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Cabinet Officers’ Pay Among Top 10

By Tiffany Han Posted: 02/23/2009
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Three of Emory’s top cabinet officials ranked among the highest-paid university administrators in the country, according to figures from the 2006-07 fiscal year released by The Chronicle of Higher Education yesterday.

University Chancellor Michael Johns, who earned $3.75 million in the 2007 fiscal year, was the third highest-paid private university employee in the United States, excluding chief executives. At the time, he served as executive vice president for health affairs, CEO of the Woodruff Health Sciences Center and chairman of Emory Healthcare — posts that have been held by Fred Sanfilippo since Johns became chancellor on Oct. 1, 2007.

Vice President of Communications Ron Sauder said $3.4 million of the compensation package came from a long-term retention award and a one-time deferred payment, which accrued over the 11 years that Johns served in his former posts. Deferred compensation is payment that amasses from year to year but is not paid immediately. The amount can be forfeited if the employee leaves the position before a certain date.

Executive Vice President for Finance and Administration Mike Mandl was the fourth highest-paid chief financial officer in the country, with a compensation package of $666,300. Earning $536,540, Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost Earl Lewis was the ninth highest-paid among chief academic officers.

But a statement released yesterday by the Board of Trustees clarifies that $105,270 of Mandl’s compensation package is the combined value of benefits and deferred payment, as is $94,170 of Lewis’ package.

According to an annual survey released by The Chronicle in November, University President James W. Wagner, who received $1.04 million in compensation for the 2007 fiscal year, ranked among the top 10 highest-paid presidents at private research universities.

The Board’s statement also explains that compensation packages are annually reviewed by a committee within the Board. Guidelines set forth by the Internal Revenue Service regarding executive compensation in not-for-profit institutions and periodic reviews by outside consultants are taken into consideration.

Especially in times of financial turmoil, the high salaries of some university officials have come under scrutiny by many watchdog groups, who contend that these hefty sums should be scaled down.

Chair of the Board of Trustees Ben F. Johnson III wrote in the Board’s statement that strong leadership is a treasured resource.

“Our board believes it is in Emory’s long-term best interest to reward the commitment and vision for Emory shown by [Wagner] and his cabinet and to benefit from their leadership and energy for many years to come,” Johnson wrote.

Director of the Center for Teaching and Curriculum Patrick Allitt said he sympathizes with both sides of the argument, acknowledging that retaining good leadership often means “you have to pay for it.”

Though cutting the salary of top officials would barely affect the overall budget, Allitt said, the symbolism of executives accepting pay cuts would boost morale at Emory.

“It’s impossible to ask people for sacrifices if you’re not willing to make them yourselves,” Allitt said.

He added that faculty, especially those with tenure, could also offer to take small, symbolic pay cuts.

“I would be very sympathetic to the idea that everyone paid more than $100,000 take a 2 percent cut until the end of the financial crisis,” Allitt said.

Sociology Professor Frank Lechner said that beyond symbolic pay cuts, administrators’ salaries should be “based on the market value of those people.”

He said that Wagner, who plays a crucial role at the University, deserves to be well-compensated, especially considering the importance of Campaign Emory, a broad fund-raising effort that supports Emory’s Strategic Plan.

“But I think the president and provost should seriously consider increasing the efficiency of the upper administration,” Lechner added.

— Contact Tiffany Han.

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