Editorial: Administrators should be required to justify salary

Budget cuts have led USF to expect a shortfall of at least 15 percent in total funding from state education and general funds. While state budgets have declined, though one thing steadily increased, salaries for some top public university executives.

In 2007 USF President Judy Genshaft received a 6.5 percent raise, resulting in an additional $24,349 along with the opportunity for a $100,000 bonus. The question that begs to be asked is, “What are students, employees and taxpayers getting for the additional expense?”

It seems Genshaft and the administration have come to realize the absurdity of additional, top-heavy raises during such bleak economic times. The president announced that she will refuse a salary increase this year and issued the following statement on her Web site:

“This is a University-wide situation. We have added two vice presidents to the cabinet in recent weeks, but both were promoted from within and accepted the expanded portfolio with no salary increases.”

Unfortunately, this mentality isn’t shared by all state universities. During a recent interview with the Tampa Tribune, University of Florida spokesperson Steve Orlando attempted to justify UF President Bernie Machen’s $731,811 annual compensation.

“(The university is) about a $3 billion enterprise,” he said. “I think it’s fair to say if you were looking for someone to run an enterprise that large in the private sector, you’d be looking at a very different salary level.”

To examine executive compensation from a slightly different, and perhaps more accurate perspective, the president of the United States receives a salary of $400,000 annually. Genshaft receives $395,000, and her gross compensation is $502,845 a year.

This editorial board commends Genshaft for respectably declining a raise last spring in midst of a budget crisis.  However, the policy of issuing de facto rather than incentive-based raises and bonuses requires further review and investigation. University presidents are public servants whose salaries are funded wholly with taxes and tuition fees. As such, a cost-benefit analysis must be done.

Will giving a raise increase the overall standard of education? Will the current salary retain the president for the next year? Should the president be retained given the current cost, or is another candidate equally qualified and more affordable? These questions must be answered honestly.

Providing a candid review will ensure that the highest quality of education possible is attained. Sincere evaluation will also strengthen the level of accountability so that taxpayer dollars are spent prudently.