Petition circulates after Reinharz pay publicized
In the week after the Boston Globe published its Nov. 17 article examining the "golden parachute" phenomenon in higher education, focusing on President Emeritus Jehuda Reinharz's compensation, many members of the Brandeis community reacted with skepticism and even outrage. As of press time, a "Petition for Fair Executive Pay" at Brandeis on the website actionnetwork.org had attracted over 1,400 signatures from students, alumni, faculty, staff and others. The student representatives to the Board of Trustees also sent a letter to the chair of the board, Perry Traquina '78, with student concerns, according to a member of the Student Union executive board.
On Friday, Traquina issued a statement via BrandeisNOW in response to the Globe article and the public reaction to it.
"As Board Chair, one of my highest priorities will be to ensure that all current and future executive pay packages at Brandeis are fair, motivational and consistent with best practices," read the statement, in which Traquina also pledged to ensure that the Board's actions were consistent with "our namesake, Justice Louis D. Brandeis."
Jonathan Sussman '11, who was involved with drafting and promoting the petition, said that he was glad to see this response from the Board, but still hoped to see more action taken.
"I'm glad that the Board of Trustees understand[s] that they need to address these issues, that there is a strong concern from the student body and from alumni," he said in an interview with the Justice. "But until we see concrete change, I don't think that there's really going to be any satisfaction with those answers."
The organizers of the petition will present it to Traquina and the Board of Trustees, according to Sahar Massachi '11 MA '12, one of the drafters.
The text of the petition, which was spearheaded by Massachi and Sussman along with Lev Hirschhorn '11 and Mariel Gruszko '10, stated that "Reinharz's excessive compensation is part and parcel of a national trend of universities shifting resources away from the classroom and toward administration. Brandeis undermines its own values when it prioritizes donor relationships and institutional prestige over student access to scholarship and good stewardship of our communal resources."
The petition also made two demands: that the Board of Trustees "[i]nstitute a policy of transparency" surrounding executive compensation, and that "[t]he complete annual compensation of the highest-paid employees of the University should be no more than fifteen times the complete annual compensation of the lowest-paid full-time employee of the University."
In data Massachi collected from about 1,400 signatories, approximately 449 said they had donated to Brandeis in the past, 372 said they had volunteered for Brandeis in the past and 76 said they would help the creators of the petition "take [it] to the next level."
"It's an astounding number of signatures," said Massachi. "Consider that the way this spread was ... posting a link to the petition on Facebook. And just from those humble beginnings, we got, I think 500 or 600 signers in the first day."
On campus, Alina Pokhrel '15 and Benjamin Hill '14 are leading an effort to organize students, faculty and staff and "create a safe space" in which to share thoughts on the issues surrounding Reinharz's compensation.
Whiler there are no concrete plans as of yet, they are planning to host an open forum on campus early next semester to address this issue and "foster trust" between the various parties, Pokhrel said in an interview with the Justice.
Of the signers of the petition, 310 were current undergraduate students and 15 were current graduate students. Seventeen signatories said they were faculty members, nine were staff, 34 were parents and a combined 98 had "other" or "blank" affiliation to the University.
Alumni, however, made up by far the largest group, with a combined total of approximately 891 alumni of either graduate or undergraduate programs at Brandeis.
Massachi said that his statistics were rough because the method by which he gathered information left open the possibility of double counting people.
According to this self-reported information, 37 of the 449 who said they had donated to Brandeis graduated before 2000, with some graduating as early as 1958. Nine donors were still undergraduates, and 403 graduated between 2000 and 2013, according to the data.
Those who signed the petition were also given the option of writing a comment.
Many addressed the topic of rising tuition and considered the amount of financial aid for which Reinharz's salary could be used, while others pointed out the disparity between Reinharz's compensation and faculty and staff pay.
Still others simply quoted the University's motto, "truth: even unto its innermost parts." A few signatories wrote that "Justice Brandeis is rolling in his grave," and pointed to the University's mission of social justice as their motivation to sign.
Several commenters stated that they would not donate to the University after learning of Reinharz's compensation package, or were discouraged from making a contribution.
When asked about the involvement of recent alumni in the petition, Massachi said that "people of that generation just saw it really clearly," referring to the students who were here during the financial crisis. "Jehuda was the same guy who told us we had no choice but to, you know, admit a lot more students, be more cramped, have ... less professors and just change as a university."
"We think this is really significant because ... if [Brandeis is] going to survive, it needs to have a strong base among students who have graduated very recently to contribute to the University both monetarily and just socially and culturally to keep the University alive," said Sussman when asked about the involvement of young alumni. "So we think it shows a real crisis for the University that the most recent generation of alumni are very concerned about its direction."