Students, Occupy protesters question Gutmann's $1.3M salary
Some, however, feel Penn's president deserves her $1,321,040 earned in 2009
November 27, 2011, 10:03 pm · Updated November 29, 2011, 3:04 am·
Elizabeth Jacobs | DP
A report on Penn President Amy Gutmann’s salary has prompted some to question whether the head of the University deserves to make more than $1 million.
In a letter published in The Daily Pennsylvanian on Nov. 17, College senior Meg Hlousek wrote that Gutmann’s total compensation of $1,321,040 in 2009 — the latest year for which data is available — represented 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, who has repeatedly been suggested by your community of pre-professionals to pursue a course in life where my privilege would inevitably rest on the backs of others … I am outraged by your financialization — your dystopiazation — of this University, starting with your income statement,” Hlousek wrote.
The letter, which was unanimously endorsed by members of OccupyPenn — a student group that is an offshoot of the ongoing Occupy Wall Street movement — at a gathering outside Van Pelt Library on Nov. 16, came in response to a DP article that compared Gutmann’s compensation to her peers in the Ivy League.
In the Ivies in 2009, Gutmann’s salary was third only to Yale University President Richard Levin, whose total compensation package was $1,627,649, and Columbia University President Lee Bollinger, who received $1,527,217, according to tax filings for the respective institutions.
Hlousek pointed to Harvard University President Drew Gilpin Faust’s 2009 compensation package of $874,560 as “a counterpoint to those who might say ‘I don’t want my president to make less than $1 million … because it would reflect poorly on my university’s prestige.’”
Valued at $32 billion as of June 30, Harvard has the largest endowment of any college or university in the nation.
Hlousek added that she decided to write the letter “upon recognizing the [income] disparities between the people who work here who I see and talk to every day, and the president, who’s on a completely different scale.”
She pointed to positions like AlliedBarton and University City District security guards as ones whose yearly salaries are often “unsustainable.”
“To the workers, to the students, to everybody involved in the community, [Gutmann’s salary] is a slap in the face,” she said.
Some students agreed.
College senior Jared Dubin, a member of OccupyPenn and former DP staff writer, said the income disparity between Gutmann and other lower-level employees at Penn is “troubling.”
“Is there any way to say that one person’s eight-hour work day is that much more valuable than someone else’s? I don’t think there is,” he said.
Others, however, defended Gutmann’s salary.
“We may pay her $1.3 million, but we give that to her to bring in $3.5 billion for the University,” said Wharton junior Sasha Lagombra, in reference to Penn’s Making History fundraising campaign, which hits its overall goal of $3.5 billion earlier this school year. “I think her salary is definitely justified.”
College freshman Jordan Driskill agreed, adding that it is “kind of silly to compare her salary to the people who take care of the campus at Penn and work in the dining halls.”
In 2008, Gutmann was the 15th-highest-paid university president in the country, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education’s annual report on executive compensation. She was also one of just 30 presidents nationwide who took in more than $1 million for that time period.
The Chronicle’s report on 2009 salary totals is due out within the next week.
“President Gutmann has a very responsible position with a lot riding on her,” College sophomore Hugh Hamilton said. “The level at which she’s compensated fits the prestige of her position.”
“Ultimately, [Gutmann’s] salary is an indication of the job she does,” Driskill added. “I think most students would agree that she’s done a very good job.”