A president’s worth in dollars

A few days ago, the University’s Board of Regents approved another raise for President Mark Yudof. His salary is now $335,000. The regents also substantially increased his deferred compensation package to $350,000 — an incentive for him to finish his contract, which expires in 2003. The 3 percent raise makes Yudof the highest-paid non-sports-related executive in the Big Ten. But what is it about Yudof and his performance that makes him so valuable to the University?
Admittedly, President Yudof has led the University through some tough times. Last year’s basketball scandal was one of several unfortunate events during his term that caused the University’s reputation considerable damage. Yudof dealt well with the problems, which had begun in previous administrations. He navigated the school past Clem Haskins’s troubling legacy by implementing thoughtful remedies to the basketball program’s structural and academic deficiencies.
Although his construction plans have been ambitious and far-sighted, their presence has dreadfully blighted the Twin Cities campus. In two or three years, students will have the “Beautiful U” Yudof raves about, with a refurbished Coffman Union and an air-conditioned Walter Library. But oftentimes it seems little concern has been given to current students. With every new construction site, parking spots and walkways are lost. Eyesores, gas leaks and heavily dust-filled gales have replaced them, thus making the east bank more difficult to traverse, especially for new students.
Yudof deserves praise, though, for his freshman recruitment plan, which has successfully increased the number and quality of student applicants. Yudof’s commitment to housing every incoming freshman in a dormitory has caused some problems because of limited rooms but still deserves approbation. This emphasis on building a strong University community could give students a sense of identity as Gophers, which might increase school spirit. But like his construction plans, Yudof has not shown similar attention toward current students.
The University is now experiencing a massive housing crisis on all three Twin Cities campuses. University administrators could alleviate the shortage with the construction of a few subsidized, affordable apartment complexes. The $700 to $800 cost for a one-bedroom apartment in a University-sanctioned apartment building, like Argyle or Dinnakin, is far too much for most students to spend on monthly rent. While students struggle to pay for college, support themselves, take at least 15 credits and participate in student groups and athletic activities, they see President Yudof living tax-free in Eastcliff Mansion, driving a University-supplied Ford Explorer and earning more than $300,000 per year. He will even receive $350,000 in a couple years for simply honoring his contract.
However, Yudof’s salary is an insignificant expense when compared to what U.S. colleges pay athletics coaches. University football coach Glen Mason signed a 7-year contract in June for $7 million. Naturally, people should be paid what they deserve, and Yudof and Mason might, in fact, deserve their salaries. But when many faculty are underpaid compared to other schools, and students are paying more and more each year to acquire an education, perhaps the money used to pay Yudof’s and Mason’s salaries could be better spent elsewhere.