Article Discussing President Joel’s Salary Creates Questions, Controversy

A recent report, published in The Chronicle of Higher Education, indicating that President Joel has received a 56% pay increase in the 2008-2009 fiscal year and now earns one of the twelve highest salaries among university presidents, has created quite a stir in the Jewish blogosphere. Writers on a variety of Jewish websites, including YUTopia, Matzav, and the Institute for Jewish Ideas and Ideals, have joined in the conversation, discussing whether such a raise is deserved, or even appropriate, in light of YU’s recent deficits, budget cuts, and layoffs.

The article, entitled “Compensation of 30 Private-College Presidents Topped $1-Million in 2008,” included a table listing those university presidents who earned more than 1 million dollars in compensation in the 2008-2009 fiscal year. According to this table, President Joel was the twelfth highest earning university president in the United States, with a compensation package totaling $1,211,429.

The Chronicle’s methodology included benefits in its calculations to determine total compensation, adding the value of benefits such as health insurance and housing to the presidents’ base salary. According to this report, President Joel’s salary ranked well above that of university presidents at many other top ranked universities, including Brandeis and Harvard. While it was comparable to that of other New York university presidents, such as the presidents of Columbia and New York University, it far outstripped those of presidents of other religious universities, some of whom earned as little as 9,000 dollars annually.

The Chronicle’s report has created controversy within the Jewish (and non-Jewish) blogosphere. A article suggested that such a salary “seems to undermine the idea of social-mindedness.” An article published on Rabbi Marc Angel’s blog, the Institute for Jewish Ideas and Ideals, argued that although it is necessary for employees to receive fair compensation for their work, an annual salary of several hundred thousand dollars more than the president of the United States may be viewed as, at the least, excessive for the president of a Jewish university.

Not all bloggers, however, view President Joel’s salary as excessive or inappropriate. Rabbi Josh Yuter, a well known blogger and RIETS graduate, noted the necessity to realize that compensation packages are generally determined years in advance, and that President Joel’s compensation increase may have been worked into his contract when he first came to Yeshiva University, before the Madoff scandal, recession, deficits, and layoffs hit.

The controversy surrounding President Joel’s salary was only compounded by an article published in the popular Jewish daily, The Forward, which discussed layoffs and salary cuts among leaders in Jewish non-profits.. The article, “As Layoffs Mount, Which Jewish Executives Shared the Pain?” contained a chart listing 21 of the most prominent Jewish organizations whose employees have been subject to layoffs in the past year. The chart listed the name of the organization, the number of employees laid off, the organization head’s salary, and whether and to what extent that executive had taken a pay cut once layoffs began.

Yeshiva University topped the chart with 60 layoffs, the second highest number of layoffs of any Jewish non-profit organization. (Hadassah was first, with 80 layoffs.) Yeshiva University also topped the charts in terms of executive salary: President Richard Joel was listed as having a salary of $676,004 a year, 100,000 more than any other executive on the list. Next to his salary, the chart indicated that Richard Joel had not received any pay reduction since layoffs began. Nine of the 21 organizations surveyed reported that their executives had received pay cuts in response to recent lay-offs.

Naomi Gofine contributed to this article.

In News. Tagged budget, President Joel, salary.