Sizing up presidential pay
A new report ranked Penn President Amy Gutmann’s salary 20th overall for university presidents nationwide
December 5, 2011, 10:56 pm · Updated December 7, 2011, 10:19 am·
Penn President Amy Gutmann is among a growing number of university presidents whose salaries are greater than $1 million.
According to the Chronicle of Higher Education’s annual report on executive compensation for 2009 — which was released on Sunday — Gutmann’s salary of $1,321,040 made her the 20th-highest-paid college president in the nation.
This marked a drop from her placement on the 15th spot of the Chronicle’s report on 2008 compensation data, which was released last year.
For the first time ever, the Chronicle’s annual report also looked at how presidential pay stacked up with professors’ yearly salaries.
At Penn, the report showed that the average professor compensation in 2009 was $215,200. Gutmann’s $1.3-million salary was more than six times higher than this total.
The typical private-college president made 3.7 times as much as the average full-time professor in 2009, according to the Chronicle.
Overall, 36 college presidents took in more than $1 million during 2009. This marks an increase from 30 the year before.
The highest-paid president in the country in 2009 came just down the road from Penn. Former Drexel University President Constantine Papadakis took in $4,912,127 in 2009 — a more than 200-percent increase from 2008.
Papadakis died in April 2009 at 63 years old after a long battle with lung cancer. Drexel spokesperson Niki Gianakaris wrote in an email that the bulk of his reported salary that year consisted of deferred compensation paid to his family after his death. According to The New York Times, Papadakis’ deferred compensation was made up of life insurance payouts and previously earned salary given to his widow.
“In his 14-year tenure, President Papadakis was known in the national academic community as an innovative leader who transformed a struggling institution into a comprehensive, top-ranked national research university,” Gianakaris wrote.
While Gutmann remained the third-highest-paid president in the Ivy League — behind Yale University President Richard Levin and Columbia University President Lee Bollinger — her salary did experience a slight dip from 2008, when she made $1,367,004.
Board of Trustees Chair David Cohen said in an interview in mid-November that this decrease was not a reflection of Gutmann’s performance.
“In Amy Gutmann, Penn benefits from having literally the best university president in the country,” he said, adding that her current salary is “probably below reasonable in looking at the value she adds … to the Penn community.”
Regardless of her lower national placement, Gutmann’s salary was still the cause of some Penn students’ recent ire. On Nov. 17, College senior Meg Hlousek wrote in a letter published in The Daily Pennsylvanian that Gutmann’s $1.3-million compensation marked a “disgrace” to lesser-paid workers at Penn and in Philadelphia.
“President Gutmann, as someone who has paid your tuition fees, who has read your academic literature … I am outraged by your financialization — your dystopiazation — of this University, starting with your income statement,” Hlousek wrote.
In an interview, she pointed to jobs like AlliedBarton security guards as ones that are underpaid in comparison to Gutmann.
The letter was endorsed unanimously by members of OccupyPenn — a student group that is an offshoot of the ongoing Occupy Wall Street movement — at a meeting on Nov. 16.
Despite claims that Penn’s president is overpaid, however, Andrea Fuller, an editorial research assistant with the Chronicle, said Gutmann’s 2009 pay as a share of the University’s budget was just 0.03 percent — a total she described as negligible.
“Comparing presidents’ salaries with those of campus janitors strikes many higher-education experts as dubious, but the widening gap between presidential and professorial pay is often regarded as a symptom of inequity in academe, where the scholarly credentials of faculty frequently rival or exceed those of presidents,” Fuller and Chronicle reporter Jack Stripling wrote in a write-up of the report.
Cohen said he was “not aware of any responsible, knowledgeable person who believes that Dr. Gutmann is being overpaid,” adding that he had not expected Gutmann to improve on the Chronicle’s 2009 rankings because of her salary decrease.
The Chronicle’s study also found that the median compensation for presidents nationwide in 2009 was $385,909 — a 2.2-percent increase from the previous year. Gutmann’s salary dip from 2008 to 2009 marked a 3.4-percent decrease, and was the first time her salary has dropped since she came to Penn in 2004.
Penn’s next Internal Revenue Service 990 tax form — which contains compensation numbers for high-level administrators at the University — is due out in summer 2012. The document will reflect data for 2010.