The Game of Life: IU’s Newest HR Consultant

game of life boardgameThis morning, as I was reading the front page of the HT I overheard my kids and a friend playing “Life.” Someone landed on “you learn CPR,” and I grumbled to myself about just going through CPR training as a requirement to be certified by the state to teach in secondary schools. Where was my token to receive a raise at my next mandated stopping point?

I’ll be honest, I hate that game, and likely for the same reasons I’m a little grumpy about the front page of the HT this morning.  As a “reflection” of economic life it offers a kind of ideological perspective on how we value our occupations in the US.  (I don’t think we can call any job a career anymore.) In this way it serves to give credence to the values it “reflects”.  Doctors, earning $100k in “Life,” make more than teachers, whose “Life” salary is $40k. So, it makes sense to want to be a doctor, and it makes sense to think they are more important.  (“Life” values athletes at $60k, however, so I’d say the game is overdue for an update!)

Today’s headline in the Herald Times reads “Coach Crean still top IU earner” and includes a graphic detailing the big ten earners as well as their mugshots, er, pictures. (Have I tipped my hand?)

The top “earner” has a salary of $600k. Guess who?  Yep, the Hoops coach.  But the truth is that his pay amounts to over $2.4m with bonuses, promotional and marketing income.  Of course, all of you know what sports mean to the world of the “commodity university,” right?  IU is a brand for college sports, not education.  The business and “education” of sports is inextricable from our social understanding of the “good, bad and ugly” in our capital markets.  Take a look at Dave Zirin’s work for more on this.  What’s more intriguing is that the first year head football coach is getting $500k (salary that is, his overall compensation is not listed), while two of his assistants are each making $300k.  These assistant salaries are more than the prior head coach made, $266k.  Who decided that football salaries ought to skyrocket?

What was most interesting in this was really the percentage of increase these “top earners” garnered.  The CFO (hmm) went from $287k in 2010 to $350k for the next fiscal year.  Yikes!  That increase alone is a higher salary than the median household income in the state.  The rationale offered by this commissar was that his increase “[was] an attempt to move my salary closer to the market wage for CFOs.”  In other words, he felt he was underpaid by comparison.  Ohio State’s CFO, for example, makes over $600k.  So, IU must pay its CFO more because Ohio does?  Is that a “market rationale”?  Another rationale on offer–the CFO took on “additional responsibilities” back in ’09 that include more “oversight” of some departments.  Um, oversight is not something anyone should call work.  And is “responsibility” a word we should value with dollar bills?  CEOs responsible for the demise of their companies are showered with more money than 90% of us will see in our lifetimes.

Funnier, though in an “outrageous” way, is that IU Prez McRobber, er McRobbie, established a 1.5% percent annual raise, allowing a possible 1% more for “top faculty.” There is also a “merit” raise possibility of up to 5.5%.  McRobbie himself received nearly a 22% raise.  Sounds about right.  Nothing to see here.  Ever wonder what merits and “merit” raise?

Let’s just do a quick review of the “valuation” on offer by this top ten list:

1. Sports, 2. Admin., 3. Sports, 4. Sports (admin.), 5. Business School Admin., 6. Admin., 7

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. Business Professor*, 8. Admin., 9. Business School Admin., 10. Law School Admin.

There you have it.  In a brief review of “top” occupations that I might have pulled out of our board-game of “Life” we have our cultural validation of “importance”.  Sports Coaches, Upper Management (CEO), Business “School” Management, Law School Management.

Sports, Business, Law.  One distracts, one extracts, one enacts.

The masters of our current decline and fall.  Taught to you by a “liberal arts” university.  (See, it’s not the “liberal” that’s the problem here.)

* Former Dean of Business School.




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