Faculty criticize president’s benefit

By Ken Goze

Criticism is mounting over the Board of Regents decision to reward NIU President John La Tourette and other Regency administrators with an extra year of retirement service.

Faculty members say they feel alienated by a system that rewards its top administrators with a nearly $10,000 benefit in a year of no pay increases, while leaving them on the sidelines with $150 to offset health insurance hikes and vague assurances of better times next year.

La Tourette, Regents Chancellor Roderick Groves and Illinois State University President Thomas Wallace each will receive an extra year’s retirement service in recognition for high ratings in their five-year evaluations.

J. Carroll Moody, Joint University Advisory Committee member, said the move incensed more than a few faculty members.

“Out of the last three years, two years had no increase, and the one year there was a grand total of 2 percent. Some people are a little bit jaundiced. On the one hand, the board said, ‘Unfortunately, we have no money for pay increases, but we can do this’ (the retirement benefit),” Moody said.

Philosophy Professor Sherman Stanage said by richly rewarding top administrators, the Regents follow a tradition of the Big Three automakers and others in corporate America—a tradition that is proving to be a lemon.

“It’s following an old robber baron mentality that’s getting us run over by Germany and Japan,” he said.

Stanage said he found Groves’ reward especially galling.

“It was outrageously undeserved in light of the leadership he and the board have provided over the years,” he said.

While the benefit was given as a “token” of appreciation in place of a pay raise, History Professor Patrick White said he and other faculty members would be happy to accept a year’s retirement service.

“That would be very nice. He (La Tourette) deserves to be well considered, but these are hard times,” White said.

Law Professor Rodolphe De Seife protested the benefit in Wednesday’s Faculty Senate meeting. “It’s time for the faculty to stand up and say that we shouldn’t be treated like a bunch of peons,” De Seif said.

Sen. Patrick Welch, D-Peru, said the move by the Regents added icing to an already well-paid position. “Handing out $10,000 bonuses is a strange way to run the university,” Welch said.

He said the argument that the three are paid below average doesn’t hold water. “They’re paid more than the governor of the state of Illinois. Everybody’s always under the average, but nobody’s saying who’s over it. I’d like to see who they use for the average,” he said.

The Feb. 5 issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education lists the average president’s salary at $110,860. La Tourette earns about $106,000.