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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Univ’s new compensation philosophy leaves many questions

Published: January 24, 2014
Section: Editorials

In mid-November, Brandeis students were shocked when news of Jehuda Reinharz’s immense salary was leaked by The Boston Globe. Reinharz had the second-longest term of any president to serve Brandeis, and since January 2011 he has acted as part-time president emeritus. While President Lawrence stated in a recent BrandeisNOW article that Reinharz is “a champion for Brandeis,” a man who will “continue to be a strong partner in our ongoing development efforts,” applauding Reinharz’s supposed contributions did not cease student uproar. Students posted on Facebook and Twitter, and passed around petitions in Usdan and the library protesting Reinharz’s weighty compensation. Since 2012, Reinharz has received $287,500 a year in salary.

On Thursday, Brandeis announced that compensation disclosure will become more of an open discussion. The Board of Trustees approved new policies surrounding executive compensation, including a commitment to full transparency and an annual review of compensation. It was also mentioned that while Reinharz received $4.1 million in deferred compensation and $811,000 for untaken sabbaticals on Jan. 2; his salary will drop to $180,000 in July.

The Hoot commends the administration on its attempt to make executive compensation a sort of conversation, between administration officials and students, faculty, staff and the community. This attempt at a full disclosure is needed and well-timed and demonstrates that Brandeis officials are responding to the student body.

That stated, the Statement of Compensation Philosophy outlined by the trustees meeting is very vague, and we believe it will prove hard to follow. There is no measuring stick outlined in the philosophy, it simply states compensation must be consistent with “the University’s mission, culture, values, reputation, and tax-exempt status” and with “the need to attract and retain highly qualified, experienced and motivated leadership for the university.” But who or what measures whether a monetary amount is in line with Brandeis’ mission and culture? Who decides if Reinharz’s compensation is correct when we consider Brandeis’ reputation? Other non-descriptive statements are made, such as compensation setting being tied to “the best interests of Brandeis University.”

While this attempt at disclosure is valient, it still does not trickle down to the student body. Reinhartz was paid millions of dollars before the Brandeis student population had any idea it was happening. This may be a trend that continues. After meeting on Executive Compensation, the trustees decided executive compensation will be more transparent, but it may only affect the faculty. In an interview with The Hoot on Thursday, Ellen de Graffenreid, senior vice president for communications, stated, “The faculty will get a report of the president’s comp from the board chair. The students and alums will see the compensation figures when the university discloses its tax return. We expect that the state of Massachusetts will be accelerating that disclosure date in the near future.” Therefore, we students will not see any figures until far later, even with this new development. Data will only be available to students after the tax return has been released, though faculty will hear before this.

In the article on BrandeisNOW, de Graffenreid states “Instead of disclosing [Reinharz’s salary] in 2016, we are disclosing it now.” This should not be a point of pride for Brandeis. Students expect better of their administration. We should not have to wait until 2016, but we also should not have to wait until tax returns are released. If Brandeis is to claim full disclosure, students should have it at their fingertips immediately.