July 15, 2011
By Gerald B. Kauvar, Ph.D. Research Professor of Public Policy and Public Administration, The George Washington University and Stephen Joel Trachtenberg, President Emeritus and Professor of Public Service, The George Washington University
We go to the ballpark to watch the players; we go to class to learn from our professors.
Major league baseball teams spend a lot of money on major league players. The rosters number 25, although only 9 men play at a time. The rest, except for 4 starting pitchers, are equivalent to adjunct faculty – they fill in where needed and are enormously talented.
Our town’s major league team spends nearly half of its money for major league player compensation. It spends about twenty five percent for “other baseball operating expenses,” another twenty for “other team operating expenses,” and the remainder for “major league baseball expenses” and “depreciation.”
The baseball club identifies 208 employees in its executive offices (that does not count contract employees like vendors or cleanup crews).
A ratio of administrative overhead to ballplayers of about eight to one.
Full-time faculty at a Major League University may be thought of as the starting 9 plus the pitching rotation. Full-time faculty account for just under half of the instructional staff; the rest are adjuncts who fill in where needed and are enormously talented. The salary gap between full-time faculty and adjuncts is probably equivalent to that between the starting 9 (or 13) and the rest of the players. In baseball, the “other baseball operating expenses” account for the team’s minor league franchises. The players in those leagues could be considered the equivalent of graduate students, people learning a profession or a trade as tickets to a well-paying job and a good life.
Full time faculty account for less than 20 percent of our total employment (full and part time). Few employees other than instructional staff are part time. When adjunct faculty are included, about 40 percent of MLU’s employees are faculty. So the ratio of administrative staff to faculty is about three to two. Major league baseball’s ratio is eight to one. Full-time faculties don’t make the kinds of salaries as major league baseball players. Not even close. We can use full professors, on average, as the starting lineup. The average salary at our Major League University for full professors is about $143,000 – including the law school and university professors. The average salary of a major league roster ballplayer is $3,300,000, and that includes the adjuncts (benchwarmers).
This isn’t an argument for paying professors the way we compensate players. Our purpose is to put into context those who command most of our attention.
Major league players couldn’t play baseball were it not for the managers and coaches, the training and medical staff, the stadia, the groundskeepers, the food vendors, the scouts, the ticket vendors, the ushers, those who provide physical security, those who the purchase equipment, those who negotiate contracts like those for transportation and advertising rights, and the like. We rarely think about those who enable us to watch a major league baseball game; our attention is focused almost exclusively on the players.
No one picks on a ball club for its administrative expenses – at least not when the team is doing well. Inversely, and maybe perversely, universities are criticized for employing an abundance of the enablers, those who make it possible for the faculty (the major leaguers) to carry out their important work.
Full-time professors (and adjuncts) couldn’t teach or conduct research without the campus’ buildings and the 60 percent of our employees who are the supporting cast. When most of us think of university employees, our attention is focused largely on the faculty. That’s true of faculty as well – they rarely think about their enablers, about the staff of buildings and grounds, the information technology staff, the librarians, the registrar and bursar staffs, the financial aid staff, the student life professionals, those who write contracts and who assist in writing grant proposals, the laboratory technicians, the food service workers, and the like.
There’s far more to major league baseball than the game on the field. There wouldn’t be a game on the field if not for far more people doing lots of important work.
Our University wouldn’t be a major league university if we thought only of a student on one end of a log and Mark Hopkins on the other end. And by the way, didn’t someone have to select the tree from which the log was hewn? And then didn’t someone have to cut it down? Then another someone hew it to the proper shape, length, and width? And then someone to place it? And someone maintain it? Thought so. A university on the log model would require a forest, and a very high tuition – roughly the average salary of a major league baseball player.
Season tickets to the games at our home team’s ballpark – not the best but the second best seats — cost a lot more per game ($150) than a seat in each of five classes costs per class hour here at the university per academic year: $87.00. To be fair, a game lasts about 3 hours, so the cost per hour is less than a class hour. Presumably the value of the class hour is worth the difference.
The quality of the food service at both places is roughly the same.