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Four things we learned from the University of Calgary’s Sunshine List

By Scott Strasser and Melanie Woods, June 30 2016 —

On June 30, the University of Calgary released its “Sunshine List” — a public list of all U of C employees who earned more than $125,000 in 2015.

Disclosing salary and compensation for public agencies, boards and commissions falls under the provincial government’s new Public Sector Compensation Transparency Act. Coming into effect this year, the PSCTA is meant to boost transparency of public-sector spending in Alberta.

Under the PSCTA, Alberta’s public sector institutions must publish the names and salaries of all employees who earn more than $125,000 a year, according to base salaries and “other compensations.” The list must be published before or on June 30 each year.

U of C provost Dru Marshall said she supports the idea of a Sunshine List.

Forty-eight per cent of our budget is through taxpayer dollars and it’s important for us to talk broadly about salaries and have transparency around that issue,” Marshall said.

During a question period at a U of C town hall on June 24, audience members voiced concerns that the Sunshine List could cause rifts in faculty and staff.

U of C vice-president finance and services Linda Dalgetty said she supports the Sunshine List, but admitted publicly disclosing workers’ salaries can create pressure.

“What we know from other jurisdictions is the more you make compensation public, the more pressure comes to bear on how we set salaries,” Dalgetty said. “In most jurisdictions, it can cause some uplifts to salaries. I think the downside is it could put unnecessary pressure on salaries because there is a broader light shining than there was historically.”

The U of C’s Sunshine List was published on the U of C website just after noon on June 30. Here are four takeaways:


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  1. U of C president Elizabeth Cannon was not the U of C’s highest earner in 2015.

While Cannon’s $592,617 salary and $33,403 in other compensations are nothing to sneeze at, there is one U of C employee who made more last year. Schulich School of Engineering professor Steven Bryant topped the U of C’s list with a $705,867 salary and $31,556 in other compensations.

Bryant, who came to the U of C in 2014 from the University of Texas (Austin), was the university’s first Canada Excellence Research Chair for Materials Engineering for Unconventional Oil Reservoirs.

Since joining the U of C, Bryant has led a team of researchers devoted to finding new ways to use nanoscale technology to improve in-situ oil recovery in the oilsands.




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  1. At the U of C, 1,010 employees psunshinelist_universities_melwoodsassed the $125,000 threshold for 2015.

According to their website, the U of C has 5,026 total full-time employees, which means about a fifth of the U of C’s workers earned more than $125,000 in 2015.

With just over 1,000 names on their list, the U of C had the second most employees earning above $125,000 for Alberta’s post-secondary institutions last year. The University of Alberta has the longest Sunshine List, with 1,505 faculty and staff earning above the threshold in 2015.

The University of Lethbridge — the province’s third largest university — has just 192 on its list.





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  1. sunshinelist_gender_melwoodsTwenty-two of the top 100 earners at the U of C last year were women.

While five of seven senior administrators at the U of C are women, only 22 of the 100 highest earners are.

Of those 22 top female earners, eight work in administration or legal counsel, three in nursing, two each in medicine, arts and business, and one each in engineering, science, veterinary medicine, kinesiology and environmental design.

The Sunshine List still exhibits evidence of male-dominated fields like medicine, business and engineering. In both medicine and business, just one of each area’s top 10 earners in 2015 were women.




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  1. There’s big money in mesunshinelist_faculty_melwoodsdicine and business

The Cumming School of Medicine (and related fields) is the most represented area in the top 100, with 28 of the U of C’s highest earners. Neurobiology expert and director of the Hotchkiss Brain Institute Samuel Weiss was medicine’s highest earner, pulling in a $372,869 salary and $30,763 in other compensations.

The U of C’s faculty of medicine saw a big boost in June 2014, when businessman Geoffrey Cumming donated a record $100 million to the faculty for brain research. The provincial government matched the donation and together, the $200 million created the Cumming Medical Research Fund. The faculty was renamed as a result.

The Haskayne School of Business was the second most represented faculty on the Sunshine List, with 17 of the U of C’s top 100 earners. Administrative positions accounted for the third most representation, with 14 names in the top 100. The Schulich School of Engineering was the third most represented faculty, with 10 of the U of C’s highest 100 earners.

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