College is incredibly expensive, but the quality of undergraduate classroom experiences has gone downhill. That's because universities aren't spending any money to hire professors. Now, a group of Canadian professors have become overnight legends for pulling a prank that called attention to this sorry situation.

Are these four awesome professors equivalent to one administrator?

Here's the backstory. Indira Samarasekera, the president of the University of Alberta, is about to leave her job. It pays roughly half a million Canadian dollars, which is equivalent to about 4 full professor salaries. That's why 56 Canadian professors applied as groups of 4 to replace Samarasekera. Their stunt, led by the "gang of four" pictured above, was designed to call attention to the outrageous pay disparities between university administrators and professors, and it worked. Their story caught the attention of the Canadian media, and revealed one major failure mode in today's higher education system.


Over at Slate, Rebecca Schuman explains why academics had reached a boiling point:

The stunt comes on the heels of recent revelations that some of the United States' highest-paid college presidents also oversaw some of the biggest increases in student debt (and, in some cases, increased hiring of low-paid adjunct faculty). Most notoriously, E. Gordon Gee received a nearly $6 million retirement package when he "retired" in disgrace from Ohio State University. (Don't feel too bad for him, though.) If Gee had selflessly capped his buyout at, say, a meager $1 million, the university could have offered $10,000 scholarships to 500 additional students (or hired 100 new faculty at $50,000 each, give or take). Hot on Gee's heels is James Milliken, chancellor of the CUNY system, who can now draft emails about that pesky adjunct rebellion in supreme comfort from his free $18,000-a-month apartment.

Cawsey and her colleagues decided they'd skewer the University of Alberta's comparatively modest participation in the top-heavy university economy, and have a few laughs while they were at it.

"As you will see from our CVs," the group writes, "we are eminently suited to fill this position. Indeed, we believe that by job-sharing this position, we would be able to do a better job than any one person could do—and the salary is certainly ample enough to meet the needs of all four of us. Indeed," they continue, "for many of us one-fourth of your proposed minimum salary would double or triple our current wage." They are quick to point out the advantages of a four-for-one deal, quipping: "We will even share one academic gown."

Read more at Slate