Daily Egyptian

Letter to the editor: As budget crisis builds, administrators prosper

Glenn Poshard shakes the hand of his successor, SIU President Randy Dunn on April 30 when the two met to discuss key university issues at the Stone Center. Dunn toured both the Edwardsville and Carbondale campuses the next day. (DailyEgyptian.com file photo)

Glenn Poshard shakes the hand of his successor, SIU President Randy Dunn on April 30 when the two met to discuss key university issues at the Stone Center. Dunn toured both the Edwardsville and Carbondale campuses the next day. (DailyEgyptian.com file photo)

By Andrew Gillespie

More than half of the state’s $4.1 billion budget for universities is spent on retirement costs, according to a study by the Illinois Policy Institute. A large share of these benefits are going to those who have served, and perhaps even to some who are still serving, as administrators at state universities.

Although it may not be well-known, a significant portion of administrators’ salaries are awarded in perpetuity after they leave their position and it is possible for administrators to collect large pensions at the same time that they are drawing high salaries in their administrative positions.

Beyond this, high level administrators often receive lavish perks and other underreported forms of compensation.

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Let’s look at the example of adviser to Gov. Bruce Rauner and former SIU president Glenn Poshard. Poshard was able to draw a six-figure pension, mostly from the state, in addition to his salary while serving as SIU president.

He retired as president of SIU in June of 2014. Yet, the Better Government Association found that by November of 2014, Poshard had already collected over $1.4 million in state pension benefits. It also found that his yearly state pension benefits exceeded the governor’s salary, and that his state pension benefits would exceed $280,000 a year if he lives past 80.

A separate study by the Illinois State Senate Democratic Caucus recently found that SIU paid about $30,000 a year in addition to Poshard’s published $326,820 salary for an annuity in his name. The BGA reported that Poshard’s annuity was actually paid in the amount of $55,066 a year.

Enter current SIU president Randy Dunn. Dunn has served the state for 27 years and he will conclude, retiring from the presidency at SIU, having earned an annual salary of $430,000. This will allow him to earn a large state pension, which is based on a high percentage of this salary.

Dunn is actually an expert on the state pension system: in 2004 Gov. Rod Blagojevich tapped Dunn to serve as the president of a $31 billion Illinois pension program, the Teachers’ Retirement System of Illinois.

Before coming to SIU, Dunn was president of Youngstown State University in Ohio for just seven months. His position at YSU had a number of perks in addition to his advertised salary of $375,000: use of a new car and all associated costs, free housing in a newly remodeled home, along with utilities and bills, travel and entertainment expenses and a country club membership.

One can only assume that Dunn left YSU for a better situation here at SIU. One aspect of this must have been the state pension benefits — from the system he helped design — he would reap from the Illinois system.

Considering the massive pensions that will have followed in their train, one can only hope that these last two SIU presidents were some of Illinois’ most expensive hires.

Regardless, our administrators are being compensated very well and executive compensation for administrators is certainly a fundamental aspect of the state’s — and the university’s — budget crisis.

However, it’s one issue that has hardly been brought into focus by the administration itself during these tough times.

Andrew Gillespie is a graduate student in philosophy from Alton

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