By Ellen MacPherson
Washington State’s current budget crisis forces the state to take a hard look at how it spends money. As a publically funded school, UW suffered a 26% cut to its 2009-2010 budget with the potential for further cuts resulting from the current legislative session. Consequences of the budget cuts on UW include the elimination of administrative positions, cuts to financial aid, and a pay freeze for UW employees including UW President Mark Emmert. As with any business, UW must scrutinize every expense in order to minimize the impact to programs and one expense that always comes under fire is that of executive compensation. President Emmert is the second highest paid public university president whose total benefits package is $906,500.00 (including salary and fringe benefits). So what does UW get for nearly a million dollars a year?
President Emmert is a Washington native and a UW alumni who became UW president in 2004 and has tenaciously driven a number of significant achievements for the university. Thus far, President Emmert has seen the initiation of the Husky Promise, helped to secure more than $1 billion in grants and contracts for sponsored research in a single year, and led to the creation of the Department of Global Health in conjunction with the UW School of Medicine and School of Public Health. Fundraising is a crucial element of President Emmert’s job and in his tenure at UW he has overseen over $2.5 billion dollars raised. Included was a gift in 2007 from the Foster Family Foundation that established the Seattle campus’ Michael G. Foster School of Business, ranked 26th in the nation by U.S News & World Report. Oddly enough, Foster School of Business shares the 26th position with Ohio State University whose president, Gordon Gee, is the public university president with the highest salary.
As a basis for comparison however, Ohio State University is a good place to start. UW has long been distinguished as a “public ivy.” That is, UW provides an “ivy league experience at a public school price.” In contrast with some private schools, President Emmert’s salary might look like a bargin. Columbia University President Lee C. Bollinger earns over $1.4 millon in compensation while faculty in prominent public roles pull in exorbitant salaries. Columbia’s renowned professor of medicine Dr. Jeffrey W. Moses earns over $2.5 million a year while Pete Carroll, formerly the head football coach at USC, drew more than $4.4 million in 2007. President Emmert had the opportunity to surpass Columbia’s Bollinger in 2008 when he was approached by Vanderbilt University. In order to fill their vacant chancellor’s seat Vanderbilt offered Emmert a $1.8 million compensation package but Emmert declined in order to continue his work with UW.
The budget pinch in Washington State will no doubt affect all its residents. UW students, staff, and faculty feel this pressure acutely as programs get squeezed and financial aid runs dry. President Emmert’s crucial role as our voice to the community has enable the college to expand its reach in exciting ways. Although it may be easy to criticize such a high salary in these difficult times, it is essential to understand how much value the university receives from its dedicated president.