We recently noted that when California students were protesting, the high pay and platinum perks of  university system administrators were among the top items on their long list of grievances.

It looks like a similar battle is brewing in the Midwest.

In an open letter to the University’s Board of Regents dated April 20, a group of about a dozen University faculty took aim at administrative salaries at the University, publishing an extensive report that claimed spending on select salaries is heavily out of line with peer institutions, and that the University has moved away from its core mission of “teaching, research, and service.”

The 40 page letter asked the Regents to work with President-elect Mark Schlissel to freeze the salaries of upper level administrators until the discrepancies are resolved, to make all payments and salary information public and to freeze or conduct audits to review benefit programs. In connection with the University’s proposed shared services plan, the letter also asked for an external audit to investigate the relationship between the University and Accenture, the company which recommended the University adopt the plan and in which Rowen Miranda, associate vice president for finance and original leader of the initiative, previously held a position.

“The faculty and staff of the University of Michigan are as alarmed as all members of our community by the rising costs of tuition and the proliferation of ‘image-building’ nonacademic programs and activities,” the letter read. “The University is in desperate and urgent need of fiscal reform.”

Data in the report was compiled mostly from publicly available salary data as well as information through FOIA and leaked documents. The report asserted that there is a 27- to 41-percent difference in base pay between University administrators and individuals with similar positions at four peer institutions — University of California, Los Angeles; University of California, Berkeley; the University of Texas, Austin; and the University of Virginia. Letter writers wrote while there were understandable cost-of-living differences to be accounted for, the difference was still alarming. Faculty salaries were reported to have a much smaller discrepancy between the University and the four peer institutions, at an average of about 1 percent.

…University president Mary Sue Coleman has previously defended high administrator pay several times, most recently in January at a Senate Assembly meeting. At the time, she cited differences in total expenditure — noting the University’s annual $6.7 billion in comparison to $2.1 billion at UC Berkeley — to explain the discrepancies in pay between the University and its peer institutions, as well as growth in research and hospital activity to explain overall administrator salary increases.