The Breakdown

Explaining Southern California's economy

Professor Villaraigosa? Trend of 'celebrity professors' at USC worries some

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Another day, another job for former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. 

It was only a few months ago that the L.A. Weekly wondered aloud if Villaraigosa would leave office broke.

That seems laughable now, with gigs at the PR firm Edelman, Herbalife, Banc of California, and now USC.

“We’re very excited about this hire,” said Jack Knott, dean of USC’s Price School of Public Policy. "Having a person who is a visible public leader is a benefit for us." 

He says the mayor will be devoting half of his time to USC, lecturing about subjects ranging from sustainable planning to public sector executive management.

“People recognize what he has accomplished and what he’s able to do and I think it helps us in many ways,” said Knott.

Villaraigosa is just the latest big-name hire for USC, where students might have former general David H. Petraeus or Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger grading their homework.

Sounds pretty cool, right? Not for everyone.

“I don’t think it’s how I would like my tuition dollars spent," said Sara Newman, who wrote in the online student newspaper, Neon Tommy, about the growing inequality in faculty salaries. She learned some of her favorite professors would be lucky to earn $60,000 a year.

Newman is a sophomore English major, studying poetry.

“I’m currently in the class of one of the big celebrity hires and it’s making me dislike poetry," said Newman. "The cold impersonal nature of someone who hasn’t been teaching for decades makes it a completely different class.”

Newman doesn’t want to say who the teacher is. She is being graded afterall.

USC, a private university, doesn't disclose what it pays faculty, including celebrity ones.

"We pay what we believe are competitive salaries nationally for the faculty that in our schools," said Knott. 

Petraeus recently agreed to accept $1 in salary for his position at City University of New York, after he was criticized for making $200,000 to teach one seminar a semester and deliver two lectures. 

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