Huge raise mocks the University community

A few days ago, the Board of Regents elected to give University President Mark Yudof a $50,000 raise. While Yudof has certainly done an adequate job during the last year, his performance was not worthy of this sort of recognition. Further, the money could be much better spent improving the quality of life for students rather than going to Yudof, who already enjoys a very comfortable existence.
The last year has not been good for the University. A plethora of athletics-related scandals, from academic misbehavior to sexual assaults, badly tarnished the University’s reputation. If the University was mentioned in the national press, it was almost certain to be a negative story. In addition, the Minnesota Legislature did not give the University all of the funds requested, requiring many important services to be scaled back or eliminated entirely.
Certainly, some of these problems were not Yudof’s fault. Many of the events behind the scandals happened years before Yudof arrived at the University. Yudof also only has limited influence over the Legislature’s actions. Nonetheless, positive occurrences have been few and far between; the vast majority of Yudof’s year was spent controlling damage rather than improving the University.
It is also important to recognize that the $50,000 raise is only the tip of the iceberg. If Yudof stays until 2002, he will not only receive his newly increased salary of $325,000 per year, but will also earn a bonus of $175,000. Even before the bonus, Yudof was among the top-paid presidents in the Big Ten. Ohio State University’s president earns $275,000, and the president of the University of Michigan receives $296,000. Yudof also lives rent-free at Eastcliff and gets a car, insurance and a retirement plan at no cost.
In contrast, the average student at the University relies on scholarships and loans to afford tuition, lives in a small apartment, drives a dilapidated car with often costly insurance and hopes to save enough to see a movie on the weekend. Despite the low economic status of most students, the Board of Regents seemed unable to locate the money to give University student-workers more than a tiny 2 percent raise last spring.
Obviously, Yudof has a very important job, and it makes sense that his salary is higher than that of students and most other University employees. However, with costs continually rising throughout the University, the relatively enormous raise was unjustified. The extra money is unlikely to change Yudof’s quality of life in any substantial way. If the regents had instead used the money to endow scholarships for low-income students or to bring in a top professor, the benefits would have been much larger.
This decision has already been made, and there is little that can change it. In the future, however, the regents should think very hard about the message their actions send to students and employees of the University. Giving Yudof a gigantic raise in a year marked chiefly by public relations crises insults every person associated with the University. When students see their tuition increase and workers see their requests for minimal cost of living wage raises denied, the regents should not belie their protestations of limited funds by giving $50,000 to Yudof.