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University defends Silber’s salary hike

While walking to class today, smell the flowers and eye the greenery lining the College of Arts and Sciences. Glimpse the Student Village or the School of Management. When you get to class, your professor is perhaps a highly regarded researcher or even a Nobel Laureate.

This is all a result of Chancellor John Silber, according to the BU Public Relations Department.

“In his 25 years as president, John Silber engineered a transformation of this University,” said BU spokesman Kevin Carleton. “The Board of Trustees, while reluctant to accept his resignation [in 1996], did keep him involved as Chancellor.”

Earlier this month, the Chronicle for Higher Education reported the salaries of the highest paid college administrators nationwide. Silber neared the top of the list, earning $834,958 in salary and benefits for the 1999 fiscal year. Former Williams College President Harry Payne pulled in the most in the country, with a yearly salary of $878,222.

Because the chancellor works “generally beyond nine to five,” Carleton said Silber’s salary is justified by his continued commitment to the University. His commitment sometimes exceeds a five-day work week as well, Carleton added.

“He puts in more hours than many college presidents who are half his age,” Carleton said.

The Office of the Chancellor declined numerous interview requests regarding what Silber does during a typical day.

Silber’s $400,000 base salary has remained the same since 1994. This year, $250,000 was essentially added to that sum when a long-standing loan to Silber by the Trustees was forgiven, meaning it did not have to be paid back.

Silber took out the loan in the early 1980s under the condition that if Silber remained at the University through May 31, 1999, the loan would be forgiven, according to Carleton.

Carleton said the loan was taken at the time Silber’s daughters were pursuing their education, and most likely helped to pay for doctorate and master’s degrees.

BU spokesman Colin Riley said of the $28,166 Silber used in his “expense account and other allowances,” most of it was probably for travel as part of his fundraising and recruitment efforts. Faculty recruiting is one of his most important roles within the University, Silber told The Daily Free Press in an April interview.

“As a talent scout, I think I’ve been absolutely first rate,” Silber said in April. “You look at the faculty of Boston University when I came, and the faculty today; I think you will see a profound, dynamic difference. And it’s dependent on my knowledge of where highly gifted, talented people work and my ability to attract them to Boston University.”

Riley specified Nobel Prize winner in physics Sheldon Glashow, Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel and Nobel Prize winner for literature Derek Walcott as key professors Silber has recruited, saying distinguished faculty make BU “a place to take pride in.” The allure of a quality faculty attracts top students, aiding students both past and present, Riley said.

“The value of every previous graduate is enhanced by the caliber of having incoming students who are stronger than ever,” Riley said.

Silber has been integral in maintaining the economic stability of the University, he added.

According to Riley, the University endowment was $18 million when Silber took over in 1971. As of this June, Riley said, it had reached about $900 million.

“That’s the most important thing I’ve accomplished, because the financial strengthening of Boston University was done very largely through faculty,” Silber told the Free Press last April. “With grant and contract research, we bring in about $200 million or more a year. That includes maybe $75-80 million in overhead recovery. That represents an endowment of enormous proportions.”

BU has become a “national research university,” Riley said, adding students now hail from around the globe, whereas before the majority were New Englanders.

Carleton said Silber is “very careful not to overstep his bounds,” however. President Jon Westling runs the University on a day-to-day basis through his deans and provosts, while Silber’s role is more of an “advisory” one, Carleton said.

Silber’s architectural background is helpful in his advising capacity. Started under the direction of Silber and continued by Westling, the “University has been within the most ambitious capital building program ever” during the last decade, according to Riley.

The Chronicle’s annual report is compiled from tax Form 990,which requires organizations to list their top five paid administrators.

Provost and CAS Dean Dennis Berkey was second to Silber in base salary, earning $394,925 in 1998-99. Westling joined them on the list, with a base salary of $385,000. Medical School Dean and Provost Aram Chobanian’s salary matched Westling’s at $385,000. Executive Vice President Joseph Mercurio raked in $365,000, while Kenneth Condon, vice president for finance and treasurer, rang in at $355,000.

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