BY WATCHING ADAMS STAFF – 1/17/17
THIS IS THE SECOND 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 focuses on the additional compensation arrangements that more than doubled some faculty and administrator salaries. The other articles in this series are available at the links provided above.
After reviewing the itemized salary sheets of 48 employees as provided by ASU Human Resources at a cost of $330 in “research and retrieval” fees, Watching Adams compiled the most relevant compensation data into a single spreadsheet.
Several ASU faculty members saw their total compensation increase by more than 100% and in one case, over 150% of their base salary from on-campus and online student overloads. Taken as a whole, this data could suggest structural problems with the university that may call into question the academic integrity and professional ethics of the institution.
As one faculty member said, “Given the egregious nature of these transgressions, it is hard to imagine Adams State University surviving re-accreditation without addressing these glaring inequities.”
FULL TIME FACULTY SUPPLEMENTING SALARIES BY TEACHING ONLINE
Dr. Mathieu observed in his Office of Extended Studies investigation that “the ability of individual faculty to take advantage of additional compensation activities through OES appears egregious.” The report found major academic compliance problems and organizational failures at many levels as well as “often greater interest in remuneration rather than quality teaching and the maintenance of academic standards among many of the faculty teaching online courses.”
A review of Extended Studies online student enrollment also included some faculty members already teaching a full course load on campus, such as Dr. Edward Crowther, the chair of both History, Anthropology, Political Science, Philosophy, Spanish (HAPPS) and Teacher Education departments (also the current president of Faculty Senate).
- While fulfilling all his on-campus duties as a full time faculty member and double department chair, Dr. Crowther also taught as many as 182 students in 49 sections of 8 online history courses. This added as much as $27,675 to his compensation package, which totaled $150,371 for the 2014 fiscal year.
- Other full time faculty on campus followed this trend, such as Business Professor Dr. Linda Reid, who taught an additional 259 students online in 53 sections of 15 courses while also teaching 163 students in 7 sections of 6 courses in fall 2015, 154 students in 6 sections of 6 courses in spring 2016, and 24 students in 3 sections of 3 courses in the summer of 2016. This totaled 600 students, 69 sections, 30 courses in one year, adding $52,575 to Dr. Reid’s compensation, which totaled $187,439 that year.
- During the same year, Assistant Professor of Marketing and MBA Director Dr. Elizabeth Thomas Hensley taught an additional 151 students online 35 sections of 8 courses. Combine with her on-campus coursework, she taught a total of 615 students in 58 sections of 31 courses during the 2015-2016 academic year, The online teaching load added $42,975 to her salary, which totaled $135,778 in 2016.
Coupled with being paid substantially for course overloads, these faculty more than double their salaries from additional teaching duties.
HINDERING QUALITY INSTRUCTION
Faculty familiar with the demands of both on-campus and online education described these teaching loads as “unbelievable” and “superhuman.” One former faculty noted, “a full teaching load at most colleges and universities is about 4 courses per semester and about 12 for the entire year – including summer sessions. The notion that someone could effectively teach up to 15 courses at once or over 30 courses per year and do anything close to a quality job is preposterous.”
These and related student load concerns were mentioned in the determination that ASU was out of compliance with its accreditor, the Higher Learning Commission (HLC), in its March 2016 notification placing Adams State on probationary status.
The HLC noted, “Faculty teaching in Extended Studies have course enrollments ranging from 450-600 students in individual online sections … in addition, current full-time faculty teach many of the large courses, but these are considered outside of their full-time teaching load. This heavy student to faculty loading calls into question the academic integrity of the courses and quality of instruction.” [emphasis added]
And as the HLC also stated, ” while the University has incorporated an online course quality review process that is coordinated and performed by the staff and the Director of Academic Quality Assurance, the Advisory Team found that over 25% of the reviewed courses deviated substantially from the adopted standards and some courses reviewed ignored the standard elements altogether.” [emphasis added]
POTENTIAL DOUBLE-DIPPING: ONLINE TEACHING WHILE A FULL TIME ADMINISTRATOR
After reviewing these documents, Watching Adams compiled itemized and total compensation data for a broad sampling of ASU employees between fiscal years 2013-2016 and identified the most serious concerns found therein. Among them was the issue of “double-dipping,” defined as “obtaining an income from two different sources, typically in an illicit way.”
- In the case of Bill Schlaufman, ASU’s Controller in charge of university accounting, the former employee worked as a full time administrator making $85,008. In the 2014-2015 academic year, Schlaufman also taught 329 students in 35 Sections of 5 Courses online, making an additional $74,025 (87%) – totaling $159,033. Schlaufman made similar additional compensation in previous years.
One faculty reacted by stating, “The controller was working dual jobs on the same shift? This is unforgivable. It’s one thing to argue working 17 hour days and throughout the summer when your contract is for 9 months, but his contract was for 12 months and he was clearly working two jobs during his day job. Unbelievable.”
A former employee stated, “it’s somewhat terrifying to imagine the university’s head accounting manager also trying to teach over 300 students online. Either the university was getting ripped off, the students were getting ripped off, or both.”
ADDITIONAL LINE ITEMS, POSSIBLY SUPERFLUOUS PROGRAMS
In some cases, total compensation packages far exceeded base salaries, often for a large number of additional duties that call into question the performance of the core job description and/or the added workload. Of the data sets sampled by Watching Adams, most ASU employees averaged 3-5 additional line items beyond base salary and with additional compensation of no more than 10-20%. However, a few faculty accumulated far more.
- For Dr. Crowther, total earnings for fiscal year 2013 were $151,503. Only $67,908 was from his base salary and the remaining $83,595 (a 123% increase) was accrued through 12 additional line items, such as $30,000 for “Outreach Off Campus Faculty,” $14,583 for “Teacher Education Department Chair Supplemental,” $5,178 for “World Language Program Director,” and various amounts for summer, online, and department chair fees. By 2016, Dr. Crowther’s total compensation totaled $157,969 from 14 line items.
One faculty member noted, “No wonder people in power on this campus weren’t in favor of rotating chairs! Rotating chairs would risk outsiders becoming aware of all of these egregious practices.”
The issue of Crowther being paid as the World Language Program Director was of particular concern to one faculty, who stated, “It’s totally bogus both in name and practice. There’s only one language (Spanish) and there’s no reason to think Dr. Crowther would need to direct or coordinate its instruction, especially given his lack of knowledge of the Spanish language! Does Mari Centeno receive extra compensation for directing the Political Science program? Does George Backen receive extra compensation for directing the Philosophy program?”
Another reacted to the World Language Program by remarking, “What is that? More importantly, how is Ed qualified to oversee such a program? The more data I see the more I’m beginning to believe that the only people that benefit from our HSI status are the faculty and staff who are paid to oversee the respective grant programs with which the status brings.”
ACCUSATIONS OF INSUFFICIENT ACADEMIC RIGOR
One faculty member claimed that the issue of “quantity over quality academic instruction” is broader in nature but best exemplified by Dr. Crowther, stating, “He may be the most egregious example of ASU’s clear lack of academic integrity, but what he is doing, and has done for years, is really quite similar to what others do every day on a much smaller scale. He has convinced folks for decades that he is superhuman and that he can handle everything on his plate.”
This faculty member continued by claiming, “Keep in mind that in addition to all of his academic responsibilities, for years he also played a hands-on role with the ASU football team. At one point, I believe he was even remunerated for this work and he still has special privileges to use the Plachy gym, which is state-of-the-art. In my mind, his case suggests what any outside observer would naturally suspect: that is, he must be taking short cuts!”
Concerning these allegations of Dr. Crowther “taking short cuts,” at least one former ASU student has contacted Watching Adams anonymously to state that they strongly believe Dr. Crowther did not read their final term paper and gave them a high grade without good reason, mentioning that their paper contained totally unsupported claims, no works cited page, and was hastily written in one night.
This student also claimed that Dr. Crowther knowingly waived their writing assessment requirement, despite it being mandated by their degree plan. The student graduated knowing that Dr. Crowther was responsible for lax academic standards but does not want to identify themselves for fear of losing their degree. The student further stated that Dr. Crowther has become known to be an exceedingly easy professor, particularly for online coursework.
Dr. Crowther was contacted by Watching Adams for comment on this investigation but did not respond.
ADDED COMPENSATION IN COUNSELOR ED
Additional faculty enrichment often involved specialized programs such as online and summer coursework. In many cases, this more than doubled their base salary.
- Such trends can be observed for Counselor Education professor Dr. Don Basse, with a base salary of $91,140 but increased to 102% for a total compensation of $183,720 in fiscal year 2016 – due to program coordination, online teaching and on-campus course overloads. Dr. Basse had a total of 10 compensation line items in 2016.
ADDED COMPENSATION, CONFLICTS OF INTEREST IN THE SCHOOL OF BUSINESS
- In 2015, Armando Valdez, Assistant Professor of Business, started with a base salary of $64,596 but increased total compensation by 69% to $108,981 from course overloads and additional teaching duties, with similar data in other years surveyed. Valdez had as many as 13 line items in his annual salary data.
- For Dr. Liz Thomas Hensley, the base salary of $64,632 as Business Assistant Professor of Marketing increased by 146% for total compensation package of $158,787 due to various online teaching loads, overloads in summer teaching, as well as program director duties. Similar patterns were observed in other years. Dr. Thomas Hensley’s compensation included up to 16 line items for a given year.
One faculty member claimed that Dr. Thomas Hensley was also paid to be a special academic advisor to the men’s basketball team. This faculty said, “As a result, many players simply quit visiting with their regular advisors. I’ve had several advisees tell me, ‘I never came by because Miss Thomas gave me my pin and told me what to register for.’ The problem, of course, is that she simply advised the students to sign up for classes that would be easy to pass. As a result, many of these students were as far from graduation after a year at ASU as they were when they transferred in.” The men’s basketball team has among the lowest four year graduation rate of any population at ASU – believed to be less than 2%.
This faculty member concluded by alleging, “This is particularly egregious because she was paid to help them, not put them further behind! In the end, of course, the coach arranged to pay her so that his players would be eligible to play, not to graduate.”
Among the line items for Dr. Thomas Hensley in 2016 was “Business Assistant Prof Marketing Impact Study,” for which she was paid $3,400. One ASU employee reacted by stating, “Liz Thomas got paid for her impact study? Let me get this straight – as a city council person, she hired herself to conduct a study paid for by the university, about how the university was a positive economic force. I wonder if the city also shouldered any of the cost for that bogus study?” Dr. Thomas Hensley was seated as Alamosa City Councilor for Ward 1 on November 18th, 2015. This economic impact study was presented to the ASU Board of Trustees on December 18th, 2015.
- Business Professor Dr. Linda Reid’s compensation data demonstrates a similar pattern. In 2016, Dr. Reid’s base salary of $73,764 was increased by 154% for a total compensation of $187,439. This was due to additional online coursework, additional summer coursework and multiple department overloads. Dr. Reid’s compensation data has included as many as 20 line items for a given year between 2013-2016.
Someone who worked closely with the School of Business stated, “I knew Dr. Reid and Dr. Thomas Hensley’s overload compensation was egregious, but I had no idea by how much.”
Dr. Thomas Hensley and Dr. Reid were contacted by Watching Adams for comment on this investigation but did not respond.
INCREASING SALARY INEQUALITIES
An ASU employee said, “Someone needs to write a book about how senior faculty members who increase salary inequalities are quite literally contributing to the end of higher education as we know it.”
This employee claimed, “Several years ago, [then-VP of Academic Affairs] Frank Novotny said that they couldn’t afford to pay adjuncts $3,000 per class, as advocated by the summer salary committee. Frank went on to say, ‘And no one else is paying more than $1,800, so why should we? We can’t change the market.’ So if the market dictates $1,800, why pay someone else much more than $3,000 to teach the same course?”
In the next article in this series, Watching Adams reports on the observed examples of potential cronyism and nepotism.