Friday, June 20, 2008

Merlene Davis: Lee Todd, Sacrifice Should be Spread Around

Sacrifice Should be Spread Around
Writer: Merlene Davis (Blog)
Lexington Herald-Leader

There is absolutely nothing legally wrong with University of Kentucky President Lee Todd taking $95,000 of the $145,000 bonus he earned through a good work evaluation recently. The bonus was in his contract and everything was approved by the UK Board of Trustees.
The other $50,000 will be donated to special programs at the university that he and his wife designate. That's very nice.

But when the university has had to take a cut in requested funding from the state legislature, when tuition has been raised for students, when 15 employees had to be fired and 173 positions eliminated, and when faculty and staff have had their pay frozen, there is something morally wrong with his accepting that money for work well done.

I don't understand that, probably because I've never been in a position to earn $304,010 annually with a potential for a $145,000 bonus. But I can't see lying down to sleep at night with my bag of bonus money while ignoring those 15 people who are now without a steady paycheck, shrugging my shoulders at the staff and faculty who have to work harder with 173 new people not being hired and discounting students who are going further into debt to pay for their chance at better career opportunities.

And Todd is not alone. This "I earned it" attitude is pervasive. The same attitude exists in management at McClatchy, the corporation that owns this newspaper and pays my salary.

McClatchy CEO Gary Pruitt didn't return his $800,000 bonus despite the company laying off 1,400 people. That money was in addition to his $1.1 million base pay last year and about $2 million in stocks, options and other compensation.

Todd said his bonus was "fair compensation." In good times, I would agree. But these times are nowhere near good.

In his presentation of the budget to the trustees, Todd noted that not many faculty had complained about the salary freeze, preferring that to raising tuition costs even more. "A faculty member told me it was the right decision to freeze pay so we could keep a tuition increase as low as possible," he said. "I don't think I've had an e-mail yet -- maybe one or two -- about not giving a raise."

Did he take a moment to reflect on that sacrifice? Did he, in turn, tell the trustees to put his bonus to better use?

No. Instead he praised faculty and staff for their willingness to work harder with less and for less to keep the university's standards high.

His words wouldn't sound like empty rhetoric if his wallet were a lot slimmer.

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