Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Leadership by Those Who "Live Insulated from the Daily Travails of Ordinary" People; the University of Washington Example

On the University Diaries blog, Prof Margaret Soltan picked up on an article on the privileges now given to university leaders, using the example of the President of the University of Washington (which includes a medical school, academic medical center, etc). At a time when the university budget was being cut, President Mark Emmert refused to take a voluntary cut in his greater than $900,000 total annual compensation. This included a $12,000 car allowance and free use of the university mansion.

From the original article comes this key quote:

How could this happen? It happened for the same reason that Wall Street types, with acquiescence of their boards and public officials, saw no reason to make any personal sacrifice at a time when others are sacrificing greatly. The UW Board of Regents, as most others at public universities, is not made up of scholars and altruists. It consists mainly of governor-appointed businessmen, lawyers, and other high-income types who themselves live insulated from the daily travails of ordinary state taxpayers.

As Froma Harrop put it, the ethos among leaders of the finance sector now seems to be "heads, I win, tails, I'm bailed out." That ethos has now infiltrated the leadership of many kinds of organizations, perhaps because in many cases the Masters of the Universe from the finance sector now lead the boards of these organizations. The result may be leaders of academia more focused on enriching and empowering themselves than on their organizations' high-minded missions.


Cetamua said...

I can't think of a better way to destroy a society from inside.

Amazing when you stop and think about it; we don't even need external enemies anymore.

Anonymous said...

There is a trickle down effect to this behavior. In the Sept. 4, WSJ we find Ohio Funding Cuts Spark Feud Over Plan to Close a YMCA. The short version is the Y wants to close a branch in a working class neighborhood, in Toledo, Ohio with few safe activity options for this area, in favor of supporting suburban facilities, with many safe activity options.

The real issue becomes the directors $270,000.00 per year salary. I am sure this director is much more comfortable with his fellow suburban neighbors. I am also sure very few people make over one quarter of a million dollars per year in salary in Toledo, Ohio.

The disconnect between a rich suburbanite and the mission of providing services to all, including the low income, cannot be more evident.

Steve Lucas

Anonymous said...

He actually gave back $40,000.00. But the papers don't like to print that because it does not make leaders look bad. Before people start running others down they should know all of the correct facts.

Anonymous said...

A story once told by Uwe Reinhardt: "A Martian ship once visited American. It hovered over a hospital. In the front door, the Martian visitors saw a stream of sick people enter. Out the side door, they saw a huge parking lot filled with luxury cars of all types. As they watched, doctor after doctor exited, jumped in an expensive vehicle, and zoomed off. The Martian ship returned home and informed its leaders that American doctors had achieved a technological miracle. They had figured out how to turn sick people into Mercedes."

Roy M. Poses MD said...

Anonymous #2 - I only write about what is in the public domain. I did not see anything in the public domain about the president "giving back" any money. If it is public, please provide a reference or a link.

Roy M. Poses MD said...

Anonymous #3 - I don't believe President Mark Emmert is a physician. So I don't see the relevance of your comment. Furthermore, most primary care and other "cognitive" physicians, while pretty well-paid compared to the average worker, are not rich, and are not particularly well-paid compared to other professionals and certainly compared to managers. See this post:

Anonymous said...

Anonymous #3 probably thinks no physician should be well paid enough to afford an expensive car.

This is perhaps a symptom of simple jealousy. Perhaps he/she was drinking, smoking dope and goofing off in high school and college while his/her now-medical professional peers were studying hard and sacrificing their youth to become physicians.