Inside our pages: In defense of administration and professor pay reports

by Lauren French

Whenever The Hatchet uses national data to draw comparisons to GW, we are careful to analyze the differences between GW as an institution and the institutions included in the data set. It would be irresponsible not to.

That level of criticism was given to both “Faculty earn less than national counterparts” (Sept. 1, page 1) and “Top admin paychecks trump peer average,” (Sept. 8, page 1). Campus news editor Chelsea Radler and I had extensive conversations about the best way to present that data and we stand by the reporting done in each.

It is true – and was disclosed in the article – that the administrator data was taken from a data pool that included small private liberal arts schools and large public schools, of which GW is neither. That doesn’t mean the reporting was flawed or unnewsworthy. It is not the most exact comparison, but GW is a doctoral university and we believe that fact alone warrants a comparison to other doctoral universities.

Furthermore, to suggest, as Provost Steven Lerman does in his letter to the editor “Discussing administrator and professor pay,” (Sept. 15, page 4), that we compared the administrator and faculty salaries is misleading. The administrator story includes one paragraph about faculty salaries but as context, not a full comparison.

News doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Context is vital to understanding and we believe it would is irresponsible to not disclose faculty salaries in a story about administrator salaries. That paragraph would have been included regardless of what our analysis on administrator salaries found.

Including the two data sets in the same article or even the same issue would have been irresponsible because of the differences, which is why we made the editorial decision to separate the articles into different issues.

On a different issue, Lerman writes “the University’s goal is for faculty salaries to be at or above the 80th percentile for doctoral institutions,” a fact we included in our report. He goes on to say, “when compared to a total of 14 other market-basket schools we regularly use as our benchmarks, GW falls right in the middle for faculty and administrative salaries.”

It is always up the University to decide how much they will make public when we ask questions. Lerman’s comparison to our market basket was not shared with our reporters, but we are happy that he decided to share it with the University in his letter. Full, complete and contextual reporting is key and we wish we could have included in our report about faculty salaries. We would have if the University answered our questions fully.

We welcome and encourage criticism of our reporting – it helps us be a better newspaper and helps foster important dialogue on campus. But when our reporting was fair, important and placed in the correct context, we will stand by that reporting and will defend it.

Lauren French, a senior majoring in journalism, is the editor in chief of The Hatchet.

View the policies on commenting here.

blog comments powered by Disqus