On the Paterno Family Professor of English Literature

So the AAUP released their annual report on faculty salaries. I don't want to be too critical, but I do want to call out one of their arguments as bogus.

They say,
"The salaries paid to head football coaches at Division I-A universities are ten times as high as the salaries of senior professors. What does this say about the priorities of these universities?"

If anyone who has been here more than once doesn't know I'm a football fan, let me state for the record my bias -- I'm a season ticket holder at PSU, which is both my employer and the institution that awarded my bachelor's degree. That being said, though, I have to say that I think including this argument in what is otherwise a pretty standard paper on salary statistics hurts their credibility.

I know that it is easy to pick on football and fashionable to do so, but I just don't buy the argument that it is bad for colleges to pay football coaches more than $1M. Let's look at their argument:

(paraphrased) Major football schools pay their football coaches ~10 times the average full professor salary.

Well, what about supply and demand? How many PhDs are there that can fill your average full prof's slot? How many coaches have the CV to coach Penn State? Isn't it also simple economics that you pay a salary that is competitive with the other options a candidate might have? The full profs in my department are a talented lot, and could go to most other universities, could go to NSF, NASA, a national lab, or other federally funded research institution. So, PSU has to offer a competitive package to what those places have to offer in order to keep its faculty. Your average top D1 football coach gets approached annually by an NFL team, so D1 schools have to pay of order what an NFL coach might make to keep them. Last time I checked, even the worst NFL franchise (Detroit?, Arizona?) pays its coaches of order 10 times what NASA pays their senior scientists. If I'm wrong about NASA's salary scale, please tell me where to apply.

The authors of the AAUP report disagree. They say,
"If the purpose of the institutions were to produce football entertainment for profit and serve as farm teams for the National Football League, then arguments about letting market forces determine college coaches’ salaries would make sense. Otherwise, they don’t."

Huh? What is special about colleges that market forces can just be ignored when someone decides it is convenient? Why is it ok for market forces to determine that business profs should earn more than liberal arts profs, but not ok for football coaches? I just don't understand that statement at all. Personally, I wish that market forces were such that the best teachers commanded top salaries and movie stars and athletes made middle class salaries, but that's just not the case. Penn State can buy this argument, take a stand for the AAUP, and offer its next coach $100k, and we'll see if market forces can be ignored.

You can say that Penn State should do this, because it will mean the end of its football program (or at least the end of a D1 quality program). There is precedent for such a decision. Do the senior faculty at Chicago get larger annual salary increases than the schools that remained in the Big Ten? I'm going to guess that there is no correlation -- I bet Chicago profs have been getting annual raises similar to PSU faculty. I imagine that whatever the difference is in salary scale between PSU and Chicago, it has more to do with public vs. private than D1 vs. D3 athletics.

Lastly, how many head football coaches do schools like Penn State have? If you're not sure, the answer is 1.

Anyone know how many full profs there are? I would guess here it's in the neighborhood of 1,000. So if you integrate the salaries for football coaches and do the same for full profs, I get $1M for football coaches (tough math there -- 1 x $1M), and $100M for full profs. Seems to me that the ratio of football:full prof salaries does not show a lack of proper prioritization on the part of the administration.

We can argue about how self sufficient athletic departments truly are and how much football teams help to generate donations for academics (and here, I have to plug that at PSU Joe donated millions for things such as endowing faculty positions), but I just don't understand the demonizing of coaches and athletics.

Personally, I find football to be something that adds value to the quality of life here in State College. Isn't one of the Penn State PR lines "making life better"? So pay our head coach > 10 times what I make -- you're making my life better, even if you're not pleasing the AAUP. I'm not saying I want a raise less than inflation in 2008, but personally I don't think that there is any relationship to Joe's salary, football revenue, and my salary increase.


On the PA primary

It can't come soon enough.

I'm no fan of Hillary, but I have to say, any shred of hope she had of getting my vote has disappeared because of her incompetent PA staff.

We have been getting multiple calls a day from the Hillary campaign, and multiple sets of literature. In contrast, we've had one Obama call and one Obama pamphlet. That's all I need. Ten calls and ten pamphlets don't tell me anything different than the first one.

Still, though, today's bit of campaigning was the best of the bunch.

I got home at ~1pm, and found a Hillary pamphlet in my door jamb, *again*. However, I noticed this one had something on it, which I originally thought was ketchup. However, upon closer inspection, whoever dropped this pamphlet off must have been bleeding, and they got blood on the pamphlet and on my door.

So, here's the new slogan -- Hillary '08 - she's even willing to bleed for your vote.

I hope that she's planning to send a biohazard team to my neighborhood to clean up everyone's doors. Maybe I'll send her campaign a bill for disinfection services.


On the Bill of Rights

I'm just wondering -- next January, do we get the fourth amendment back? How about habeus corpus?

If our current administration can just declare the fourth amendment does not apply in certain cases, are we expected to just trust they won't do the same to the rest of the Bill of Rights?

Why isn't anyone upset about this? Have we all just accepted that we live in a dictatorship and don't care that our constitution no longer applies?

I'd like my rights back.


on science as politics

hello from my local NPR station. Shannon signed us up to answer phones during radio pledge. It's been slow, so I have time to post.

Anyway, I read, against my better judgement, an opinion piece by one of those obnoxious loudmouths about big oil, which turned into a diatribe about global warming. I won't identify the guy or link to him, because that only gives his opinions more visibility (not that he needs that). Once again, this idiot repeats the moronic position that some random think tank claims that the ratio of global warming "supporters" to the "other side" is 38:1 on CBS news.

I'm not the first to make this point, but it needs to be repeated as long as people keep making this claim on tv. Science is not politics. Unlike any political topic where you can balance the debate, scientific debates should not be "balanced". For example, let's say your average truthiness-spewing idiot has an astronomer on who claims that the sun will rise the next day in the east. In order to balance this, does he need to have someone on to claim the sun will rise in the west?

Maybe a more direct analogy -- if a cosmologist gets on tv because of the discovery of a redshift 8 object, is the show obligated to have Chip Arp on to dispute the cosmological origin of the redshift?

The Nobel prize winning scientists here tell us that human induced climate change is supported by evidence so strong that they felt comfortable using the word unequivocal in their report. To me, the cosmological origin of the redshift is unequivocal. By "balancing" debates on science it gives people the impression that we can legislate science. Congress can vote to deny global warming or evolution, but that doesn't make it so. So by finding and giving a platform to some random person with scientific credentials who claims that global warming is not human caused, it gives the false impression that the evidence isn't as strong as it is.

So as much as some folks would like to treat climate change as a political issue, it is not one and should not be treated as one. So a 38:1 ratio on the news "supporting" global warming is appropriate.

If you want to have a political debate, you can balance the folks on your show discussing how to address climate change.