Although University of Massachusetts President Jack Wilson may not be one of the highest paid public university leaders, it is unfortunate that he accepted a 15 percent increase in compensation during a period where the school faculty, students and his counterparts at other universities are all enduring the pains of the current economic recession.
With the Commonwealth and UMass still struggling to develop strategies to close a budget gap that could top $100 million, it reflects poorly on his commitment to his own rhetoric that accompanied the sacrifices seen on campus over the past year.
The Daily Collegian reported last week that Wilson’s $546,000 compensation package for the 2008-2009 fiscal year includes a $425,000 salary, a $45,000 housing stipend, $25,000 in deferred compensation, $51,000 towards retirement and the use of a car, which ultimately boosts his salary by $72,000 this year. Wilson had the chance to turn down the raise in the same manner as he did the year before, and considering the state and nation’s dire economic reality, he missed a symbolically important opportunity to show solidarity with his faculty and students during a time when many are collectively forgoing pay increases.
Students are staring down a $1,500 fee hike, departments are maneuvering around budget cuts and hiring freezes and professors and state employees are facing layoffs, unpaid furloughs and diminishing salaries. Administrators should lead by example in these trying times, and not consider themselves above making the same sacrifices they expect of others.
Wilson has made such sacrifices in the past, including passing on the raise entitled to him last year, and taking a pair of two-week unpaid furloughs over the past 18 months. It is also important to note that quality leadership for any university does not come cheaply in this day and age, and with a ranking at number 50 on the list of top-paid public university administrators, Wilson’s compensation is approximately in line with his contemporaries.
However, if he had declined his second chance at a raise, he would not have been alone among university leaders. According the Chronicle of Higher Education, more than one third of public universities froze salaries for executives in 2009, and about ten percent have cut their compensation packages for administrators.
UMass has received more than $39 million in federal stimulus money so far, but as administrators have noted numerous times, once stimulus funds run out, the University is facing a “funding cliff” in a year or two. If this perfect storm of a situation occurs, it would no doubt lead to millions of dollars of cuts to essential faculty and services, with the consequence of destroying many of the positive gains the UMass system has made over the past decade.
Considering how unconscionable that scenario is to those here at the Amherst campus, Wilson and the rest of UMass’ administrative leadership should be weary of increasing their pay before the economic ship is righted, lest they lose the respect of the faculty and students whom are now burdened with sacrifices of their own; sacrifices that when considered collectively, are of enormous magnitude, and not to be taken for granted.
Unsigned editorials represent the majority opinion of the Massachusetts Daily Collegian’s Editorial Board.