Thursday, April 28, 2011

Young Takes the Mike

                                                            MIKE SIEGEL / THE SEATTLE TIMES

    Michael Young,  president of the University of Utah and president-designate of the University of Washington, "made a roomful of UW officials smile by saying he'd take less money than his predecessor," the Seattle Times reported yesterday.
    As Saturday Night Live's Dana Carvey (the church lady) used to say: "Well, isn't that special."
     As we have reported, Young accepted a doubling of his salary since 2007 during a time when tuition rose 40 percent and despite decreases in state and federal funds allocated to the U. He went from earning the median income for public university presidents nationwide to being the fifth-highest paid -- hauling in nearly $750,000 per year, plus a residence, car and spousal allowance of $30,000.
    Now that he's leaving the Land of Zion, he's finally getting some religion. That's not just "special" -- it's ironic as heck!!! Oh my gad, how did this conversion happen?
    Compensation for the UW president has been in the spotlight as the state legislature has decreased funding by half since 2008, assuming that pending cuts are put into effect. Legislators as well as academics in Washington have demanded that the presidential salary be slashed as well.
   "It's probably inevitable that I'll accept less," Young told a news conference yesterday. 
    "Probably inevitable" isn't a very presidential expression, but it would work well for a high-school cheerleader.
    Although the UW didn't discuss salary when interviewing Young for the job, according to the Times, "the Utah president made it clear that he understood the depth of the UW's financial problems and that he wanted 'to set an example that will resonate,'" said Board of Regents Chairman Herb Simon.
    That is exactly what we criticized him for NOT doing while he was here. And it also proves our point that financial incentives are not paramount when a job is challenging, exciting, rewarding and prestigious.
   The Times added that Young is "very sensitive and understanding of our political and financial crisis."
    One Times reader posted a comment expressing the wish that Young and other top education officials in the state will "turn over their roles to others who would be less committed to high compensation packages and perks for themselves and more committed to the just cause of a solid education."
    Just as it seemed that Young might be getting his priorities right -- or closer to right, anyway -- he described himself as a "football president." He regards athletic programs as “the front porch” of a university, according to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer's sports blog.
   (I have been privileged to become acquainted with some science students at the University of Utah this year. The beautiful, profound research they are doing would comprise such a magnificent "front porch" for the U., as would the creative and pioneering work being done by business, humanities, social science, technology and communications students, and many others. As my boyfriend suggested, we should send the athletes into the backyard to play, and reserve the "front porch" for our stellar students and their wonderful intellectual pursuits.)
    “I’m probably the most successful football president the University of Utah has ever seen,” Young said Wednesday, with his typical humility.
    Now, maybe he'll become the most successful football president the University of Washington has ever seen. Wouldn't that be a kick?
    And perhaps we will find ourselves the most successful academics president the University of Utah has ever seen.
    Although, since State Board of Regents Chairman Randy Dryer justified Young's high salary by saying "he helped steer Utah into the Pac-12," I wouldn't bet on it.