Guest Column: Taking care of the bottom-line, not Flashes

University president Todd Diacon’s fiscal year 2021 plan shows that the university only “takes care of flashes” when it’s convenient. 

Due to COVID-19, Kent State stands to lose $110 million. For almost any institution, that would be a major crisis. Kent State can’t print money, moving funds and cutting spending are necessary. Diacon’s plan however, shows none of the community-focused empathy he praises. 

Many of his proposals are simply cuts in school offerings such as travel or new construction projects. However, in the name of protecting Kent State’s “financial and academic reputation,” Diacon has also announced sweeping salary cuts for non-union employees making above $38,000, a halt to overtime, an employee buyout and an unspecified number of layoffs and job abolitions. The proposed pay cuts range from a 2% cut for employees making $38,000 to $49,999, to 12.5% for Diacon himself. Diacon also announced that Kent State was not planning to use reserve funds to cover the school’s budget gap, claiming 70% of the fund is tied up in investments that have lost value in the current recession. Diacon also claimed that using it to cover the entire shortfall would deplete a quarter of the reserve in one year. Diacon stated in closing, “I grant that this may seem a far cry from Flashes Take Care of Flashes. But again, we must care not only for the individuals in our community, but also for the continued financial health of the university so that we can educate and graduate our students not just this year, and not just for the next several years, but for generations to come.” 

If this plan doesn’t sound like “Flashes Take Care of Flashes” to you, I would say that perhaps that’s because it isn’t. President Diacon inherited a position with a 2018 base annual salary of $479,000. Total compensation for his predecessor was $600,000 in 2018 and $756,000 in 2017. That man is taking a pay cut that would likely still leave him still making over $430,000 this year in base salary alone. Further, from his comfortable perch, he’s telling university workers that the school needs to preserve reserve funds at their expense. No one said the fund needed to cover the entire shortfall, but when you have a reserve fund for events like emergencies, one would imagine you would use some of those funds in an emergency. 

Allow me to propose an alternative salary plan. President Diacon should forgo all bonus pay and take a 93.4% pay cut. His base salary would still be at least the equivalent of a full-time worker making $15 an hour, a wage nearly twice as lucrative per hour as what student workers are often paid. Cap all other administrator salaries at $93,600. This would be the equivalent of full-time hourly wages of $45 per hour, over five times what student workers are often paid hourly. The savings from these cuts should be used to halve all other pay cuts, and retain all workers scheduled to be laid off or have their job abolished. These cuts will likely prove insufficient to fund the retention of all employees, so reserve funds should be used to do so. 

Should the president instead prefer that university employees lose their jobs so Kent State can maintain its financial and academic reputation, I have an alternative proposal. Resign.