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Northwest Voices

Seattle Times letters to the editor

November 24, 2008 at 4:50 PM

What university presidents are paid

Cut Emmert’s pay

Concerning University of Washington President Mark Emmert announcing that he will forgo a raise in his very substantial annual compensation of $905,000, let us consider what could happen if he took a significant pay cut, rather than freezing his salary [“UW, WSU presidents’ salaries affected by budget crunch,” News, Nov. 21].

Perhaps he will reconsider and instead voluntarily reduce his salary to only $205,000 — still a substantial level of pay, more than 10 times above the minimum wage. What could be done with the $700,000 saved?

Assuming professors make $70,000, Emmert’s pay cut could fund 10 professors. If we assume that a support person makes $40,000 per year, then Emmert’s $700,000 pay cut could save 17 positions. And if we consider how many minimum-wage positions could be saved with a $700,000 pay cut, Emmert could save 41 people from the unemployment lines. Even the poverty of a minimum-wage job is better than no job at all.

What will Emmert say to the families affected by the looming layoffs?

— Jim Thomas, Seattle

Question his priorities

Given the University of Washington’s massive budget shortfalls, I’m appalled that UW President Mark Emmert thinks he’s doing us a service by waiving an increase in his $905,000 salary.

If you add up the combined amount made by our state’s governor, attorney general, lieutenant governor, secretary of state, treasurer, auditor and insurance commissioner, it still doesn’t equal Emmert’s total. I know that Emmert has raised a lot of money and that his salary and the $700,000 made by his WSU [Washington State University] counterpart Elson Floyd (before a $100,000 voluntary pay cut), are set by the Board of Regents. But given that Emmert’s salary equals almost a tenth of the $10 million cuts that will otherwise require laying off professors, turning away students or cutting key services, it’s unseemly, to the say the least. If Emmert requires that amount to stay, then I’d question his priorities.

I have a proposal: I’d like to cap Washington state higher-education salaries so that no one makes more than our governor, who currently earns $166,891, and somehow manages to make ends meet.

Given that this couldn’t go through instantly, I’d like to challenge Emmert, Floyd and every other employee of our higher-education system who makes more than that amount to donate the excess back, at least for this time of crisis.

Yes, Emmert would have to live on that $166,891 pittance, plus major benefits and $340,000 a year from serving on corporate boards.

Our system’s football coaches and senior vice presidents might have to live more modestly as well. But it would make a significant difference in the lives of the faculty, staff and students who’d otherwise be laid off or excluded. And imagine the example it would set in reminding us all that education should be about learning and service, not greed.

— Paul Loeb, Seattle

Comments | More in Economy, Education, Washington Legislature

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