When Texas State announced major pay cuts—as much as 9.5% in non-fee funded areas—President Denise Trauth said administrators would do everything they could to prevent employee layoffs. However, Trauth then followed up with a statement saying she “[could not] make any promises.”
Naturally, administrators are facing tough decisions about funding, and Trauth and other top officials gave some clarification to the status of those budget cuts in an April webinar. It still remains unclear exactly what programs will be most gravely affected, but one of the top priorities of Texas State administrators should be ensuring no faculty or staff are laid off during such an unpredictable time—a time when academic job markets are already bleak.
There is an easy—though temporary—way to fix this problem: Cut the salaries of the highest-paid Texas State employees and divert the rest to ensure the salaries of those in jeopardy may be covered.
While it may seem unfair to the highest-paid employees, it is more unfair to lay off lower-paid employees who may be left with no income and poor prospects of finding a new job. After all, Texas State is not the only university in the country which has initiated a hiring freeze.
Suppose the highest-paid Texas State employees deserve, at minimum, a quarter of a million dollars a year for their troubles. According to the last available Texas State salary records from 2018, nine employees—including Trauth, former football Head Coach Everett Withers and basketball Head Coach Danny Kaspar—make over $250,000 annually.
If all of their salaries were cut to only $250,000, replacing Withers with now Head Coach Jake Spavital who makes around $800,000, that would leave $1.26 million available. That amount stretches far when the average salary at Texas State is only $58,818 a year—covering about 21 employees per year.
On the other hand, suppose a quarter of a million dollars is still too much—everyone is tightening their belts in advance of what top economists warn will be another Great Recession, if not another Great Depression.
If the top Texas State salaries were cut to what Business Insider calls “Austin rich,” that is, double the median income in the Austin area, they would be making $174,600. A cap at that amount would affect 53 Texas State employees and leave a whopping $2.99 million available. This amount, almost three million, would cover almost 51 employees per year, again assuming they make as much as the average salary of $58,818.
Of course, that average salary is significantly higher than the salaries drawn by Texas State’s instructional assistants, adjunct faculty and other staff, the luckiest of whom make half that average salary.
University administrators are overpaid as it is, eating up university budgets at steadily increasing rates while professors’ pay remains consistently low. It is absurd that as faculty and staff are worried as to whether they will be able to keep their jobs—and consequently, their homes, healthcare and food—Texas State’s administrators are making bloated six-figure paychecks.
If President Trauth and other administrators are truly committed to doing “everything [they] can to preserve positions,” they should seriously consider cutting their own pay to save those who need it most.
-Toni Mac Crossan is a biology graduate student
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