Letters: Professors’ jet-set lifestyle unsustainable

Dear Editor,

When pro wrestler Ric Flair was at the top of his game, he’d often end TV interviews by describing himself as a “Stylin’, profilin’, limousine riding, jet flying, wheelin’ n’ dealin’ son of a gun!”

Who would have thought that this would become the de facto motto for B.C.’s 25 university and college presidents?

Using the Freedom of Information Act, the Canadian Taxpayers Federation recently collected detailed expense reports from the heads of B.C.’s post-secondary institutions. The spending was astounding: in a span of two years, the 25 presidents spent nearly $1.1 million in airfare, nearly another half million on hotel rooms, and more than $200,000 on meals.

Collectively, the 25 expensed $2.4 million, an average of $94,566 each. And like Ric Flair, there were plenty of charges for jet flying, and a few for limousine riding.

A staggering number of overseas trips were reported, and it was clear from the airfare price tags that these presidents flew in style.

The president of UBC was the highest flyer, taking 30 trips with airfares of more than $2,000. His expenses included a $21,987.35 airfare for a Hong Kong/Berlin/Paris trip. Ten airfares to eastern Canada never cost less than $2,000 – including a couple of $6,000 flights to Ottawa. Rock stars would be jealous of this kind of treatment on a world tour.

When was the last time you took a flight between Kamloops and Vancouver? The Thompson Rivers University president billed for 28 flights to Vancouver, including one that cost $954. That’s on top of four flights to Victoria, including one for $1,232.96, and two to Prince George. That’s an average of one inter-B.C. flight every three weeks.

Remember how Legislature Speaker Linda Reid was forced by public pressure to pay back her husband’s share of a junket to South Africa? The president of the University of Northern B.C. charged expenses, including airfare, for his wife on nine separate trips. The University of Victoria’s president took along his spouse on two expensive trips to China and India.

Not every president went crazy with the taxpayer’s credit card. The president of BCIT expensed less than $20,000 over two years. Vancouver Community College and New Caledonia presidents were just over that mark.

Should university and college presidents travel from time to time? Of course – but in a style befitting a public servant acting on behalf of taxpayers and post-secondary students.

During pre-budget consultations, the B.C. government heard from the six largest universities that a $25-million funding boost was desperately needed: “Universities face unfunded cost pressures such as wage increases, non-wage inflation costs, and carbon tax levies,” the Budget committee report noted. “These cost pressures… are outstripping universities’ ability to achieve efficiencies and hold the line on program spending.”

If these expenses are an example of presidents acting frugally in the face of funding shortfalls, taxpayers should be very concerned.

Two things need to happen. First, post-secondary institution boards of directors need to push presidents to control expenses. This may cause uncomfortable conversations about accountability, but it is vital.

Second, presidents need to follow the lead of B.C. MLAs and post their expenses regularly. Taxpayers, watchdogs, media, and students deserve to know how money is being spent in our academic institutions – and hopefully this accountability will cause presidents to think twice before they fly first-class.

Ric Flair retired broke, the jet flying lifestyle having proven to be financially unsustainable. Let’s hope our university presidents smarten up before B.C. taxpayers end up broke, too.

Jordan Bateman, Langley

[Jordan Bateman is British Columbia Director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.]

Just Posted

Tardi earns first victory in quest for third national title

A Langley-based junior curling team is in Prince Albert, Sask. for the Canadian championships.

VIDEO: Giants wrap southern swing with 6-4 win in Spokane

The Langley-based hockey team defeated the Chiefs Friday night.

Charges upgraded against mother of murdered Langley girl

Kerryann Lewis now faces first- rather than second-degree murder in the death of Aaliyah Rosa.

LETTER: Langley/Surrey shortchanged on transit for Vancouver

Funding to get SkyTrain to Langley City could come from not undergrounding Vancouver’s extension.

LETTER: Area letter writer puts Trump government shutdown in perspective

A Maple Ridge letter writer is critical of Hillary Clinton’s comments about the shutdown.

VIDEO: Students in MAGA hats mock Native American at Indigenous Peoples March

Diocese in Kentucky says it is investigating the matter, caught on video by onlookers

CONSUMER REPORT: What to buy each month in 2019 to save money

Resolve to buy all of the things you want and need, but pay less money for them

Want to avoid the speculation tax on your vacant home? Rent it out, Horgan says

Premier John Horgan and Sheila Malcolmson say speculation and vacancy tax addresses homelessness

UPDATE: B.C. woman and boy, 6, found safe, RCMP confirm

Roseanne Supernault says both she and her six-year-old nephew are fine and she has contacted police

PHOTOS: Women’s Marches take to the streets across B.C. and beyond

Women and allies marched worldwide protesting violence against women, calling for equality

Anxiety in Alaska as endless aftershocks rattle residents

Seismologists expect the temblors to continue for months, although the frequency has lessened

Women’s March returns across the U.S. amid shutdown and controversy

The original march in 2017, the day after President Donald Trump’s inauguration, drew hundreds of thousands of people

Federal Liberals announce former B.C. MLA as new candidate in byelection

Richard Lee will face off against federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh

No winning ticket in $10 million Lotto Max jackpot

No win in Friday night’s draw means the next Lotto Max draw will be approximately $17 million

Most Read