Joel Announces $100,000 Personal Salary Decrease, Other Cuts Across the University

On Tuesday, December 10, President Joel announced the first steps of the administration’s plan to balance the budget. In a letter to the faculty of Yeshiva University, President Joel outlined sweeping changes that will begin immediately. Budget cuts were first alluded to in a November 20 letter sent to faculty and alumni. Neither letter was sent to students.

Shortly before Thanksgiving break, an emergency meeting of the Board of Trustees decided to implement a freeze of senior administrators’ salaries, a freeze on hiring, and a freeze of the employee retirement plan. As many had anticipated, President Joel also announced that YU would be cutting non-essential programming and selling real estate. In a faculty meeting held on Tuesday, December 10, Vice President Joshua Joseph announced that YU would be selling eleven properties on the Wilf uptown campus.

As his own contribution to reducing the deficit, President Joel announced in the letter that—after four years of pressure from students, faculty members, and outside media—he would decrease his salary by $100,000 for “the foreseeable future.”

For many faculty members, however, President Joel’s salary cut is “too little, too late,” as one long-time professor told The Commentator. In the last four years, while faculty and employees suffered under salary freezes, President Joel’s salary increased. According to 990 tax forms available online, the President earned $732,143 in base compensation in 2009 (this number does not include “other compensation,” “deferred compensation,” and “nontaxable benefits”). In 2010, he earned $848,176 and in 2011, he earned $879,821. According to The Journal of Higher Education, President Joel is among the top twenty highest earning university officials in the nation.

The income disparity between top administrators and faculty is not limited to the office of the President. In 2011, Daniel Forman, then Vice President for Development, earned over $800,000 in salary and benefits. Provost Lowengrub earned over $450,000 and former Chancellor Lamm earned over $500,000 in total compensation. The highest paid employee of Yeshiva University was Allen Spiegel, Dean of Einstein. He earned over $1.2 million dollars in 2011.

According to the December 10 letter, senior administrators will not receive raises over the coming year.

While some senior administrators enjoyed salary increases during the recession, faculty suffered salary and retirement benefit freezes. Before 2010, the university would match employee retirement plan contributions up to a maximum of seven percent. After the recession, President Joel announced a sweeping reduction in the university’s maximum contribution, capping the matching funds at just two percent. He promised to end the cap last year. However, in the recent letter, President Joel announced a deferral of the promised raise to the University’s retirement plan for employees.

For YU faculty nearing retirement, the continued reduction in pension-matching has cost them tens of thousands of dollars in lost retirement funds. Money that could have been saved and then doubled by YU in preparation for retirement has instead gone unmatched for two years. Some professors estimate that their effective losses between 2009 and 2013 amount to a 13.5 percent reduction in pay. These losses are irremediable since the amount an individual can save in the 403b (U.S. tax-advantaged retirement savings plan for education organizations) each year has a limit that does not include the employer’s match.

Last year, The Commentator disclosed the results of a 2012 Yeshiva University survey of faculty members showing that, as a result of the recession and retirement cuts, faculty have delayed retirement by an average of 1.5 years.

“The University’s matching contributions to our retirement savings were a guaranteed part of our compensation,” a member of the faculty council told The Commentator in an email. “Now it turns out that the University’s administrators regard the faculty’s retirement benefits as a source of ready cash they can tap at will to pay for their mistakes and mismanagement.”

In a May 2012 letter signed by over twenty key professors of YU’s Faculty Council—including YC’s Carl Feit, Gabriel Cwilich, Paula Geyh, Joanne Jacobson, and William Stenhouse—faculty protested the “breach of trust” between themselves and upper-level administration. The cuts, the letter claimed, would “extend far beyond faculty morale.” Their letter pointed to “rapidly deteriorating” academic departments and programs, “dwindling” course offerings, “rising” faculty-to-student ratios, and a greater reliance on adjunct faculty.

Two weeks ago, the faculty council published an open letter to the entire faculty and administration reiterating their concerns with the substantial deficit and with the toll salary cuts wreak on the academic health of the university. They also protested the lack of transparency within the upper levels of the school’s administration.

In the recent letter, President Joel promised to craft “a new strategic plan through the efforts of deans, faculty, administrators, and trustees, while structuring a sound business plan to support it.”

President Joel concluded the recent letter introducing a new two-year Speech Pathology Master of Science program, tied to Einstein Medical School. The program will begin in fall of 2014.

Correction: The Commentator apologizes for suggesting that both Vice President Joshua Joseph and Vice President for University and Community Life and Dean of the CJF Kenneth Brander received a salary increases over the summer. Despite offers from outside organizations, both administrators committed to YU–and took on additional commitments–without salary increases.