The liberal arts were once—and perhaps still are—perceived as the core of the university. Philosophy, History, and English departments are often housed in stately old buildings at the center of campuses. But shining new science buildings and gleaming law schools just as often look down on the peeling paint of their venerable neighbors. The hierarchy of departments is most clearly apparent in faculty salaries. As reported in the Chronicle of Higher Education, the average salaries for new assistant professors in 2009-2010 were:
Computer Science $72,199
Public Administration $57,873
Physical Sciences $56,483
Foreign Language $52,271
Keep in mind that these all represent people who have the same job title: “assistant professor.” The relative comfort of graduate students generally reflects the place of their respective departments in the hierarchy.