Search This Blog

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Blade Editorial on Bonus Scandal

Published September 06, 2009 in The Toledo Blade
An 'F' in public policy

THE revelation that top officials at the University of Toledo are being paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in bonuses on top of their generous salaries was unseemly at best, especially in light of continuing cutbacks, layoffs, and President Lloyd Jacob's plan to have all employees take one or two days off without pay.

Dr. Jacobs is not responsible for the ailing economy that devastated state revenues, causing lawmakers in Columbus to slash funding to higher education. UT's decision in April to lay off nearly 100 workers and not fill 200 vacant positions was driven by a $16 million deficit. In like manner, state cutbacks are responsible for the furloughs, more layoffs, and program cuts the university president announced last month.

Times, as they say, are tough all over.

But that makes this a particularly inopportune time to be handing out bonuses to high-ranking administrators. It simply looks bad to lay off secretaries, janitors, and faculty after having cut checks worth some $200,000 to Dr. Jeffrey Gold, UT's provost and vice president for health affairs and medical college dean, who already is paid about $500,000 per year for his work as a doctor and university administrator.

Dr. Jacobs has defended the practice, saying that compensating employees at market value (which seems often to mean writing bonuses into contracts) keeps the university competitive for top talent.

It may be that's the way the system works - it could even be that UT administrators are paid less than their peers at other universities - but that's not how blue-collar workers struggling to pay their children's college tuition (set to increase 3.5 percent for the spring semester) are going to see it.
It doesn't matter to them that "only" $50,000 of the payment to Dr. Gold was an actual bonus while the other $150,000 was a "longevity payment" (essentially, pay for not chasing a higher salary elsewhere for the term of his contract). To people earning $40,000 - if they have jobs at all - the six-figure salaries plus benefits, longevity payments, and bonuses of university officials are cut from the same cloth as the hugely inflated compensation packages of Wall Street executives. To them, top administrators getting bonuses while other workers get pink-slipped is nothing but greed.

By opening UT's checkbook so unapologetically, the board of trustees and Dr. Jacobs - who banked his own $150,000 longevity payment last year and is in line for two more $150,000 paydays if he stays until 2013 - are being remarkably insensitive to the economic climate in northwest Ohio and the pain being felt by thousands of area residents.

It appears these leaders in public education could use a refresher course in public policy, not to mention a strong dose of humility, considering who ultimately pays the bills for the grand and growing operation at UT.

No comments: