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Les Wyatt has stepped down from president to professor at Arkansas State University, but he'll be an unusually well-paid professor, a circumstance that displeases some other faculty members, already concerned about what they see as a great disparity between administrative pay and faculty pay at ASU.
Wyatt resigned as president of the ASU system June 30. (Robert L. Potts is serving as interim president while the Board of Trustees seeks a fulltime successor to Wyatt.) On July 1, Wyatt was appointed to the position of professor of higher education and art at an annual salary of $115,600. The contract was signed by Wyatt and G. Daniel Howard, interim chancellor at ASU-Jonesboro, where Wyatt will teach.
According to the contract, Wyatt's duties for the first six months will be set by Chancellor Howard and may include "campus assignments in regular and/or extended day classes, off-campus assignments, other campus assignments, and/or a combination of any of these." For the second six months, he'll teach a graduate course in educational leadership.
John B. Zibluk, a journalism professor at Jonesboro, is among those disgruntled by the Wyatt contract. A full professor himself, he said he was paid only 45 percent of Wyatt's salary — that would be about $54,000 — "despite the fact that I have won national and state 'educator of the year' awards ... I have been awarded small raises three times in the last five years, and they have all been rescinded because the university said it couldn't afford it. ... There is a major disparity between administrator salaries and faculty-staff salaries. That disparity undermines the faculty buy-in to administrative proposals. It's a statewide trend, even a national trend. Administrative salaries are going up like corporate CEO's, faculty salaries are staying down, like workers at the corporation."
The Finance Committee of the Faculty Senate at Jonesboro reported that faculty salaries there were below the average for the Southern Regional Education Board, which consists of 16 states. The committee also found that the percentage of students taught by assistant, associate and full professors was decreasing, while the percentage taught by instructors and "supplemental faculty" (adjuncts, teaching assistants, etc.) was increasing.
Chancellor Howard agreed that faculty salaries at Jonesboro are below the SREB averages, "like other institutions in the state."
"We need additional funding," Howard said. "We're looking for philanthropic contributions."
Howard defended Wyatt's contract. The Arkansas Times was unable to reach Wyatt. It's a 12-month contract, Howard said, and most faculty contracts are for nine months. A full professor on a nine-month contract could make as much as $86,700 at ASU, Howard said (most make much less). That becomes $115,600 for a 12-month contract. There's another full professor with a 12-month contract in the College of Education and he's paid exactly the same as Wyatt, Howard said.
Wyatt will be working on many projects, including the study of different models of distance learning, Howard said. He said Wyatt had a theoretical background in art in addition to his many years of experience as an administrator, including the presidency of a state university system. "Wouldn't he be more valuable than a 30-year-old professor who's just obtained his doctorate degree?"
Even though he'll be paid more than other ASU professors, Wyatt will still be taking a big cut in compensation. A 2008 study by the state Department of Higher Education found Wyatt to be the best-compensated college administrator in Arkansas, with pay and perks worth $540,610 a year.
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