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Published: Thursday, 9/4/2003

Pay raises at Owens spark some complaints

Recent salary increases for administrators were a recurring source of concern for town hall meeting participants yesterday at Owens Community College.

With student tuition up and state funding down, the raises sent a poor message to others at the college, said Derm Forde, coordinator of student activities.

The college's board of trustees approved a $25,500 increase in perks in August for President Christa Adams, whose annual salary is $189,280. Several top officials also received increases in salary and perks.

“I think the issue of pay raises for people who already make a lot of money, the timing was atrocious,” Mr. Forde said. He asked the crowd of about 150 people, “If I'm wrong, I want someone to stand up and stop me now.”

The audience responded by applauding, and some stood up clapping.

Town hall meetings at Owens are led by the president and offer a chance for anyone to ask questions. There were several presentations and updates by administrators as well.

Questioners touched on a number of topics, including parking and the decision not to renew a contract allowing a blind merchant to operate vending services. But questioners returned to the issue of the pay hikes.

“It seems to me that we're hearing the administration talk out of both sides of its mouth,” said Lynn Hoehn, an intramural and fitness specialist.

She said despite budget cuts and tuition increases, one trustee said Owens could afford the salary increases because enrollment growth has helped keep the college financially solid.

Dr. Adams' responses regarding the salary increases tended to be relatively brief.

“You make excellent points,” she told Ms. Hoehn.

After an earlier question, she said the trustees are concerned about succession planning and approved the raises after comparing salaries at similar colleges.

Overall, Dr. Adams said she was pleased at the interaction during the session. “Our job is to work through ... challenges together, and I celebrate that,” she said.

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