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2017 sunshine list includes salaries of over 1,700 university employees

U of A president David Turpin remains the highest-earning post-secondary executive in Alberta

The Alberta government released the 2017 “sunshine list” revealing the salaries of the highest earning professors and administrators at the University of Alberta.

Over 1,700 out of 14,000 U of A employees received salaries above $127,765 in 2017. The top 10 earners include president David Turpin, three department chairs, one vice-dean, two professors, and three former vice-presidents. In total, the top 10 highest earners — of which only one is female — were paid over $5 million in salaries and non-taxable benefits.

Under the Public Sector Transparency Act passed in 2015, all Alberta public sector bodies, including universities, must disclose compensation and severance paid to all employees receiving more than $127,765 in the calendar year.

U of A provost Steven Dew said while he is unable to comment on any particular executive’s pay, it’s important for the university as a public institution to be transparent with where public funding goes.

“As a public institution, transparency is key to promoting equity and inclusivity, particularly in our hiring processes moving forward,” Dew said.

President Turpin remains highest earning Alberta post-secondary executive

U of A president David Turpin earned a $599,597 salary and $91,583 in benefits in 2017. Compared to 2016, Turpin received $50,000 more in benefits, though his salary stayed virtually the same. He remains the highest-earning post-secondary executive in Alberta.

In comparison, University of Calgary president Margaret Elizabeth Cannon earned $601,016 in salary and $36,398 in non-taxable benefits for a total of $637,414.

Presidents at other Alberta post-secondary institutions including the Northern and Southern Alberta Institutes of Technology (NAIT and SAIT), University of Lethbridge, Athabasca University, and Mount Royal Universities all had salaries and benefits totalling less than $530,000.

MacEwan University president Deborah Saucier received only $170,155 in salary and benefits after starting the position in July 2017 since she has yet to receive a full year’s salary.  

The highest-paid individual at MacEwan University in 2017 was Brent Quinton, vice-president of finance and administration, who received $540,000 when he left his position in September 2017. His departure came three weeks after it was revealed that MacEwan University was tricked by a phishing scam into transferring $11.8 million into a scammer’s account.

Turpin’s salary came under criticism in March 2018 after the university’s Board of Governors passed a four per cent budget cut, increases to international tuition and residence rent, as well as a more expensive meal plan.

In response, Minister of Advanced Education Marlin Schmidt criticized Turpin’s salary and accused him of “lining his own pockets.” Schmidt later apologized to Turpin.

New legislation passed by Alberta’s New Democratic Party this April will limit the presidential salary of all Alberta post-secondary institutions by 2020. Base salaries will be limited to $447,000 and all executive bonuses will be prohibited.

Turpin’s contract won’t end until June 2020, at which point, should Turpin continue as president, his compensation will be reduced.

Students’ Union vice-president external Adam Brown said while the SU does not have a stance on executive pay, he hopes the money saved from salary cuts will be used to improve student’s experience on campus.

“Will the money that would have been paid to administration be going to students? I certainly hope so,” Brown said. “But regardless of consequences, we want to ensure that student experience at the U of A and the quality of education they receive won’t be diminished in any capacity.”

Majority of top 100 earners at U of A continue to be men

Women continue to be underrepresented in the top earners at the U of A. Of the top 100 earning individuals only 20 are women. Within these top earners, men averaged an annual salary of $328,313 while women averaged $324,720.

At the University of Calgary, only 21 of the top 100 earners are women.

Newer universities such as MacEwan have a more even gender breakdown. Of the 75 individuals who made more than $127,765 this calendar year, approximately 51 per cent are women. Men averaged an annual salary of $169,482 and women averaged $153,720.

Brown said the lack of women in higher paying positions is a problem that extends beyond the U of A. According to research by the Conference Board of Canada, Alberta has one of the largest gender wage gaps in the country.

“I think it’s a problem that should be addressed all over the province,” Brown said. “But I do agree that the U of A can do a better job in ensuring a greater equality between men and women.”

Dew said the problem originates from historical hiring practices decades prior in which more men were hired than women. As these men move up ranks, they continue to dominate a larger proportion of top-earning individuals. As time progresses, Dew believes the imbalance will eventually disappear.

“The imbalance is largely historical, going back 20 years or so,” Dew said. “But looking at current hiring practices, it’s much closer to fifty-fifty.”

Calvin Chan

Calvin Chan is a cell biology student with a keen interest in science writing.

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