Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Share Wealth

MSU president is right in donating questionable bonus

MSU President M. Peter McPherson’s $25,000 bonus is an insult to MSU’s underpaid faculty.

The MSU Board of Trustees voted Friday to give McPherson his traditional 3 percent raise, but the added bonus increases his salary by about 13 percent.

McPherson has insisted on receiving only a 3 percent annual raise, and the board should have respected his wishes. McPherson plans to use the bonus to plant 2,000 trees on south campus.

The president should be applauded for using this money in a positive way. The tree-planting initiative will improve the landscape of campus.

McPherson obviously is not in this job for capital gain. His insistence on maintaining a 3 percent annual raise demonstrates his respect and concern for the faculty.

The board’s decision is meant to let the president know they are pleased with his performance over the past eight years. Their support is justified. Under McPherson’s leadership, MSU tuition increases have stayed within the rate of inflation, the university’s study abroad program has become nationally recognized for its cost management and size, a law school has come to MSU’s campus and enrollment numbers are rising.

Despite his accomplishments, McPherson is one of the lowest paid presidents in the Big Ten. At least nine of 11 Big Ten leaders earn more than McPherson’s base salary of $191,000. The president has many perks that are not included in this figure though, such as living at Cowles House free of charge, and his deferred payment fund, which will entitle him to about $59,230 when he leaves MSU.

With Friday’s raise, his total deal will increase to roughly $276,800, which moves him higher up the Big Ten pay scale. The increase makes finding a successor easier after McPherson leaves the university, which could come as early as 2005.

McPherson deserves this increase, but MSU faculty members, who also earn much less than at other comparable universities, should have received a comparable hike in the 2000-01 budget, which only gave MSU professors up to a 5 percent salary increase. Even with this increase, MSU is last among Big Ten universities in faculty pay. Granted, the funds for the positions come from different pools, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be similar.

Such inadequate salaries deter professors from teaching at MSU and hurt research opportunities. While the president has some influence, the overall quality of the university depends on its faculty.

The root of the problem is in the state Legislature. MSU receives less funding per student than both Wayne State University and the University of Michigan.

This funding gap has devastating effects on MSU. For a particular program to attract students it must have qualified and talented faculty, and such faculty members will not come to a university that does not offer competitive salaries.

While it is important to prepare for McPherson’s departure, the faculty’s salaries are the immediate problem. Filling one position is a lot easier than filling hundreds, especially when the university is set to see a high volume of faculty retirements during the next decade.

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