A Philosopher's Blog

A Hell of a Contract

Posted in Business, Philosophy, Universities & Colleges by Michael LaBossiere on October 21, 2011
Florida A&M University

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As a tenured full professor at Florida A&M University, I have a 9 month contract that provides me with a salary that is a bit above the average national salary for employees. Since I have tenure, I can only be fired “for cause” or if financial necessity or restructuring are given as reasons. If I am fired, I get to keep my TIAA-CREF retirement, but I am otherwise kicked out with nothing.

The president of my university has a hell of a contract compared to mine.  James H. Ammons has a three-year contract which renews every morning, thus effectively giving him employment for life under the same contract. He can be fired for egregious or criminal acts. He can also be gotten rid of  by a supermajority of the board-but doing so will require that he be given a severance package equal to three years of compensation. His pay is quite good-$325,000 as a base (by way of comparison, the president of the United States has a base salary of $400,000). He also is guaranteed a bonus. He has never gotten less than 25% of his salary as a bonus and he has received from $81,250 to $113,750. By way of comparison, an assistant professor typically makes about $50,000 a year at the university (that is, Ammon’s bonus alone can be over twice the salary of a professor).

It might be expected that I would now start complaining about this.  After all, because of budget cuts faculty and staff have been fired. Programs and majors have been changed and even eliminated for financial (and political reasons). Last summer, many faculty (including me) were told that they would not be teaching in the summer because of these budget cuts (by way of comparison, my salary is $5,000 for teaching a summer class, so I could be hired for 16-22 summers for the price of one year’s bonus). Recently, another faculty member emailed me to say that our department had run out of money to print exams and quizzes (I have been printing mine on my own dime for years).  As far as bonuses go, we do get a bonus on rare occasions (instead of raises)-usually $1,000 for the year (taxed at 35%). However, faculty typically get no bonuses, no matter how great a job they do. Doing badly enough, of course, results in being fired.  As such, it might strike some as rather problematic that the president of the university is doing so well when the university, faculty and staff are suffering (or no longer faculty or staff).

However, I shall not complain. First, Dr. Ammons’ representative negotiated the best contact he could and this contract was accepted. If anything, I am rather impressed that he was able to pull off such an amazing contract and can hardly fault him for getting the best deal that he could. It makes little sense to fault a man for winning such an impressive victory over the folks who make the contract decisions.

Second, Dr. Ammons is widely regarded as doing a good job as president and it could be argued that he has earned his compensation. After all, he is the president of the entire university and all I do is teach four classes a semester, serve as the facilitator for my academic unit, publish, advise, and so on-far less than what is expected of the president. As such, one might argue, he earns his compensation as I earn mine-I just earn a great deal less.



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3 Responses

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  1. T. J. Babson said, on October 21, 2011 at 6:19 am

    Do you know any good Dean jokes, Mike? Here are a few:


    The faculty’s role is to think for the college,

    The president’s role is to speak for the college.

    The dean’s role is to keep the faculty from speaking and the president from


    What is black and brown and looks good on a dean?

    A rottweiler

    Message over the hair dryers in the athletic complex locker room: “Push

    here for message from the dean.”

    The university president explained to a new dean. “In business, it’s dog

    eat dog: in academia, it’s just the reverse.”

    A woman called the public relations office of a college and requested a

    speaker for her club saying ” I want nothing lower than a dean.”

    The staffer replied, “Madam, there is nothing lower than a dean.”

    “One morning a faculty member walked into the Deans Office with a parking

    ticket he (or she) had received the evening before. The faculty member put

    the ticket in front of the Dean’s secretary and said that he (or she) wanted

    it fixed immediately! The secreatary, fighting back tears, said that the

    Dean had died during the night. The faculty member nodded and went away.

    15 mins later the faculty member reappeared in front of the secretary, threw

    the ticket on her (or his) desk, and said he wanted the ticket fixed by the

    Dean right now! It was an outrage that an intellectual of his (or her)

    stature should receive a ticket and it was up to the Dean to set things

    right. The secretary, tears running down her (or his) face, replied that

    the faculty member must not have understood what she (or he) had said a few

    mins before. The Dean had died during the night. The faculty member nodded

    and went away.

    15 mins later the faculty member walked into the Deans Office, went to the

    secretary, slammed the ticket down, and demanded that the Dean fix it RIGHT

    NOW! The secretary, sobbing, said that she (or he) did not know how else to

    say it, couldn’t the faculty member understand, the Dean had died, the Dean

    was dead.

    The faculty member smiled and said that he (or she) just wanted to hear it

    one more time.”

  2. ajmacdonaldjr said, on October 21, 2011 at 3:07 pm

    As someone who, until very recently, was breaking my back working as a construction laborer for $7.25 per hour, which netted me less than $50 per 8 hour day after taxes, I have very little sympathy for either of you. Never in my blue-collar working career have I ever earned more than $30,000 per year, before taxes, I have never been given severance pay after a lay-off; I have held only one job that has ever offered me a pension (International Paper); and I have paid into Social Security over $30,000 in my working lifetime, not counting all other federal, state, local, Medicare, Medicaid, sales, gas, food, and other taxes. You white-collar professionals crack me up! You poor babies!

  3. Cameron Drakolowse said, on December 26, 2011 at 7:30 pm

    tine this is someone who was a superhero coming in, but sealed his superhero status within the first week of working with us.

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