The campus has been abuzz with Monday’s release of The Chronicle of Higher Education article on university presidents’ salaries. President Shirley Ann Jackson was named top of the list for the 2007–2008 year (the lists published are two years old), and the students have dusted off their torches and pitchforks just in time for the Fall Town Meeting.
Alright, I exaggerate, but many students have received this news with anger. Yes, it’s very understandable given the huge amount many of us pay in tuition and the little financial aid that accompanies it. Hearing that, even with such a high cost, it still takes approximately 42 students paying full tuition to fund that compensation.
Okay, so students have a right to be miffed, but the problem is where this anger is directed.
Yes, Jackson makes a lot of money, but, at the same time, look at what she has done for Rensselaer. Ten years ago, I doubt many of us currently attending the Institute would have actually chosen to go here. Anyone who has attended an event in the Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center, a game in the new East Campus Athletic Village, or done research in the Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies has Jackson to thank for those opportunities.
Jackson also gives a large percentage of this compensation back to the Institute. Although she officially puts 5 percent of her salary toward a scholarship fund for students and donates to the United Way, there is much more that Jackson does that is not necessarily in the public eye.
It’s still too much money, you may say. Jackson, however, doesn’t set her own compensation; the Board of Trustees pays her what they think she deserves as president of RPI. The same way that Derek Jeter of the New York Yankees gets a large paycheck because he performs well in games, Jackson receives that much because the Board feels that she is a president worthy of it. Although there have been some major upsets at the Institute in the past number of years under her leadership and obviously improvements could have been made several times along the way, up until this announcement campus seemed to be a relatively happy place with a much greater morale than years past.
While many students may not agree with my assessment, I encourage you all to have an opinion. I am certain that with the upcoming Town Meeting, many students will attend solely to ask Jackson questions about her earnings. It’s more than fine if you have opinions to express, but do so in an informed manner. Know what you’re talking about before you get up at the microphone, and don’t just be another angry student.
Students won’t be happy until Jackson opens private records of expenses to them, and the administration won’t be happy until students stop acting angry and ignorant; since neither will happen anytime soon, it is up to us to be constructive in our complaints. Give an informed presence and statement, so that we as an Institute can move forward rather than shut our doors toward each other.