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Editorial: Biting the hand that feeds

Arizona Daily Wildcat
Tuesday, October 25, 2005
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State legislators irresponsible to neglect faculty salaries

"Education seems to be in America the only commodity of which the customer tries to get as little he can for his money." - Max Forman

It's not easy to be a state legislator these days. Public officials everywhere are grappling with soaring expenses, dwindling revenues and a sense that there are simply too many problems to be dealt with effectively.

But while the legislators in Phoenix deserve no less sympathy than their counterparts across the nation, the time has come to hold them accountable for an appalling trend that must be stymied: the perpetual underfunding of Arizona's universities.

For state legislators, alarmist pleas for additional funding have undoubtedly become a common refrain that has exhausted its effectiveness. But recently released statistics from the U.S. Department of Education are cause for more than mere concern; they should serve to spur our public representatives to action.

According to the Department of Education, the UA's average faculty salaries stand well below the rate for other Pacific 10 Conference institutions. The average salary for a full-time UA professor on a nine-month contract is a mere $98,879 compared to the $121,388 for professors at the University of California, Berkeley, or even the $100,476 netted by faculty at Arizona State University.

For the throngs of apprehensive students who will be registering for classes in the next month, the result of this monetary malfeasance is fairly conspicuous: A campuswide shortage of professors, and consequently, a dearth of open classes.

To be sure, our state government is facing enormous budgetary pressures, but when the UA is unable to retain talented faculty, much less remain competitive among its peer institutions, "money is tight" is simply no longer an acceptable excuse.

Advocates of the current financial plan will point to the fact that UA salaries are set to increase by 1.7 percent in 2006, but this solution is as insufficient as it is short sighted.

It would require raises of almost 16 percent for the UA to even match the market value of college salaries. Perhaps more importantly, though, paltry incremental raises amount to nothing more than stopgap measures that do little to address the root of the problem - the low esteem in which public officials appear to regard education.

Unfortunately, the officials in Phoenix appear either unable or unwilling to realize that higher education could be the remedy to many of the maladies that plague Arizona. An educated populace is an infinitely more productive one, and everything from tax revenues to civic virtue would be well served by thriving public universities.

No one doubts that the legislators in Phoenix have the best interests of Arizona at heart, but it's time that they re-evaluate their priorities before it's too late.

Opinions Board

Opinions are determined by the Wildcat opinions board and written by one of its members. They are Lori Foley, Ryan Johnson, Damion LeeNatali, Aaron Mackey, Mike Morefield, Katie Paulson and Tim Runestad.

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