Tim O'Brien" />
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Monday, October 2, 2023


Examples needed amidst crisis

On Thursday, President Obama took Wall Street executives to task for issuing huge bonuses while the economy tanked. On the campaign trail, Obama often railed about corporate executive excess as millions of Americans are not getting fat bonuses, but instead are losing their jobs.

Obama put his money where his mouth was by addressing the salaries of his staff on his first full day in office and freezing the pay of all White House staffers who make over $100,000. His action was a strong signal it was time to sacrifice, especially for those blessed with more resources than others.’

In this day of massive layoffs, highly-paid executives should give up some of their compensation packages instead of making workers take all the pain. The need for executives to limit their pay has also been recognized in academia.

After the Chronicle of Higher Education released its survey on university presidents’ salaries in November, the New York Times reported many presidents were voluntarily taking pay cuts, including the president of Washington State University, who took a voluntary $100,000 reduction in pay. The presidents of Rutgers and the University of Connecticut also turned down bonuses in light of the failing economy, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education.

‘ Apparently these academic executives realize the innate injustice of taking hefty salaries and bonuses when many students and their families struggle with paying tuition and staying afloat during challenging economic times. So how does our president, Dr. Renu Khator, stack up among her peers when it comes to fiscal responsibility during a time of global financial meltdown?

According to the Wall Street Journal, the median salary of university presidents for the 2007-08 academic year was $427,000. Khator’s salary, including an annual mandatory cash payment to her retirement account, is $525,000. On top of that, she gets a $50,000 annual bonus, bringing her total take to $575,000. Those figures do not include the free residence the university provides or other fringe benefits such as a car, insurance, travel and more.

Did Khator follow the lead of her concerned peers and forsake her bonus or take a pay cut? The answer is no.

Executives should be justly compensated for their work. However, in times of fiscal crisis, taxpayers and students should not be asked to bear the entire burden with higher tuition and fees. Since Khator came aboard, tuition has risen almost 6 percent.

As the head of a public university, she should be sympathetic to the fiscal plight of students, especially considering the dire economic downturn. By taking a little less pay, she would set an example of being frugal with public resources. She could at least trim her expenses, which are unnecessarily extravagant in light of the economic crises.

Khator’s investiture event cost more than $60,000, according to receipts received from a public information request, but the tab may be revealed to be even higher, as University lawyers are fighting to conceal all the expenses. Items included were $18,500 for an ‘event management fee’ and $3,500 for an event logo design for the onetime event. Why did she even need to have a costly celebration of herself?

Khator has acknowledged the challenge of affordable access to education, yet nowhere does she state keeping UH affordable is a priority. Meanwhile, right up the road at Texas A&M, one of president Dr. Elsa A. Murano’s five main priorities is ensuring students can afford to study. She backed that up by extending the tuition waiver to families making up to $60,000 and having the smallest tuition increase at the school since 1999.

‘ Khator, on the other hand, does not show much concern about students’ financial hardships. When questioned about graduate student funding at a student government meeting last semester Khator said, ‘We don’t have the resources ‘hellip; students have to take the burden.’

Next time Khator complains about a lack of resources, perhaps she should take a look at her paycheck or take a look around her $6 million, 6,700 square foot gated mansion and ask herself if that is the best use of university resources.

Timothy J. O’Brien is a history PhD candidate and may be reached at [email protected].

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