AUB faculty vs. senior AUB administrators: Unequal pay and grave injustice

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AUB's College Hall. Al-Akhbar/Marwan Bou Haidar

By: Hussein Mahdi

Published Wednesday, December 3, 2014

“What one administrator earns in a month is more than what an instructor earns in a year.” This comparison was mentioned in a study presented by the chairperson of the American University of Beirut Faculty United Jad Chaaban in a public meeting held early last month, attended by teachers, students, and other interested guests.

How does the American University of Beirut (AUB) spend money? Why is there no financial transparency at AUB? How is its annual budget drafted?

The American University of Beirut Faculty United tried to answer these and many other questions during a number of meetings held recently, the latest of which was held early last month. At that session, chairperson of the association Jad Chaaban presented a study on the expenses and wages at AUB compared to universities across the United States.

The study indicates that the average wage for administrators at AUB is five times higher than the average wage paid to AUB faculty members. Wages paid to administrators at AUB are on average 20 to 70 percent higher relative to their counterparts in the United States.

By contrast, wages paid to professors are on average 15 to 60 percent lower than their counterparts in the United States. Not only this, but wages paid to AUB faculty is 25 to 40 percent lower compared to wages paid at the Lebanese American University (LAU), which is run in a very similar way to AUB – though the wages at AUB are still 10 to 25 percent higher compared to the Lebanese University. Still, Lebanese University professors receive many other benefits.

Over a period of 10 years, assistant professors at AUB lost 10 percent of the value of their salaries on average, while tuition fees increased by 12 percent above inflation in the same period. Between 2008 and 2013, faculty wages dropped by 13 percent compared to inflation in the same period, while tuition fees increased by 27 percent above inflation levels.

So where does all the money AUB collects from the students, or from grants and contributions, go? Why is its annual budget never published or shown to its faculty staff?

The American University of Beirut Faculty United has around 300 members. Its purpose is to defend the rights and interests of AUB professors, including in relation to remuneration.

Chaaban told Al-Akhbar that AUB professors feel they are treated unfairly and unequally. He says their wages can no longer keep up with the costs of living in Beirut. “The capital was classed in 2014 as the most expensive in the Middle East in terms of living costs,” Chaaban indicated. He said that professors’ wages have not been adjusted in line with inflation over the past few years either, according to data enclosed with his study. “We are living a real crisis. How can we as professors live in dignity with wages as low as this?” Chaaban asked, saying, “There is evident waste with the exorbitant wages paid to administrators.”

Chaaban warns that things could get even worse with many negative implications, especially in terms of the university’s ability to attract talented professors to maintain the quality of its education in the future. This issue was raised last year, and a committee was formed comprising representatives of both faculty and administration, chaired by the Deputy Dean for Academic Affairs Ahmed Dalal.

The professors have been hoping the committee will issue recommendations that include serious proposals, saying there is “increasing disgruntlement” with the double standards in relation to the disparity between the administrators’ wages and those of faculty staff. But these hopes have been undermined with the most recent meeting of the Board of Trustees refusing any amendment to the professors’ contracts, specifically in relation to end of service packages and post-retirement health insurance. Reports suggest that the chances for amending professors’ wages under the current administration are very slim.

“There are no clear standards governing the wages paid to professors or administrators. There is no clear salary and ranks scale at the university, and the criterion usually is bargaining with the administration to get the best package,” Chaaban says.

He also pointed out that the committee is trying to set specific criteria in a “scientific and fair” way, but that “there would be no value for any recommendations if they do not also include a review of the remuneration given to senior administrators, which must be capped.” According to the chairperson of the professors’ association, some administrators earn more than ministers and MPs. He adds, “It is possible to save at least $2 million if the wages and roles of administrators are reassessed.”

According to the study, travel costs, legal costs, wages, and IT and advertisement expenses, in addition to interests on loans, increased by about $13 million in 2012 compared to 2008, while the wages of senior administrators at AUB increased by 89 percent in the same period.

In the meeting of the association, the professors were not surprised by the data presented by Chaaban in his study. They made several practical proposals to limit wastage in the university’s administration, including cutting back travel costs and forcing all administrators to travel on economy rather than business class. Some professors expressed that they are dissatisfied and perplexed by the rising legal costs, which they say are unjustified.

AUB professors said the vice president for legal affairs receives a salary of $ 23,000 per month, while legal costs had amounted to $2.1 million in 2012. This raises many questions about the fees AUB pays to law firms in New York and Beirut as well.

The professors derided the costs of advertisement that AUB added to its budget in 2012, to the tune of $1 million. One of those present at the meeting said, “It’s not like AUB really needs to place adverts on the streets of Beirut.”

To see additional tables and figures, click here [AR].

The disparity between Lebanon and the United States

The highest salary at AUB is paid to the vice president for medical affairs, who earns $59,000 per month, 131 times more the minimum wage. In comparison, the average wage for the same position in the United States is $37,000 per month. The University rector earns $39,500 per month (87 times the minimum wage), while the average wage for the same position in the United States is $31,000.

This disparity between Lebanon and the United States applies to all senior management positions. In addition to their exorbitant wages, they are given free accommodation in Beirut within the university campus or receive housing, communications, and travel allowances, etc.. By contrast, the highest wage paid to professors does not exceed $7,600 per month, while in in the United States, the average figure is around $8,700. Professors also have to use their salaries to cover all costs of living without receiving any benefits or allowances, unlike AUB administrators.

Follow Hussein Mehdy on twitter | @Husseinmehdy

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

Comments

Dear Hussein

You should investigate rampant plagiarism among AUB Faculty. It has done great damage to AUB reputation.

Peter

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