Posted at 5 p.m. Oct. 19, 2016

College administrators should make more sense,
not cents

Raises raise questions about leadership, loyalty

“...That $22,500 is another chunk of money that must be accounted for in the budget cuts.”

It is no secret that Laramie County Community College has hit hard economic times. When those hard times hit, there are two ways for an institution to react.

The first is to react the way a family would react: Limit expenses that will impact each family member equally, and if that does not work, then the heads of the family generally sacrifice for the sake of the rest of the family.

The second option is to react like a business: Cut from the bottom – in this case, the programs that bring the school the least revenue – while leaving the leadership untouched, presumably because the leadership knows what is best for business.

Recent reports of the president and two vice presidents receiving substantial raises has made it very clear that LCCC is not a family. It is a business.

On Sept. 11, Wyoming Tribune Eagle journalist Kristine Galloway reported that President Dr. Joe Schaffer accepted a 4 percent raise, a $7,500-a-year increase that is mandated as part of his contract. His annual salary is now $197,500.

Terry Harper, current interim vice president of academic affairs, accepted a 4 percent raise, which totaled $5,000 more a year. Her annual salary is now $133,000. The highest raise went to Judy Hay, vice president of student services, who received an 8 percent raise, which gives her an additional $10,137 a year. Her salary is now $136,852.

The raises to the two vice presidents were not part of a contractual mandate. For Hay, the large raise was made to keep her from jumping to a new Wyoming community college, Schaffer told the Tribune Eagle. In Harper’s case, she is serving a second year as the interim vice president of Academic Affairs after LCCC failed to find a permanent replacement over the summer. Schaffer told the Tribune Eagle that he agreed to her raise as part of the negotiation to have her serve a second year in the job.

The angle that Schaffer and Ed Mosher, the chairman of the LCCC Board of Trustees, has put on the Tribune Eagle report requires some further examination.

First, there is the assertion that Schaffer’s salary is not at the top of list for Wyoming community college presidents. Mosher told the Tribune Eagle that Schaffer’s salary falls in the middle for Wyoming community college presidents. Schaffer himself, in an interview with Wingspan, said “The last analysis I did, I was at the bottom portion of it.”

Wingspan reported in November 2015 that Schaffer’s salary, then $190,000 per year, was the same as Casper College president Darren Divine and only $460 behind Central Wyoming College president Cristobal Valdez. Where Schaffer falls behind is in housing and car allowances. Wingspan reported in November that Schaffer earned a combined $19,800 for car and housing. Valdez earns $27,600 for his car and housing allowances, while the president of the Northern Wyoming Community College District (serving Sheridan and Gillette colleges) receives just over $30,000.

Based on combined salary and allowance numbers from last year, Schaffer earned $209,800, which does put him behind presidents at Central and Northern Wyoming. Devine’s salary at Casper College is hard to pin down, as his housing is paid for by his college’s foundation division. His salary and car allowance total put him at $197,800.

To suggest that Schaffer is somehow “at the bottom portion” is an argument in semantics. The American Association of Community Colleges found the average salary for presidents of a multi-campus community college was $205,329 in base salary and $215,685 in total compensation. By that measure, Schaffer is slightly below the national average. And keep in mind that the national average includes college campuses with student populations much larger than LCCC’s.

Second, there’s the assertion that once the money is awarded it can’t be returned. Schaffer and Mosher said they were not sure if it would have been possible for the president to refuse the raise.

Tara Nethercott of Woodhouse Roden Nethercott LLC, which provides legal counsel to LCCC, said in the Tribune Eagle report, “Dr. Schaffer is in a legally binding contract, and the trustees are in a legally binding contract with each other regarding his employment, and there are terms. So both parties in the contract have to honor those terms.”

But there are numerous cases where during hard economic times, college presidents refused raises and some donated the money back to their respective schools as well.

In December 2015, the Detroit Free Press reported that Michigan State University President Lou Anna K. Simon has refused her raise for eight of the last 10 years. In June 2015, the Orlando Sentinel reported that Sandy Shugart, the president of Valencia College, refused a 15.6 percent raise and argued it down to a smaller 3.75 percent raise. In June 2015, the Wichita Eagle reported that after the Kansas Board of Regents approved a statewide 2 percent increase for university presidents, the Wichita State, Kansas State, Pittsburg State and Fort Hays State presidents said they were going to decline the raise or donate the money back to their respective schools. And in June 2015, WCPO.com reported that University of Cincinnati President Santo Ono refused a bonus for the third year in a row and also refused a raise to his base salary of $520,000.

Even if the board is in full agreement with Nethercott’s assertion that the contract terms must be honored, there are other avenues for administrators to return a raise. Schaffer could donate his raise to the Foundation, for example.

In total, the raises given to Schaffer, Harper and Hay come up to about $22,500. That might not seem like much compared to the $2.5 million that needs to be cut in 2017 or the $4.5 million in 2018. But that $22,500 is another chunk of money that must be accounted for in the budget cuts. It could represent a sizeable percentage of an employee’s salary. It could be used to pay for part-time student salaries. It could fund important renovations that would otherwise be put on hold.

If LCCC were managed like a family, Schaffer, Harper and Hay would donate their salaries back to the College as a show of support and solidarity.

But the administration has already made it clear that LCCC is a business. And in business, those at the top get the money while those at the bottom find themselves hit the hardest.

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