“I do a lot of things at ASU that aren't strictly teaching,” said Jon Kyl in a Jan. 8 report by azcentral, in regard to questions about his infamously high ASU salary. In fact, Kyl seems to be doing just about everything at ASU except teach.
Kyl, who was the interim U.S. Senator who replaced the late Sen. John McCain, has been facing serious backlash for his annual $75,000+ salary from the University.
It is important to note that Kyl claims he has taught multiple undergraduate and law classes at the University but does not appear in any recent searches in the ASU online class catalog. This means that Kyl's statements contradict the evidence provided by a perusal through ASU's public catalog.
Apparently, Kyl’s substantial salary stems from frequent work in areas related to outreach and involvement such as having coffee chats with Barrett, the Honors College students, participating in various events and acting as an adviser to multiple policy initiatives and groups. Essentially, ASU is paying Jon Kyl just to be Jon Kyl.
The entire purpose of this salary is to bring a prestigious face to ASU and give students access to a prominent member of the political world. However, the question still stands: does Jon Kyl deserve his annual $75,000 salary?
Although Kyl is a prominent member of Republican stature and establishment, that is not enough to warrant such an exorbitant amount of money. In this case, establishment credence comes with way too high of a cost.
Kyl’s work at ASU is significant to Barrett honors students and students who benefit from and are interested in policy issues such as water policy. However, it is not enough to merit such a substantial pay grade, especially when there are numerous Arizona leaders who are quite capable of providing the same quality of services for a much lower price tag.
A double-standard issue came up when Governor Ducey bashed his opponent David Garcia during the 2018 gubernatorial race, citing Garcia's $82,000 salary for a mere three hours of University teaching work per week, according to a Jan. 8 column from azcentral. Meanwhile, Ducey had nothing to say about Republican Jon Kyl's strikingly similar situation.
The issue surrounding Kyl’s pay is better understood in context. When comparing Kyl’s salary and his work at ASU to that of another faculty member, there is an obvious and distinct difference in compensation, even though Kyl’s work is much less involved.
For instance, former Penn State professor Christine Buzinde — who teaches four classes in ASU's School of Community Resources and Development each semester in addition to her involvement publications, research and other forms of public work — has an annual salary of $52,320. Compared to Kyl’s $75,000+ salary, Professor Buzinde does three times the work at ASU for a fraction of the compensation.
This is not to say that Kyl does not deserve compensation, or that he does not deserve to be rich. In fact, Kyl has been a prominent leader in Arizona for decades, proving his value to this state by continually conducting research regarding water policy and lobbying for legislation on behalf of Arizona voters. However, these other engagements do not justify ASU’s generous pay, as the majority of Kyl’s work is conducted outside the University.
The University should not be paying Kyl such a substantial salary to simply serve in leadership and mentoring roles. Highly distinguished professors at ASU could regularly complete five times as much work as him for half the cost.
Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, who physically taught two to three ASU courses per semester and was also involved in mentorship and advising, made an annual salary of $25,500, according to The State Press ASU employee salary database. This leads some to question whether Kyl is actually receiving a larger sum of money than originally thought.
The issue of Kyl’s pay grade from ASU highlights a much larger problem of establishment politicians and leaders being overcompensated for their work simply because of their stature. For example, former First Lady and 2016 presidential candidate Hillary Clinton was paid roughly $22 million between 2013 to 2015 strictly for speeches, cashing in about $200,000 per speech, according to an April 22, 2016 report by U.S. News. Perhaps those with the most government influence are the most highly compensated. Is ASU trying to extend innovation to Capitol Hill by keeping Kyl financially comfortable?
ASU likely pays Kyl so much in order to keep such a distinguished scholar and leader close to the University. Kyl has participated in numerous mentorship and leadership roles, which makes him a valuable source of learning for many students who are looking to get involved in public policy.
Despite this, high salaries and financial overcompensation for establishment politicians perpetuates the concept of the rich getting richer. There are countless professors and scholars at ASU who are putting in hundreds and thousands of hours worth of important and innovative work, but are only receiving a fraction of the compensation.
If ASU wants to keep Kyl as a member of its faculty, leaders in the University should aim to be more transparent about his contributions to its mission. The first step is requiring Kyl to be physically present and active in the courses that he is supposed to teach.
If the University fails to hold Kyl accountable for his duties, then ASU's administration must reconsider the compensation that it is giving to other faculty who are just as qualified and far more productive but not as famous.
Professors who are teaching multiple complex courses while concurrently conducting important research, serving in advising and leadership roles and are going above and beyond their job of simply educating deserve to be paid fairly.
Being a more recognized member of political academia does not entitle anyone to such substantial money for such little work.
Editor’s note: The opinions presented in this column are the author’s and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors. This article was originally published in print in State Press Magazine, vol. 19, issue 4 on Feb. 6, 2019.