A newly created position with the University of Alabama System Office that pays $275,000 annually was advertised for just three days online, records show, which appears to violate UA hiring standards.
James Ashley Ewing was announced as the System Office’s first chief information security officer and chief technology officer at the beginning of May in a letter from System Office Director of Human Resources Jessica Harrison. Ewing moved over from the University of Alabama campus where he was an instructor in the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) in the University of Alabama’s College of Continuing Studies.
The move raised eyebrows among those with knowledge of the System Office, mainly because it was only advertised for three days when such full-time, salaried positions must be advertised a minimum of seven days, according to hiring standards posted on the university’s website. The initial advertisement for the position was posted March 1. At the top of the ad, it listed March 1 through April 3 as open dates for application. However, at the bottom of the advertisement, it said, “This posting will close [at] 11:59 p.m. CST on Thursday, March 3, 2022.” A check on March 4 showed the job advertisement was no longer posted.
When asked why the position had only been advertised for three days, neither System Office spokespeople nor UA Board of Trustees President Pro Tempore Stan Starnes responded. UA Open Records and Policy Specialist Lindsey Hughey emailed on May 25 and provided a copy of the ad that ran on the university’s website as well as a list of several places online where it had been posted on March 1. Hughey also wrote that Ewing’s salary would be $275,000 annually.
According to insiders who spoke on condition of anonymity, Ewing’s salary also created waves in the System Office because it is more than the combined salaries of the other three members of the Information Technology department.
Ewing was making just over $201,000 in his position with UA, so the move to the System Office represents a salary increase of just about $74,000 a year, or a 37.3 percent increase. In announcing his hire, Harrison wrote that Ewing will be “responsible for ensuring proper planning, development, implementation and oversight of comprehensive information technology and security programs for the University of Alabama System.” He will also assess cyber risk and protect the System IT infrastructure, as well as consult on changes in the IT landscape.
Chancellor Finis St. John has lavished higher salaries and better raises upon his System Office employees than has been common among those teaching or working in the universities themselves. St. John’s System Office was identified by the Chronicle of Higher Education as being the highest paid in the nation for a public university in two different categories last August. The Chronicle also said the UA System Office paid an average of $291,504 to 16 employees it identified as being involved in management.
As Lagniappe reported earlier this year, the latest round of raises last fall were higher for System Office employees than they were for faculty and staff at UA. According to payroll records, the 73 salaried System Office employees who are paid monthly averaged raises of 4.4 percent for Fiscal Year 22.
By comparison, professors, maintenance staff and others examined received raises between 1.5 percent and 2 percent on average.
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