On Nov. 5, the News reported that Linda Lorimer, the vice president for global and strategic initiatives, made nearly $1.75 million in 2012, and University General Counsel Dorothy Robinson made $1.67 million that same year. Then-President Richard Levin took home $1.84 million. Two officials in the Investments Office each earned over $2 million. Another five administrators made more than $1 million apiece.
That same day the News also reported that, though Yale is now boasting a $51 million surplus, “administrators and faculty members interviewed expected Yale’s current cost cutting measures — issued after Yale’s $39 million deficit in 2013 — to remain unchanged.”
The contrast between this report and the administrators’ salaries struck me, and many others with whom I spoke, as outrageous at best, offensive at worst. As my suitemate Tayo Ajayi ’15, who brought the contrast to my attention, told me, “I just find it difficult to believe that [Lorimer] is that irreplaceable.”
Following the 2008 financial crisis, Yale experienced a $350 million deficit. Cuts were made. Between 2008 and 2010, according to the Yale Alumni Magazine, 920 staff positions were “eliminated for budgetary reasons.” Tuition rose. Hiring ceased for ladder faculty.
In 2012, the year that top administrators were raking in the dough, the number of ladder faculty fell to 682, down from 700 in 2010. In some departments, the administration still hasn’t bothered to hire enough new professors. “[The administration] never said there was a hiring freeze, but they certainly slowed down hiring,” History Department Chair Naomi Lamoreaux told the News last month. “There have been a lot of vacancies they haven’t filled.”
Circumstances are, obviously, even more dire for staff members. Huge layoffs have been a fact of life for Local 34 since 2008, and members of Local 35 (who have a no-layoff clause in their contract) still report the University will sometimes “go around and get us out the back door,” as Local 35 Community Vice President Frank Douglass told the News in March.
“The administration has overlooked the impact of the cuts on people’s lives,” Laurie Kennington, president of Local 34, told me in an email.
In November 2013, Provost Benjamin Polak told the News that layoffs over the next three to five years were likely. “It won’t be pain-free,” he said. In 2012, the provost made $643,317.
And circumstances remain dire for students. The administration still won’t recognize the Graduate Employees and Students Organization, which would allow graduate students to negotiate for better pay for their labor. On the undergraduate side, since the 2008–09 school year, the student contribution for students on financial aid has increased 34 percent (from $2,500 to $3,350). Over that same period, the cost of tuition, room and board has risen by 37 percent (from $46,000 to $63,000). Last year, citing budgetary concerns, the administration made it harder for students not on aid to hold a term-time job.
The only people whose pocketbooks were not affected in any meaningful way by the financial crisis, apparently, are top administrators, many of whom make in the high six or low seven figures. From 2008 (the year of the crash) to 2012, Levin’s salary grew from $1.53 to $1.84 million, rising every year, with the exception of a negligible fall from 2009 to 2010.
In 2010, professor Joel Rosenbaum wrote a column calling for administrators to cap their salaries at $500,000 “until the economic situation improves.” A month later, Rosenbaum told the News, “I don’t think there are enough hours in a single day … to warrant that kind of salary.” As long as administrators continue to act as if we’re in a crisis, they should adopt Rosenbaum’s suggestion.
The University claims that Lorimer and Robinson’s pay were so high because of one-time distributions in recognition of their service to the University. “It was fitting recognition of their careers at Yale,” Roland Betts, a former senior fellow of the Yale Corporation, told the News.
How many other hard-working Yale employees have received such generous recognition?
I don’t doubt that Lorimer and Robinson, and, for that matter, Levin and Salovey, are genuinely — perhaps extraordinarily — devoted to Yale. I don’t doubt that they’re hardworking. I wouldn’t resent them a decent, reasonable compensation. However, the money they have received — especially in light of all of the university’s austerity measures — is absurd.
I don’t care what (adopt hushed tone) “the market” would pay them out in “the real world.” They’re here. They are employees of a non-profit organization dedicated to research and teaching. If they are so devoted, maybe they should act like it.
I’m calling on President Levin, Vice President Lorimer, Chief Investment Officer David Swensen and others to donate the massive bonuses back to Yale. I’m also calling on administrators to follow Rosenbaum’s suggestion and cap their salaries at $500,000 until the layoffs have ceased, until the graduate student union is recognized and until hiring is back to normal.
For Yale’s top administrators to keep making this much money, while forcing austerity measures on the rest of us, would be unconscionable.
Scott Stern is a senior in Branford College. His columns run on Mondays. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.