Editorial, Opinion

EDIT: On Brown’s pay

Data released by The Chronicle of Higher Education Sunday revealed that Boston University President Robert Brown is the highest paid private college president in Massachusetts during 2010. Brown’s total compensation was listed as $1,141,330.

In comparison, the second highest paid private college president in the state, Northeastern University’s Joseph Aoun, was paid about $70,000 less.

Brown’s base pay, $734,349, was also the highest among Bay State’s private college presidents. Base pay is the flat rate of pay for a job, which excludes extra payments such as overtime or bonuses — Brown’s house, for example. Those additional rewards are included in the total compensation.

It is worth noting that Brown’s compensation numbers are partly higher because his entire house was assessed. In 2010, the Internal Revenue Service began requiring colleges to include presidents’ housing costs in total compensation numbers. Other Boston-area colleges only assessed the private residential portions of their presidents’ homes, according to an article in The Boston Globe on June 13, 2010.

While it is unclear what exactly determines how much a college president makes, and where other university funds are allotted, it does not make the number any easier to swallow. His pay is too high, needless to say. Brown’s income ranks high in the list at a time when students have to pay $42,000 for tuition alone, not mention the additional $13,190 for basic room and board that on-campus students cough up. However, Brown’s hefty compensation package might be easier to justify if he were someone who made himself readily available to students. For most students, their interaction with Brown is limited to the occasional email or an appearance at a university-wide event.

In his earlier years, the president at least reached out to students by meeting with them for lunch and meeting with officials throughout campus. In 2012, he made few appearances other than graduation, matriculation and former President John Silber’s memorial service.

Brown does not have to go as far as greeting every student he sees with a hug such as New York University’s president, John Sexton, does, but it is important that Brown make some larger effort to connect with students. If Brown is going to earn significantly more than other presidents at private universities in Massachusetts, he should be someone who makes it his priority to reach out to students.

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