Taking Notes: Eye on Education – Golden Retirement Handshake Not Only For Politicians

Taking Notes: Eye on Education – Golden Retirement Handshake Not Only For Politicians

This column focuses on a wide range of issues affecting post-secondary students. Students are encouraged to submit suggestions and educational topics they are concerned about, or personal experiences with courses or university situations they feel other students should know about. If suggest a topic or a course alert for taking notes, contact djabbour@ausu.org


Outgoing University of Alberta President Rod Fraser will be enjoying a hefty golden handshake once he leaves the university on June 30, 2005. Over the next two years, Dr. Fraser will receive between $310,000 and $370,000 each year as part of his administrative leave policy. Apparently, this sum is not unusual and well within the realm of what is acceptable for a university president upon retirement. Both the U of A Students’ Union President and the Negotiator for Academic Faculty Salary expressed no concern with the package, stating that it was “the name of the game,” though the institution is under financial pressure from decreased government funding.

Fraser has been president for 10 years without a break between terms and is entitled to one year’s leave on full salary for every five years of service. This totals some $620,000 to $740,000, plus benefits worth 18 percent of each year’s salary. University of B.C.’s Martha Piper has a similar deal worth $700,000, receiving full presidential salary for two years, even though she is leaving prior to her 10-year anniversary.

Administrative leaves were originally conceived as a way to help academics return to teaching and research after working as an administrator. Some believe, however, that these sabbaticals are becoming a “no strings attached” leave for highly-paid presidents heading into retirement or using the opportunity to land other job.” Critics question the appropriateness of such generous retirement packages when universities are strapped for cash and cutting corners in other essential areas. Others defend the golden handshakes as appropriate to the new university as a corporation marketplace, noting that presidents and those in upper administration are subject to a great deal of wear and tear as they are expected to run the university like a corporation, remaining competitive and receiving bonuses for successful fundraising.

I believe U of A’s Fraser must be looking forward to two years of salary after retirement. U of A’s leave policy will put up to $740,000 into the president’s pocket.

Jodie Sinnema, with files from Sarah Schmidt, CanWest NewsService
The Edmonton Journal; with files from CanWest News Service. April 21, 2005