University President Richard Levin received a $63,723 raise last year, according to data released by the Chronicle of Higher Education last week.
The president earned a total of $778,935, including benefits, in 2005, up 8.9 percent from 2004. Last year, Levin’s salary had increased by 2.9 percent. His 2005 compensation was the second highest in the Ivy League — Jeffrey Lehman of Cornell University, the highest-paid president, made just over $1 million last year.
In 2005, the average tenured Yale professor made $145,600, less than one-fifth of Levin’s pay. The gap between what the president makes and what senior faculty make is growing: since 1997, the first year for which the Chronicle’s data are available, the average professor’s pay has grown by 39 percent while Levin’s has increased by 74 percent.
Levin declined to comment on the subject of his salary.
The president’s compensation is set by a three-member committee of Yale Corporation members, the University’s highest governing body. The committee’s current members are Roland Betts ’68, Theodore Shen ’66 and William Miller ’78. Betts and Shen could not be reached for comment, and Miller said he would not comment because he joined the committee only recently.
Although Levin’s salary has been among the top three in the Ivy League since the Chronicle began compiling data in 1997, the fact that he is the longest-serving Ivy president currently in office could help explain why he makes more than his peers, said Gaddis Smith, history professor emeritus and Yale historian. Levin’s role in shoring up Yale’s finances and programs may also be a factor, Smith said.
“Rick has certainly been an enormously successful president at a time when Yale has been doing extremely well,” he said. “I think he was selected by the Corporation as a distinguished economist who could deal with Yale’s economic problems, which were very severe in the decades before he became president.”
Chronicle journalist Julianne Basinger told the News in 2004 that the scarcity of people capable of managing a research university like Yale drives up their salaries.
“There is a belief in the academy that there is a shortage of qualified people to do this job, so boards are more willing to increase benefits to retain those people who they see as strong leaders,” Basinger said.
Levin is not the highest paid official at Yale. In 2003, the last year for which data are available, Yale’s Chief Investment Officer David Swensen GRD ’80 made $1,027,685. Several members of the School of Medicine faculty were also paid more than Levin, according to the Chronicle.
The Yale president’s salary should be taken in perspective, Smith said.
“We’ll really be in trouble when University presidents earn more than some college football coaches,” he said. “What [Levin] gets is pretty small potatoes compared to outside the academic world.”
The top-paid university chief executive in the United States was Audrey Doberstein of Wilmington College in Delaware, who made $2,746,241 last year. Dartmouth College President James Wright made the least of the Ivy presidents at $479,233.
Part of the salary paid to Cornell’s Lehman in 2005 may have been contingent on his remaining silent about the reasons for his departure at the end of the 2004-05 academic year, the Cornell Daily Sun reported in October.
According to the Chronicle, roughly 10 percent of private university presidents make more than $500,000 and five make more than $1 million.