Lefton: I won’t take a pay cut

Nicole Stempak

Trustees set compensation level

It’s a decision President Lester Lefton said he will not volunteer to make.

“I have no intention of taking a voluntary pay reduction,” he said.

Lefton’s salary is set each year by the Board of Trustees. Lefton provides a list of proposed goals and objectives beginning Sept. 1. On or before May 1, Lefton then submits a self-appraisal of the year’s performance, which is then reviewed by the board.

Each year, all trustees complete an evaluation survey. Every other year, the board seeks broader input from Faculty Senate leaders and members of the president’s cabinet. This is not one of those years.

According to his contract, the president is eligible for an annual performance bonus that is determined by the board, up to a maximum of 20 percent of the president’s base salary.

A raise or performance bonus has to be formally approved by the board at a board meeting, Chair Patrick Mullin said. He would not comment on whether he thought Lefton would get a raise or bonus.

“I’m not at a position to say one way or the other,” he said. “That’s a decision of the board.”

Last May, the board granted Lefton a $73,500 performance bonus and a 3 percent raise, bringing his annual salary to $378,525. The bonus was the maximum 20 percent.

“The truth is, boards of trustees set the compensation level of presidents,” Lefton said. “They live in a marketplace. They reward excellence, and they are fully versed in what presidents around the country (and) around the state pay.”

Lefton said he didn’t have any feeling about presidents taking pay cuts, but if they want to do that, then go ahead.

“The reality is there are a few presidents around the country who are making symbolic big gestures like this,” he said. “They make a lot of news.

“Everyone says, ‘Oh, isn’t this wonderful?’ I don’t know how wonderful it is. It doesn’t affect anything. It’s more symbolic than anything else.”

Lefton said last year, he gave about $7,000 to scholarship funds at the university. It was his voluntary choice, and he said this could be compared to taking a pay cut.

Two presidents in Ohio have recently announced they would take voluntary pay reductions.

Dr. Lois Margaret Nora, president and dean of the College of Medicine at the Northeastern Ohio Universities Colleges of Medicine and Pharmacy, announced in December she would return one month’s salary, $26,666, to NEOUCOM for student scholarships and academic support.

In November, NEOUCOM announced it canceled a series of salary increases set for January 2009 and limited hiring to only those jobs that are time-sensitive and mission critical.

“A leader looks at the organization within the context of the organization and time, not related to me,” Nora said, explaining her decision was based on what was happening at a state and national level, as well as within NEOUCOM.

In April, Hiram College President Tom Chema announced that he and the four vice presidents would take a 5 percent pay cut. A college-wide hiring freeze is also in effect.

Tim Bryan, vice president for institutional advancement at Hiram, said the pay cut was a direct result of the economy and the responsible thing to do from a leadership perspective.

“Simply put, it’s the right thing to do for us to show the community that that they knew we were not immune, and if anyone was going to take less pay, it was going to start at the top,” Bryan said.

Contact administration reporter Nicole Stempak at [email protected].