On the University Diaries blog, Margaret Soltan posted on the perks afforded to top leaders, including the medical school dean, at the University of South Florida(USF). These included country club memberships, and car allowances at $650/ month. The rationale seemed to be that the administrators need to appear to be rich in order to hob-nob with the sort of rich folk needed as donors. The perks have continued even though the state-supported university is facing budget cuts.
I would comment that these perks might also be based on university executives' sense of entitlement to being at least on the fringe of the power elite, or superclass. This sense might truly be fed by their contact with even more wealthy people who might be prospective donors, and the sorts of masters of the universe who seem to have gravitated to university boards (see our posts about the Dartmouth board here and the Harvard Corporation here). But I would suggest that the perks handed out at USF might be bush-league compared to those found at the more supposedly elite universities.
I am afraid the main effect of such perks is to further isolate academic leaders from the people they are supposed to serve. After all, academic institutions are supposed to serve truth-seekers and learners. (Academic health care is also supposed to serve patients.) Country club memberships, or having a fully-staffed house and a car and driver might tend to make one feel apart from the common folk in the student body, or the patient population.
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