Our View: Losing trust in our trustees

DKS Editors

Last week, Kent State’s Board of Trustees approved an amendment to President Lester Lefton’s contract that, among other changes, raises his maximum annual performance bonus to 25 percent of his base salary.

That means if Lefton meets quantifiable goals that he and the board agree on before the academic year, he can receive a maximum bonus of $94,631.25.

In other changes, Lefton will receive a $60,000 cash bonus for accepting his contract. The amount will increase by $10,000 each year, if he meets his goals, until his contract expires. That replaces his current retirement plan, under which the university credited $50,000 to his retirement fund each year.

Lefton also will now receive a $15,000 yearly utility allowance and a one-time $25,000 payment to handle painting, cleaning or repairs related to university use of his house.

In our opinion, this is the wrong move at the wrong time for the Board of Trustees to make.

There’s no question Lefton has done some good things for the university in the past year. Enrollment and retention both jumped, and so did fundraising. That’s impressive, especially considering the economic recession.

However, we think the board should have considered the same economic recession before making the changes stipulated in the new contract.

While Kent State isn’t in as bad of shape financially as other universities, there’s always the potential for change. State funding for the university could easily decrease if Ohio doesn’t meet its budget. The Board of Trustees needs to show better judgment and consider what the future may hold.

Lefton said the amended contract came partly because at least one board member thought Lefton would leave Kent State. While it’s a legitimate concern, was the 5 percent increase really necessary to keep him? Lefton himself said he made no threats to leave.

And what of the other changes? We can’t imagine spending $15,000 on utilities over five years, let alone one. And an ever-increasing pension bonus isn’t the best idea in an uncertain economy.

As we said, Lefton accomplished some remarkable goals during the past year. Perhaps this extra raise will spur him to accomplish even more during the length of his contract.

But at some point, the board has to stop granting Lefton more money. Lefton may have done some good – some may even say great – things for Kent State in the past year, but continually giving him raises is not the best financial move for the university to make. It just begs the question: When will the raises stop? We’d like to think our president would help us without the constant monetary incentive.

The above editorial is the consensus opinion of the Daily Kent Stater editorial board.