Brandeis University’s board of trustees is considering revamping its compensation policies as early as next month after an uproar over pay to its former president, Jehuda Reinharz, and other administrators.
Both alumni and faculty said they were outraged after recently learning that Reinharz has earned at least $1.2 million for part-time advisory work since stepping down as president at the end of 2010. In addition, some teachers and graduates said they had concerns about the pay Reinharz and his wife received when he was president, as well as $3 million in retirement pay given to another former Brandeis executive, Peter French.
Nearly 1,600 alumni, students, and other people with ties to Brandeis have signed a petition protesting Reinharz’s pay and asking the board to overhaul its compensation policies. Faculty representatives, meanwhile, called on the board to make changes to improve transparency, oversight, and fairness in pay.
“We are working cooperatively with the board,” said Eric Chasalow, a music professor and chair of the Faculty Senate. “We are engaged in an internal process that is going to lead to changes, but it is just too early to say what.”
Brandeis spokeswoman Ellen de Graffenreid confirmed the board is considering making changes to its compensation policies but said it is premature to discuss the details. She said the board could vote on a proposal at its next meeting in late January, but the agenda has yet to be finalized.
Brandeis is hardly the only college to face criticism over its administrative pay, which the Globe detailed in a report last month. But some said the issue is particularly resonant at Brandeis because the Waltham school has long considered social justice one of its core values.
In addition, faculty said they had no idea Jehuda Reinharz was being paid so much in 2009, a time when the school said its finances were so dire it was forced to let go dozens of staffers, suspend contributions to faculty retirement plans, and explore an aborted plan to close its campus museum and sell its art.
“We weren’t being given the full picture,” said Sarah Mead, a Brandeis music professor and member of the budget committee. “That’s one of the reasons we feel so betrayed.”
Faculty later learned that Reinharz earned $1.5 million in total compensation in 2009, making him the 11th highest paid college president in the country, according to a survey by the Chronicle of Higher Education. And that same year, the school quietly struck a deal to keep paying Reinharz as president emeritus after he stepped down at the end of 2010 to become president of the Mandel Foundation, a Cleveland philanthropy that has long given grants to Brandeis.
In 2011, Reinharz, 69, received $622,474 in salary and benefits from Brandeis — second only to Frederick Lawrence, his successor as president — and $800,000 from the Mandel Foundation, according to the institutions’ annual tax filings.
In addition, the school acknowledged for the first time on Friday that it paid Reinharz’s wife tens of thousands of dollars extra a year to assist him with his presidential duties.
Last year, Shulamit Reinharz earned $121,297 as director of the Women’s Studies Research Center and as a professor of sociology, close to the median for full professors at Brandeis.
But when her husband was president, Shulamit was given the additional title of “special assistant to the president” and received an extra $30,000 a year to help host events and raise money on top of her professorial salary, according to de Graffenreid, the Brandeis spokeswoman. In total, she earned $165,685 in 2010, well above the average for Brandeis faculty.
“That’s crazy,” said Lev Hirschhorn, a community organizer who graduated from Brandeis in 2011 and helped start the petition protesting Jehuda Reinharz’s pay.
It’s not uncommon for the spouses of college presidents to join the faculty. And some others around the country receive a modest salary to serve as host and help with fund-raising or other duties.
For instance, Clark University in Worcester reported that Jocelyne Bauduy, the wife of president David Angel, holds the title of “special assistant to the president’s office” and earned $22,043 in 2011.
But it’s unclear how often schools give faculty members a bump in pay when their spouses win a promotion to president.
Brandeis said in its tax return that Jehuda Reinharz did not set his wife’s salary, but the school did not say who did. Jack Connors, the retired advertising executive who chaired the board’s personnel committee when Jehuda Reinharz stepped down, said he suspects the board approved the stipend years earlier when Reinharz became president and Brandeis just automatically continued it.
“I never protested it,” Connors said, adding that he never checked to see what other schools did. “I thought that was the price of doing business.”
Shulamit Reinharz, 67, did not return calls or e-mail seeking comment on the arrangement.
By contrast, Brandeis said the current president’s wife, Kathy Lawrence, is unpaid, even though she also helps with fund-raising and hosting events. She also serves as a senior lecturer in the English Department and is scheduled to teach a class in the spring. (The Reinharzes do not currently teach classes, though school officials said they have other duties.)
The school also disclosed that it paid French, its former chief operating officer, $3.2 million in 2010, the year after he retired. The school said in its tax forms that the payment included $735,251 in deferred compensation (most of which previously had been disclosed) and $1.9 million because he was forced to leave his position due to a disability.
Perry Traquina, an investment executive who chairs the school’s board of trustees, did not return a call seeking comment. But he told the Brandeis community in an open letter last month that he was aware of concerns about the school’s compensation and is committed to addressing them.
“One of my highest priorities will be to ensure that all current and future executive pay packages at Brandeis are fair, motivational, and consistent with best practices,” Traquina wrote.
Mead, the member of the budget committee, said she was confident the Faculty Senate would ask questions about the pay for Shulamit Reinharz and optimistic the board and president Lawrence would improve the compensation policies.
“I am quite certain that our current administration is committed to transparency and the concept of social justice,” Mead said.Todd Wallack can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @twallack.