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WSU’s Floyd Among Those Giving Back Amidst Salary Scrutiny

Washington State University president, Dr. Elson S. Floyd, stands out among a handful of academic leaders who recently announced they would either forgo raises or take voluntary pay cuts, not necessarily because they’re in the holiday spirit.

The decision to give back comes at a time when colleges and universities across the country are being asked to raise tuitions, cut programs and/or lay off employees because of tightening economic conditions. The decision also comes in the wake of a highly publicized report released last week by The Chronicle of Higher Education that examines the most highly paid university presidents of both private and public institutions.

Floyd requested that the Washington State Board of Regents reduce his salary by 14 percent, or $100,000. The request, the board said, was reluctantly granted.

“These are exceedingly tough times for my students, faculty and staff. We will be asking them to think more creatively and work harder with less as we deal with budgetary restraints. It is incumbent upon me to lead by example,” Floyd told regents on Friday following his decision to take a pay cut.

Floyd’s decision to give back a portion of his earnings followed similar actions by other university presidents across the country.

Last Tuesday, a day after the Chronicle’s report was published, Dr. Amy Gutmann, the president of the University of Pennsylvania, and her husband made a $100,000 gift to the university to support undergraduate research, according a New York Times report. Gutmann was one of eight private university presidents earning more than $1 million in 2006, a 40 percent increase from the previous year’s pay, according to the Chronicle survey.

Two days after Gutmann donated, the chancellor of Washington University in St. Louis, Mark S. Wrighton, announced he would take a 5 percent cut from his base salary on Jan. 1 and another 5 percent reduction on July 1. Wrighton said his decision to give back was already in the works before the Chronicle’s report was released, according to the Times.

In August, the Washington State Board of Regents approved a salary increase for Floyd from $600,000 to $725,000, retroactive to May, citing the university’s progress in academic programs, enrollment and fundraising. His 2007-2008 salary helped make him the fourth-highest paid among public university presidents in terms of base pay, according to the Chronicle’s report.

By comparison, Dr. Mark A. Emmert, the president of the University of Washington, earned $603,120 in base pay as part of $887,870 in total compensation. Emmert’s compensation package made him the second-highest paid U.S. public university president in 2007-08, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Emmert last week told University of Washington regents that he will forgo salary increases in the coming year. Washington state is facing a projected $5.1 billion budget deficit, according to state officials. In response to the budget shortfall, the state’s colleges and universities are being told to cut costs.

Floyd, who became the WSU president in December 2006, is one of a few African-Americans leading a major U.S. research university.

Prior to the WSU regents meeting, Floyd outlined in a letter to WSU staff, students, and supporters that the school had identified $3 million in cuts not requiring staff layoffs. State budget officials, however, say they need an additional $3 million in cuts by June 30, 2009, Floyd wrote in his letter.

This past spring Floyd anticipated the university would be facing an uncertain economy by the fall, said Tim Pavish, WSU vice president for university relations. He then began a hiring slowdown and curtailing travel by university employees, Pavish told Diverse. Those early moves have contributed to the $3 million in cuts university officials have identified in efforts to reduce 2008-09 spending by $6 million, Pavish says.

Floyd is trying to ensure cuts largely come from administrative departments and expenses at the university. “He has sought to minimize cuts that would fall on students and faculty members,” adds Pavish.

Floyd’s salary cut takes effect Jan. 1, 2009.

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