BY WATCHING ADAMS STAFF – 1/17/17
THIS IS THE THIRD IN A SERIES OF FOUR ARTICLES
A recent analysis of itemized salary data more fully documents the compensation of Adams State University (ASU) faculty, staff and administration. In some areas, the data suggests a pattern of intentional coursework overloads, additional compensation more than doubling the salaries of a few faculty, potential cronyism and nepotism, and questionable compensation packages for administrators. This article will focus on the observed instances of potential cronyism and nepotism. The other articles in this series are available at the links provided above.
The itemized compensation prompted one ASU employee to summarize, “It seems like a trend of taking care of their own; people in or close to administration seem to get extra opportunities and some really big raises.” Watching Adams obtained this salary data from ASU’s Human Resources department. Employees whose compensation was relevant to our investigation has been posted here.
PERCEPTIONS OF CRONYISM WITH ADMINISTRATION
Itemized employee compensation data prompted broader institutional observations. Among them were concerns about cronyism on campus – defined as “the appointment of friends and associates to positions of authority, without proper regard to their qualifications.”
- To make one comparison from 2016, English, Theater and Communication (ETC) chair Dr. David MacWilliams was paid $66,245 total compensation. However, the Health Human Performance and Physical Education (HPPE) chair Dr. “Beez” Lea Ann Schell was paid $104,756. While Dr. MacWilliams had a comparable base salary of $58,170 to Dr. Schell’s $63,792, Dr. Schell accrued an additional $40,964 (64%) from 11 additional line items; Dr. MacWilliams only accrued $8,075 (14%) from 4 line items, according to ASU’s compensation data.
One faculty member claimed, “A handful of people – those closest to [ASU President Beverlee] McClure – have experienced very large increases in their total compensation. A lot of this comes in temporary compensation but a number of folks had their positions renamed and suddenly, in their new post they found themselves making much more than in the previous year. This is most evident when one begins to compare people like Beez Schell and Leslie Alvarez – who are close to the president, with people like David MacWilliams – who is not. All three have heavy loads but only the former two are compensated in kind.”
Some employees interviewed for this investigation observed a strong correlation between a faculty member’s proximity to Richardson Hall and their supplemental salary items. One faculty member claimed that Dr. Schell told them repeatedly in the fall of 2015: “Be careful about what you look into around here. You have no idea what shedding light on these types of things can do to your career.”
This faculty member also described how Dr. Schell had “openly questioned the ASU Board of Trustees’ decision to hire President McClure, but as soon as Dr. McClure was actually on campus, Dr. Schell went out of her way to get close to the new president.” They concluded, “Clearly, one’s wallet trumps one’s moral compass at ASU.”
- Similarly, Psychology faculty Dr. Leslie Alvarez went from a total compensation of $58,592 in 2013 to $88,357 in 2016 – a $29,765 increase (51%). Only $12,213 of this change was from base salary increase; the other $17,552 was from 6 additional line items. In both cases, additional pay was based on new administrative duties.
One former ASU employee explained, “There are strong financial rewards associated with becoming an ‘ASU insider.’ When I arrived, I recall Dr. Alvarez was a genuine firebrand on issues of fairness and equity at ASU. But somewhere along the way, those principles seemed to be less important to her than ascending the ranks (and stepping on a few people to get there). Coupling her dedication to a newfound allegiance with administration, Dr. Alvarez now has opportunities to make much more money in an administrative capacity.”
The former employee added, “It reminds me of the phrase ‘he who pays the piper, calls the tune.’ And in my opinion, Dr. Alvarez has changed her tune. It has been very disappointing to see this transpire.”
Another former employee said, “It’s painfully obvious from the salary sheets who is being rewarded for towing the line and drinking the ASU Kool Aid.”
Faculty compensation for online instruction through the Office of Extended Studies (OES) was generally around $220 per student. This was true of Communications Arts instructor Kristen Scott, whose was paid $221 per student between 2013-2016, according to online enrollment and compensation data.
- However, during the 2013-2014 academic year, Ellen Novotny, spouse of then-VP of Academic Affairs Frank Novotny, taught 303 students in 6 sections of 2 online courses, making $141,750 – a rate of $468 per student. This is more than double the average per-student rate. Scott and Novotny taught the same ENG 101 and 102 courses and during the same years. Novotny’s teaching load is also another example of large online class sizes deemed problematic by university accreditors.
Some have questioned how Novotny’s per-student rate was more than double that of other online faculty, suggesting potential nepotism. Nepotism is commonly defined as “the practice among those with power or influence of favoring relatives or friends, especially by giving them jobs.” Ellen Novotny does not hold a terminal degree.
One former ASU employee speculated, “The financial incentive for faculty and a low degree of oversight was established by the HLC’s findings and the Mathieu report. It is easy to understand why online instructors overloaded with students and ASU as an institution was more than happy to cash student checks. Then they got caught with their hand in the cookie jar and everyone involved was to blame. Given that Dr. Frank Novotny supervised the OES, it not difficult to imagine that he and his wife Ellen could be in on the take together. In some ways, it’s difficult to see how they weren’t.”
In the final article of this series, Watching Adams investigates questionable administrator salary packages.