THE SALARIES OF PROFESSORS
At the eleventh annual conference of the Association of American Universities Professor G. H. Marx, of Stanford University, presented an elaborate study of the problem of the assistant professor. It appears that assistant professors in the leading universities are of an average age of thirty-seven years, and have an average salary of $1,800. Four fifths of them supplement their salaries from outside sources and many are in debt. They have on the average one child. There seems to be considerable difference in the status of the assistant professor in different universities. In some institutions they have nearly the same influence as the full professor in faculty legislation and departmental control, while in others they state that they are practically ignored. The larger salaries paid to professors are about the same at Harvard and Columbia, but at Harvard the minimum salary of the assistant professor has recently been increased to $2,500, while at Columbia it has been placed at $1,600.
The higher cost of living and the cost of higher living combined—the increase in the price of the necessities of life and the more exacting standards of comfort—bear heavily on those having fixed wages, and perhaps university professors suffer more than any other class. Railway employees can threaten a strike; they are paid more, and rates for passengers and freight are increased, not to the advantage of the professor. Even the clergyman and his congregation can adjust matters. But the university has an income which does not increase automatically, and the larger the number of students the poorer does it become. With the best of will the administration can not obtain an adequate number of teachers and pay them adequate salaries. In the course of the last ten years salaries have remained stationary, while the cost of living has increased fifty per cent, and the standards of living have probably increased in an equal degree. The effective salary of the professor is only about half what it was ten years ago.
While professors are underpaid in comparison with successful men of business or leaders in the other professions, it is not certain that this is the case in comparison with the great mass of their fellow citizens. They are the least privileged members of the privileged classes. There is but little abstract justice in the rewards which the world gives. People get what they can, and what they can get depends on extremely complicated conditions. Lord Kelvin received several million dollars for his inventions and engineering advice, a modest salary as a university professor and nothing at all for his great contributions to mathematical physics. Probably his services to society were the most in the work for which he was not paid and the least in the work for which he was paid the most. But even in the latter case he produced far more wealth than he received. In like manner Mr. Alexander Agassiz earned several million dollars as the result of three or four years devoted to mining, but paid large sums to carry on his scientific work which is of such high value to society.
Society has no way of paying men such as Faraday or Darwin for their immense services. The competitive system applies to teaching, but not to original research and productive scholarship. The importance of teaching.