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Whither Cornell's Faculty?

Rob Fishman has another excellent column in today's Daily Sun on faculty retirement, faculty salaries, and faculty attrition -- particularly in the social sciences. While Cornell has made some recent strides in improving faculty pay, it still lacks the financial resources to keep the future Carl Beckers and Walter LeFebers from heading elsewhere. For any alum wondering why the upcoming capital campaign will be so crucial the University's long-term success, Rob offers some sobering facts:

Some telling statistics come from the University's Financial Plan. For the 1985-86 school year, 16 institutions paid higher average salaries to professors than those meted out by Cornell. On average, Stanford paid $52,577, while Cornell offered $45,631 to endowed professors.

By 1995, we had fallen three spots in the rankings, and schools such as Rutgers, Northwestern and NYU were offering packages of up to $10,000 more per year than Cornell's wages. CalTech paid average salaries of $88,827 — close to $20,000 more than the average Cornell professor was earning.

Currently, we're the 12th ranked school in pay, offering an average salary of $115,414. Still, some of our finest professors, such as Timothy J. Vogelsang, who left our economics department last year for Michigan State University, have chosen to relocate because of financial concerns.

"There was a salary difference, and it was a factor I could not ignore because of my family," Vogelsang wrote in an e-mail message, noting that Michigan State also provided more research funds. Aside from pay, he said that he was very content with Cornell, and had salaries been close, it would have been a difficult choice. In Volgensang's case, Cornell could not compete with a public state school to retain one of its most popular professors, and tha's a shame.

Speaking as somebody who had Vogelsang as a professor for an econometrics class, he represented the very best of Cornell teaching. He was the type of professor that made hard, challenging material fun and exciting, and his class stood out among many other very good courses. He was also a phenomenal mentor to undergraduates, his door always open to stop in and chat.

To be fair, Vogelsang probably had other reasons to leave Cornell. Namely, some of the world's best econometricians are at Michigan State. But conveniently, Michigan State lists how much Cornell would have had to pay Vogelsang to keep him on the hill: $225,000 a year as the Frederick S. Addy Distinguished
Chair of Economics.

Matthew Nagowski | Posted on October 18, 2006 (#)

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