University President George Ross’ contract was extended, and he was given a 4-percent pay increase at Thursday’s Board of Trustees meeting.
Ross’ new contract takes effect March 1 and will last until July 31, 2017. He will earn an annual salary of $364,000 per year, which is an increase from his current yearly salary of $350,000.
Considering Ross’ three-year presidency has been littered with turmoil in regard to the relationship between faculty and administration and the 184 faculty votes against his continuation as university president last month, Ross could have gone without the pay raise. Add to that the current economic state of Michigan and the struggle of some students to pay for school, the money from his raise could have gone to something more beneficial.
A contract extension suggests the person in question is competent and able to lead, which Ross has demonstrated at times, especially in pushing for increased transparency within the university, attempting to mend broken relations with faculty and following through with long-term projects, but a pay raise is a reward that he doesn’t necessarily deserve yet.
The state of higher education is already a national cause for concern, and that $14,000 raise Ross just received could have been put toward something to help deal with that at CMU.
The Department of Education released a scorecard Wednesday analyzing the state of colleges and universities nationwide that revealed CMU students have the highest amount of debt of all MAC schools. Ross could have donated his raise to be put toward a scholarship to help students eliminate that debt.
Though, Ross does deserve some credit.
He has been the only faculty member on campus to go without a pay raise for three years, and, even with his raise, he’s still one of the lowest-paid university presidents in the Mid-American Conference, aside from Northern Illinois University President John Peters and Eastern Michigan University President Susan Martin.
But the explanation for the raise sounds eerily similar to the one given for head football coach Dan Enos. Yes, Enos had a remarkably improved season, winning more games than he lost and winning the program’s first bowl game since in three seasons.
Giving a person a new contract to show solidarity and confidence is one thing – after all, it should be all or nothing in instances like Enos or Ross – but a pay raise after one mildly-successful season (or academic year) is setting a poor precedent at a time when money for higher education is becoming all too scarce.