Education News – Ontario presidents? contracts made public

Contracts reveal big perks for post-secondary elites

WATERLOO (CUP) — In accordance with the Freedom of Information Act, the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario has declared that the full employment details of university presidents across the province must be made public?a decision that has sparked controversy on some campuses.

The release of these documents follows a two-year battle between Hamilton’s daily newspaper, The Spectator, and McMaster University over the contract of the school’s president, Peter George.

Though McMaster’s administration initially planned on appealing the decision, which ordered the university to release the contract, they changed their mind in late June and decided to comply.

Kevin Crowley, the director of news and editorial services at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario, explained that after the full employment disclosure was granted at McMaster, The Spectator approached the other institutions in the province and asked for their presidents? contracts.

?Laurier decided we wanted to be as transparent as possible?those are the rules?so we provided [Laurier President Max] Blouw’s contact to The Spectator,? said Crowley.

Though the issue has garnered a lot of national media attention in the past few weeks, Crowley noted that Wilfrid Laurier in particular hasn’t received much community feedback since they released Blouw’s employment details.

?To be honest, we haven’t had any reaction to it,? said Crowley. ?To compare Blouw’s contract to others in Ontario, he has a competitive one, but . . . if you compare it to the others, It’s very reasonable.”

Blouw’s earns $300,000 a year, which is less than the region’s other two post-secondary presidents.

University of Waterloo president David Johnston’s annual salary is $458,500, and John Tibbits, president of Conestoga College, makes $310,500 annually.

However, one presidential contract in particular that has come under great scrutiny is that of McMaster’s George, which is what prompted the Freedom of Information request in August of 2006.

Last year George made $504,792 (the highest university president salary in Ontario) and is also set to receive a special payout of $1.4 million to be paid over 14 years, plus a $320,000 annual pension (not including benefits) when he retires.

Aside from high base salaries, the contracts have revealed that presidents are typically entitled to many perks, such as large performance bonuses, interest-free loans, and regular paycheques even after they retire.

In Blouw’s case, his extras include a $50,000 signing bonus, an annual housing allowance of $18,000, a $9,600 yearly vehicle allowance, and a membership to Westmount Golf and Country Club.

Laurier also picked up the tab for all of Blouw’s moving expenses, as well as his legal and real estate fees when he moved to Waterloo from British Columbia this past summer.

At the end of his five-year term Blouw is eligible for one year of paid leave and is entitled to five weeks of vacation yearly.

Crowley attributes these employment terms to the high skill level required to operate a university.

?There are very few positions that require you to have such a set of skills,? said Crowley, adding that that universities need to stay competitive to attract such individuals.

?Those people are hard to come by.?

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