Don’t let University go the way of Hostess

Faculty Columnist and Faculty Columnist

Welcome to the Twinkie-versity.

If that doesn’t sound like the opening of a genial holiday column full of finals-appropriate calming wisdom … that’s because it isn’t.

I had such a column half-written. It had a quotation from Seneca and was smeared with 31 flavors of irenic healing balm.

Maybe I’ll send it your way in the future. It’s timeless. But we do live in a particular time.

In the time we live in, the BGSU faculty is in its second year waiting for a contract and its third year without a raise.

Tuition rose 3.5 percent this year, putting the University among the most expensive state universities in Ohio (more expensive than OSU or Ohio University), while its faculty is the most poorly compensated (at the 4th percentile for assistant professors at doctoral institutions nationwide).

Meanwhile, at their meeting this past Friday, the BGSU Trustees voted the University president (currently earning $375,120) a two percent raise and a $50,000 bonus.

When I say this does not bode well, I don’t mean it as a personal attack on President Mazey.

She is literally giving the entire bonus away to a scholarship fund. Kudos to her. Her heart is in the right place and she backs up her intentions with action.

But the attitude that extravagantly rewards management for poorly compensating workers is a disease.

It’s a disease that has become pandemic in American business and is now affecting the academy.

The world was shocked and saddened this year to hear that Hostess, the company that makes Twinkies, was going out of business. Then the world said to itself, “When was the last time I had a Twinkie, anyway?” and went back to its life.

Hostess management insisted that the company had hit the rocks because of union stubbornness: They wouldn’t allow their compensation to be cut again and that was destroying the company’s chance at profitability.

Then it came out that the management had been assigning itself enormous raises — lifting the pay of the top four executives between 70 and 80 percent even as the company was going into bankruptcy.

And that’s just one example of a long-term, nationwide trend of overcompensating executives. Since 1978, CEO pay has increased an average of 725 percent; in the same stretch of time, workers’ pay increased only 5.7 percent, according to a study from the Economics Policy Institute.

It’s not because these executives have been so successful, either. The people who ran Lehman Brothers (including Ohio Gov. John Kasich) were receiving enormous paydays even as their businesses failed.

They milked that cow until it died and the resulting financial crisis was the taxpayer’s job to fix.

The people who do the work don’t count in this country anymore. That simple fact, not “big government” or unions or any of the favorite scapegoats of Fox News is the reason why the middle class is shrinking and the economy is struggling.

And it happened because we let it happen.

But we don’t have to let it go on happening.

We can stop it: in Washington, in Michigan (where the legislature rammed through a union-busting law in a single day over the protests against the Republican governor), wherever it needs to be stopped.

But let’s start here. Bad enough was the nightmare that the Univeristy might become just another University of Phoenix — a for-profit parasite that preyed on students instead of benefiting them and their community.

But what if we woke up one morning and found that the mighty University falcon was replaced by a bankrupt Twinkie?

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