Ohio State University gives its leader $358,848 pay bump


COLUMBUS — Ohio State trustees on Friday gave President E. Gordon Gee a 3 percent pay raise worth $25,036 and a $333,812 bonus for working to increase student graduation rates and bringing in billions of dollars through fund-raising and new public-private partnerships.

“In a turbulent time period for higher education, in which many universities are being forced to make many difficult sacrifices, this university has thrived,” said trustee Alex Shumate, who oversaw the board committee that wrote Mr. Gee’s evaluation.

Mr. Shumate said Mr. Gee far exceeded the board’s expectations and was described by many as a bold, charismatic, and visionary leader. Others praised him for hiring a strong leadership team.

The raise will bump Mr. Gee’s base salary to $859,566. The increase mirrors the overall percentage given to OSU’s faculty and staff members this year.

With deferred compensation of $225,000 and retirement benefits worth $726,768, Mr. Gee’s total compensation this year is worth a little more than $2.1 million.

Mr. Gee has topped The Chronicle of Higher Education’s executive-pay survey of public-college presidents since returning to Ohio State in 2007, which hasn’t seemed to bother trustees who say he is evaluated on strict performance measures and has earned the money.

“Our football team is 10 and 0,” board Chairman Robert H. Schottenstein said. “We want to be 10 and 0 in everything, and President Gee, you’re helping make it happen.”

Mr. Gee has given back some of his compensation for student scholarships. He’ll do that again, university spokesman Shelly Hoffman said, though it’s unclear how much he’ll contribute.

His bonuses are paid out of a donor-funded account rather than tuition and fees or state support.

Mr. Gee thanked the board and said that a university is only as good as its board, faculty, staff, and students.

Earlier in the board meeting, a group of about a dozen students confronted Mr. Gee to say that Ohio State shouldn’t consider the Dallas Cowboys’ Silver Star Merchandising as a leading candidate to handle its apparel licensing.

The students said the firm relies on sweatshop labor and accused Mr. Gee of not caring about workers’ rights.

“So far, the university has turned a blind eye to the issue and is looking at this contract only for profit,” said Robert Battista, one of the organizers.

Mr. Gee told the students he was tired of their guerrilla-warfare tactics of trying to ambush him at his home, office, and on campus.

The board praised him for seeking revenue opportunities, including leasing OSU’s $28-million-a-year parking operation to private investors for the next 50 years for $483 million. OSU also issued $500 million in 100-year, interest-only bonds in a first-of-its-kind move for the school to finance building projects.

Trustees lauded Mr. Gee for pushing to require sophomores to live on campus by 2015 and helping to create a “second-year experience” program that will link students to faculty “fellows” and staff members for academic support, career exploration, and leadership opportunities. They also will be eligible for a $2,000 stipend to help with study abroad, an unpaid internship, or research assistantship.

The trustees listed four areas that Mr. Gee needed to improve:

● Creating measurable benchmarks for academic programs.

● Creating a strategy to address potential cuts in Medicare and other funding to the medical center.

● Making sure his senior leadership team is efficient and effective.

● Identifying the next generation of OSU leaders.