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Robert Trigaux

State website lists Florida university salaries in latest step to press for more accountability

19

October

neilfenske.dr_.usf_.jpgWake up and good morning. Florida Gov. Rick Scott's decision to post the salaries of employees at all of Florida's 11 public universities is either, news reports suggest, a move to make universities appear wasteful or simply an attempt to be transparent about how public money is spent.

Either way, the prof posting shows that highest paid professor in the entire database is Dr. Neil Fenske (photo, left. That red "Tampa's Leading Dermatologist" sticker is part of his official USF photo), who is chairman of USF's Department of Dermatology and makes $1.2 million per year. Fenske also was named by Women's Health magazine as one of the top 17 dermatologists for women in the nation in 2008, according to USF's website. USF says most of his salary is paid for through clinic fees from patients.

Many of the top-paid professors in Florida's public universities are, no surprise, working physicians who teach in the medical schools. Depending on the university, however, the average pay of professors ranges between $60,000 and $90,000, according to the American Association of University Professors, the Orlando Sentinel reports. One full-time USF instructor makes $20,000 a year.

It's important to note, as the Sentinel story does, that some professors earn big salaries because they bring in significant amounts of money through grants and other revenue sources for research. These other sources often provide at least part of their income, a fact that can easily be overlooked when reading the governor's online database, says the Sentinel story.

"Last week, Florida became the center of national attention after Scott announced he wanted universities to focus more on producing graduates in science and technology and less on the liberal arts. In recent months, Scott has been exploring changes being discussed in Texas that, among other goals, would tie professors’ pay to the number of students they teach and how well they do on student-satisfaction surveys," the Sentinel reports. 

Scott’s office posted the names and salaries of the university system’s 50,000-plus employees on a website called Florida Has A Right to Know, which includes pay data for employees at most state agencies.

The data can be quite misleading or incomplete. For example, USF president Judy Genshaft is listed twice in the state database as a professor earning $200,000 and then $195,000 -- neither sum (even combined) approaching her compensation as the head of the university.

The Sentinel story notes that Florida became the center of national attention last week after Scott announced he wanted universities to focus more on producing graduates in science and technology and less on the liberal arts. In recent months, Scott has been exploring changes being discussed in Texas that, among other goals, would tie professors’ pay to the number of students they teach and how well they do on student-satisfaction surveys.

Hey, nothing wrong with tightening the belt and seeking more accountability, even though these ideas smack of bean counter syndrome. But Florida's increasing infatuation in following in the footsteps of Texas, a very different state with a host of challenges it has not handled very well, is not my idea of a role model for the Sunshine State.

-- Robert Trigaux, Business Columnist, St. Petersurg Times

 

[Last modified: Wednesday, October 19, 2011 1:06pm]

    

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