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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Trustees Jack UMass – Editorial 5/13/04

The Board of Trustees’ decision to raise Jack Wilson’s salary by $91 thousand to $400,000 was inappropriate and insensitive to the majority of people who work hard to make UMass a great institution.

At a time when UMass students and workers are burdened by deep budget cuts, our leadership is not demonstrating a willingness to take responsibility and share some of the sacrifice and hardship. This raise will be hard to justify to students who are in danger of being squeezed out of the higher education system because of rising costs.

The Trustees argue this pay raise is rooted in a policy to maintain UMass’ competitiveness with other public higher education institutions. A commitment to maintaining UMass’ prestige is important, but this argument would make more sense if the Trustees had raised the president’s salary before a “national” search for Bulger’s replacement.

Wilson was hired less than two months ago at $309,000, with an additional $29,000 in allowances for housing and other benefits. Was Wilson unsatisfied with the rate at which he was hired? If a salary increase was discussed during the process of selecting a candidate for the position then so be it. But the Board of Trustees has not expressed that this was the case.

Over 400 workers at UMass Boston represented by SEIU 888 have not been granted a raise in three years. Many of these workers have devoted their lives to this institution. One worker commented, “I’ve been here over 20 years. How long has he been here?”

Jack Wilson should not receive a raise of this magnitude until he proves himself worthy of one. Billy Bulger raised almost $5 billion a year for UMass, an unprecedented amount. A raise for Wilson would be easier to sell to the public had Wilson been given some time to prove that he is an effective fundraiser and leader.

UMass is a great institution because of a devotion to excellence demonstrated by thousands of students, teachers, and workers – not just because of a high profile president. According to the Chairwoman of the Board of Trustees Grace Fey, Bulger refused offers for a pay raise during the worst of the budget crisis. It would be a symbolic gesture to those who have suffered the most from budget cuts if Wilson did the same. Ultimitely, the decision made by the Board of Trustees reflects a misguided attitude towards public higher education.