Wednesday, February 23, 2011
UNM's Black Book on Worker Salaries Goes Digital
By Thomas J. Cole
Journal Staff Writer
Attention, car salesmen:
You now can go to www.abqjournal.com/watchdog and view a list of all University of New Mexico employees, including names, job titles and annual base salaries.
That's the list that some faculty said they feared would fall into your hands and that the UNM administration refused to make available online — in part because of faculty objections.
UNM does make a paper list — titled "Public Information List of UNM Employees" — available for public inspection at Zimmerman Library on the main campus in Albuquerque.
As I understand it, at least one professor expressed concern that faculty members couldn't get as good a deal on their next car or truck if the list was put online and salesmen could easily learn how much money they made.
Well, salesmen can now get that information on the Web if they think it will give them a bargaining edge — just as they can find salary information for lots of other people paid with tax dollars at www.abqjournal.com and other websites.
So the next time a Ph.D. from UNM comes in waving a New Car Price Report from Consumer Reports and pleading poverty, a salesman won't have to schlep down to the bowels of the campus and thumb through a paper employee list to check his pay.
Of course, not everyone who works at UNM is a professor or high-priced administrator. And if faculty and executives are going to have to pay more for cars, worker bees should pay less.
That said, I seriously doubt that's going to happen.
"It makes no sense," said a friend who is a longtime car dealer.
Income may affect what make and model of a car someone buys but not the purchase price, he said.
We have been posting online the names, titles and pay rates for state government workers for more than two years and haven't had any complaints of gouging on car lots.
We also haven't had any reports of kidnappings.
That was another concern of some UNM faculty members: If their salaries were made available online, professors doing research in dangerous places would be at greater risk of kidnapping.
Unfortunately, I don't have a friend in the kidnapping business to ask about this concern. If you're in that line, give me a call.
All this has its roots in a story published last week by Journal reporter James Monteleone.
Monteleone wrote about how Pat Lohmann, editor-in-chief of the Daily Lobo student newspaper at UNM, has been fighting to make the employee list available online.
UNM President David Schmidly refused a request from the Graduate and Professional Student Association for the university to post the list online, and the school declined to provide an electronic copy for posting by the Daily Lobo. Schmidly said no such electronic copy exists.
In a letter to the student group in January, Schmidly also said the list includes only base salaries and that some faculty members have other sources of income.
He said online posting of the employee list was under review but "is not, as I understand it, a simple proposition."
The administration makes a 448-page printed alphabetized list of full- and part-time UNM main campus and branch employees available for a two-hour checkout at Zimmerman Library.
A Journal editor checked out the list last Saturday, copied it ($43 in charges), then handed it off to our computer folks for scanning. The result is a list that is searchable but not sortable.
It's not exactly the derring-do of WikiLeaks fame, but it's important.
It's offensive when government refuses to release public information. It's only slightly less offensive when it tries to limit which members of the public will see public information.
UpFront is a daily front-page news and opinion column. Comment directly to Thom Cole at firstname.lastname@example.org or 505-992-6280 in Santa Fe. Go to www.abqjournal.com/letters/new to submit a letter to the editor.