An alternative view on the disparity between the Vice-Chancellor’s salary and the lowest paid on campus:
Who would have guessed? The issue of Brian Cantor’s wage-packet has reared its ugly head again.
The Vice-chancellor’s pay has been brought under fresh scrutiny as a debate over university workers paid a ‘living’ wage has gripped campus, and like any contentious issue of university financing, Cantor’s perks are dragged into a quagmire of flimsy criticism. But this living wage does indeed beg a number of potentially important questions: is such pay unjust, and is it indicative of the ever widening socio-economic chasm in British society? Regardless, the nest of “Socialist worker” reading Cantor-snipes will add this feather to their bow.
The fact and figures are transparent: the Vice-Chancellor’s pay increased from fourteen times of that of the lowest paid in 2006, to sixteen times in 2012; while his pay rose 26% compared to 15% of that of the lowest paid. Facts are sacred, but we must be weary of reading them as fiction.
Those 154 workers in November of 2011 who were only paid a minimum wage are not in fact viewed as actual employees by the University itself. This is no derogatory slur on these 154, but marks how they are far from an intricate facet of the university workforce.
It is nonsensical therefore to draw a comparison to Cantor’s monolithic status, and most importantly a status built not on sand, but on responsibility, achievement and progress. It would take a braver and more foolish man than myself to posit that the financiers of the university distribute pay directly proportionally to such attributes, but the importance of his role cannot be sniffed at or disregarded. And we do, after all, live in a society which has at its core an economy of knowledge and services which are valued extremely dearly. It is true, though, that Cantor’s role would benefit from greater transparency to identify the value and expertise he brings to role, so he is less susceptible to definition by his privileges and perquisites.
Executive pay becomes a perennial issue in these dark months as companies look into bonuses and the like for their executives at the top. Chief executive of the 83% publicly owned RBS, Stephen Hester, is being paid a bonus of the equivalent of £963,000 in shares and which is rightly causing public outcry, and protestations from both sides of the Commons. On top of a £1.2 million annual salary, Hester thus earns more than 100% more than the lowest paid in RBS, showing it is really rather clutching at straws to baste Cantor with such criticism just through this comparison through the figures of the lowest paid.
There are sound, intelligent and moral arguments in to be made in favour of the living wage, but Cantor’s pay should be disassociated with them. Calling his wage into comparison is as opportunistic as it is predictable, and shows a naïve misunderstanding of our society. It is a contrived critique of the vice-chancellor, and one which is all too selective in what detail it attends to. Disillusioned individuals shouldn’t be so quick to falter.