. President Warrick L. Carter’s annual pay is approximately 10 times more than I hope to make after college, if I’m lucky. While I’d like to imagine that the daily duties of those top 10 are grueling tasks causing them to give their heart, soul and plenty of overtime into creating the best environment possible for students, it’s hard to know for sure. I’m guessing that a majority of the student body is getting its first look at these administrators on the Front Page of this issue of The Chronicle.

Without any day-to-day familiarity, students see these large numbers and nothing else. We might as well have piles of money running the school. For as long as I’ve been at Columbia, the lack of student access to these higher-ups has been a problem. Other than Mark Kelly, Columbia’s tireless cheerleader, there is little to no interaction or transparency with students. Carter makes his appearances at events, such as Convocation and Commencement, but he is rarely seen around campus making efforts to know his students.

While the salaries themselves are on par with college administrators across the country, it is the norm at other schools for presidents to regularly host dinners at their homes, hold forums with students and maintain connections with postgraduates. Students should be able to build a relationship with people such as these to turn to later for letters of recommendation, references in their career field and networking for future opportunities.

As student journalists, the highest paid college administrators are often the people we need to reach the most regarding issues involving Columbia but are often the hardest people to get hold of. The best of efforts results in a generic written statement from an official or the school’s media relations office, rarely with specific actions being taken or details of the event. These vague responses and lack of transparency leave me wondering what these higher-ups do at all to earn their nearly $1,000 per day or more.

These large numbers are also hard to swallow when faculty and staff members who connect with and mentor students daily are caught in a pay freeze at substantially lower salaries. If pay were based on direct impact on students’ lives, the numbers would be drastically reversed.

It’s difficult—especially as college students with multiplying debt—to justify these salaries without personal connections or understanding of the day-to-day proceedings of these top salary earners. If students aren’t aware of how these people affect the college or can’t even pick these people out in a lineup, they may soon stop giving their money to the college only to see it end up in these people’s pockets.

The administration should make more of an effort to be a visible presence on campus with transparency in its actions. Maybe then we, as a student body, can praise those gracing the Front Page of this issue for all their hard work and not think twice about their salaries.