Todd’s bonus counterintuitive during state’s tight budget

Guest Column by Taylor Shelton

Just in case you missed it, UK President Lee Todd will be receiving a $145,500 bonus this year. Yes, that number is nearly half of his annual base salary of $304,010 — the man just increased his 2007-08 income by 50 percent. Is this a bit outrageous? Simply put, yes.

But what compounds this already sticky situation is the fact that Todd is being given such a large bonus in the same year that the Commonwealth is facing a $400 million-plus deficit and the university has frozen all faculty and staff salaries.

Perhaps it is youthful naiveté, but it seems counterintuitive that while Todd expresses his disdain for the state budget that cut university funding, thus meaning fewer faculty and staff positions that generate revenue and notoriety for the school, he takes a larger share of the pie than he deserves.

Sure, Todd was evaluated by the Board of Trustees and found to have achieved peak performance worthy of a bonus. But, in this case and others, criticism for the Board of Trustees is as equally deserved as  the criticism is for Todd.

And to give some amount of credit where it is due, Todd has pledged to give $50,000 of his approved bonus back to campus programs this year — dedicated to some underserved areas of campus such as fine arts and research on violence against women. Such generosity and benevolence should be applauded.

But accepting such a large bonus, on top of an already large base salary, reeks of excess and hypocrisy. If Todd, for whatever reason, cannot make ends meet on his $300,000 salary without this bonus, I would suggest that he learn to tighten his financial belt in the same way that most students and employees of the university and state are being forced to do.

Many will underestimate how far $95,500 could go at this university. Perhaps the money could be used to fund the sustainability coordinator position, one that Todd promised would be filled by August 2007, which has yet to even be posted — largely due to the current financial constraints. And while that is simply my bias on how the money would be spent if it were up to me, it could just as easily be spent on a year’s salary for two or three entry-level professors, scholarships for numerous students who otherwise would be forced into taking out loans to pay for their educations, or some other underserved area of campus — perhaps the Hospital Hospitality House which has been on the verge of closing for some time now due to lack of monetary support.

The impact of this relatively small amount of money could reach into all corners of campus. It could have meant the difference between summer classes being canceled for some students (myself included), years of paying back debts, or being forced to uproot and take talents and allegiances out of state because the homegrown opportunities are few and far between for many.

President Todd, if you truly want to make the University of Kentucky the best place it possibly can be, please donate the entirety of your $145,500 bonus this year back to the university. Frankly, you don’t need it. Someone else does.