Monday, September 19, 2005

Appearance can be deceptive. For example, as a news editor of the Campus Times someone gave us a link showing the salary of UR President Thomas Jackson. It was around $500,000, if I remember correctly, and even worse, it had doubled in the past eight years or so. We wanted to do a story, but a little research showed two things. First of all, he wasn't the highest paid UR employee (he wasn't even the 5th highest), that honor went to some heart surgeon at Strong Memorial Hospital. And second of all, he was on the high side for presidents of colleges in our weight class, but not really out there.

A little research showed that the main reason for this is simply market forces. Even a small college is a business (the same basic ideas apply to public colleges as well) with hundreds of employees and, between teaching and research activities, tens thousands of customers. The president of a major college has to be a good public speaker, a good diplomat, good with names and organization, has to have experience at something similar, and maybe most important of all has to be willing to work a 12 hour day, and people like that are pretty damn rare. So while I'm sure that a lot of CEOs are overpaid, setting their own salaries at a whim, and getting their jobs through who they know rather than what they know, not all are like that.

I was reminded of that on Friday. Rick, the boss around here, is bad with computers and has little appreciation of how much time and effort goes into lots of the more background, clerical work of managing this place. It's easy for us to make jokes at his expense. "Dilbert boss," stuff like that, although he's never been that bad. Well, he was working from Connecticut Friday and he asked me to forward his e-mails to him down there. I went to his computer and I saw the FreeCell program open. Out of curiosity, I checked his win percentage. Out of a little over a thousand games, he had won %97. Now, in case you don't play, that's fucking amazing to me. The record on my parent's computer is in the high 60s/low 70s. Sometimes I've had a record around %85, but even that was only on short runs when I was in that experiment last semester - in the long term, my record averages out to around my parent's.

Hardly a useful skill, of course. But damn, you think you know a guy...

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