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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Hey, big spender

Published: October 1, 2010
Section: Editorials

The recent global financial crisis forced families, businesses, governments and even academic institutions to make due with less. It required all of us to make difficult decisions. And Brandeis did the right thing when it froze university salaries and cut retirement funding for employees in fiscal year 2010.

Yet, while all employees were forced to suffer under this decision and academic programs were cut, little can explain how top administrators received large salary increases. University President Jehuda Reinharz received a 25 percent increase between fiscal years 2009 and 2008.

For an institution that models itself on social justice, what message does it send to employees who are laid off and students who lost their majors, when a raise more than $100,000 is given to its leader?

And why was it necessary for Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Peter B. French to receive a raise of more than $200,000?

Yes, Reinharz and French both chose to take a 10 percent pay cut in fiscal year 2010, but it still provided a significant net gain on their salaries from fiscal year 2008. The decision to take a cut was meaningless considering the amount of the raise the year before.

The fact that the university pays for Reinharz’ gym membership also requires an explanation. While we understand that it costs money to upkeep his university-owned home, (including the university-paid house attendant), we think he and all administrators should buy their own health club memberships.

We are not ignorant. We understand that administrators and a university president must be paid competitive salaries because of the compensation they could receive at other colleges in the area. In fact, there are several universities in the Boston area that pay presidents more than Brandeis does.

But a financial crisis should force universities to take an initiative and realize what is essential and most important to the community.

That $200,000 raise to French’s salary could have been used to preserve academic departments that are being eliminated. Reinharz’ $100,000 could have saved the jobs of the more than 70 university staff members laid off last year.

It’s one thing to talk about social justice but it’s another to implement it into the university’s finance structure. Maybe it wouldn’t have made a difference, but we will never know.