By Richard Vedder
The Ohio State deal with Gordon Gee shows how far public colleges have strayed from an altruistic vision of modestly compensated civil servants laboring in the academic vineyards to serve the public good.
News accounts show that Gee has a $1 million plus contract good, minimally, for seven years but effectively for 10 (at which point, Gordon, if still alive, will be 73 years old). Why would any university make a commitment with a present value of at least $8 million to a single person? The best university president I ever knew, Charles Ping, always worked on a year to year contract. Contracts of more than 3 years are problematic in my opinion. Tenure causes enough problems amongst faculty --why effectively give it to university presidents and expensive football coaches? The answer, of course, is that "the market requires it." But the funds being used to fund most of this is not money earned in a competitive free enterprise market place, but government provided or subsidized funds. Should university presidents be given contracts guaranteeing them compensation at several times the level we guarantee Presidents of the United States --who work on a 4 year contract?
I live within 75 miles of Columbus, and the "bring back Gordon Gee" sentiment is typical of this university on the make, one that wants to "rise to the next level." (The same thing happens occasionally when this city with an inferiority complex tries to lure high level professional sports). The academic arms race is rooted in competition, which is good, but financed by public funds in a matter raising costs to ordinary kids going to school, which is very, very bad.