A look at George Ross, other university presidents’ contracts

President George Ross speaks to the Board of Trustees, in the President's Conference Room, Bovee University Center, on the Campus of Central Michigan University, Mount Pleasant, Mich., December 17, 2015.
President George Ross speaks to the Board of Trustees, in the President’s Conference Room, Bovee University Center, on the Campus of Central Michigan University, Mount Pleasant, Mich., December 17, 2015.

Central Michigan University President George Ross recently received a $20,000 raise to his salary, but he receives other benefits beyond his base pay.

According to Ross’s presidential contract, signed on March 1, 2013 and which extends through July 31, 2017, it includes grants and several more compensations besides base-salary.

Additional compensations in Ross’s contract include:

  • Life, health, vision, and prescription insurance
  • Housing, housekeeping, and home maintenance
  • Utilities, telephone, computer service
  • Full-sized vehicle plus maintenance costs
  • Travel expenses for CMU-related affairs
  • Memberships to any business-related clubs or organizations

The amount spent on these compensations is not predetermined, but tangible only by the expense reports Ross is obligated to provide.

The only compensations with a specific number attached is a $10,000 annual provision for furnishings in public areas of the presidential home.

Public areas in the Ross’s home include a large living and dining areas, study, kitchen, deck, lower level meeting room, entertainment rooms, and such other areas as may be agreed to by the board and president in the future.

The use of this $10,000 does not have to be approved by the board as long as it’s being used in these areas of the home.

George Ross
George Ross

Sherry Knight, associate vice president of university communications, was asked for records of other expenditures. Previously Steven Smith, director of public relations, was contacted four times for the information by call and email.

Knight responded with a phone call informing Insider that she required an official Freedom of Information Act request. Knight said this was because getting the records would take some time and labor from university offices and employees.

CMU Insider contacted CMU’s General Counsel about obtaining copies of public records that contain information detailing all of Ross’s discretionary spending from July 1, 2014 to July 1, 2015.

This request included records of university gifts or paraphernalia purchased for university guests, records involving gifts received, records documenting travel expenses, any records related to events, activities, or programs held at residence and any additional records containing information pertaining to university reimbursements or discretionary spending, among others.

The office responded with an estimate of $239.91 required to fulfill the records request.

For comparison,  Insider sent a similar FOIA request for copies of public records of all of Western Michigan University President John Dunn’s discretionary spending from July 1, 2014 to July 1, 2015.

Insider received a response from WMU’s Freedom of Information Act Officer Carrick D. Craig asking for $965.47 to fulfill the request.

Recent base-salary increases and positive evaluation

It has been a little over a year since the  board of trustees amended Ross’s contract when he was being considered for a job at the University of Nebraska.

The board of trustees increased his salary from $371,280 to $430,000 and granted him an additional $30,000 each June as a retention bonus until the end of his contract.

On Dec. 17, 2015, the board raised  Ross’ salary to $450,000.

Board of Trustees Chair William Kanine said at a media debriefing after the last meeting the raise was based on Ross’s contributions and value.

“That salary increase is (just) a number, but it’s well-deserved. To keep a guy of his talents, we have to be competitive,” Kanine said at the debriefing. “That supports, in my opinion, what we have to do. We want to make certain that we can keep him, because he’s done a good job here.”

Ross said at the same media debriefing that his salary was justified, citing competition from other universities.

“It’s like any other position you’re in. There’s market, and in order to be competitive, you have to pay for professionals based on what the market dictates,” Ross said.

Sarah Opperman, vice chair of the board of trustees, said the most important responsibility of the board is to contract and retain the right president for the university.

Opperman said she was on the committee that selected Ross.

“I can speak from experience that good university presidents are very valuable and very marketable,” Opperman said. “What you want to do is find the very best and make sure that you keep them and compensate them commensurate with their performance, experience and tenure, and make sure it’s fair compared to other university presidents at similar universities with similar tenure.”

Knight said nationally there aren’t a lot of candidates for university presidents.

“It’s a competitive field and it’s tough to get a good president,” Knight said. “We have an excellent president.”

Opperman said the highlights of Ross’ success are enrollment management, financial management, and one of the lowest tuition increase percentages in Michigan last year. Opperman also said cooperation between faculty, staff, and students has increased since Ross has been here.

Ross has given some of his money back to CMU. For example, in 2013 Ross donated his then two percent raise for a scholarship in the music department.

Presidential contracts at other universities

Roderick j. Mcdavis is the president of Ohio University.
Roderick J. Mcdavis is the president of Ohio University.

President of Ohio University Roderick J. McDavishas’s base salary is $480,000 a year. He has been the president of OU since July 1, 2004. He has a history of donating money back to OU.

In addition to his contract, OU’s  communication and marketing department provided a spreadsheet including McDavis’ expenditures from the 2015 fiscal year.

Additional compensations in 2015:

  • $85,000 bonus
  • Financial advising costs
  • Medical, dental, and life insurance
  • $12,000 car allowance plus insurance
  • Housing, cable, utilities, insurance
  • Entertainment
  • Club membership
  • Moving expenses

In 2015 these provisions totaled $200,662 bringing the grand total of McDavis’ earnings to $660,040.

Lou Anna Kimsey Simon is the president of Michigan State University.
Lou Anna Kimsey Simon is the president of Michigan State University.

Lou Anna Kimsey Simon, president of Michigan State University, has a base salary of $750,000. Simon has been president of MSU since 2004. Michigan State is in the Big Ten Conference while Central Michigan is in the Mid-American Conference.

In 2015, Simon requested to not receive a pay raise, which the board granted in December. According to Detroit Free Press,  Simon has only accepted a pay raise twice during her time as MSU president.

Additional compensations in Simon’s contract:

  • $100,000 annual retention bonus, which Simon has often donated back to the university.
  • Life, dental, and health insurance
  • Option of housing plus maintenance
  • Utilities, phone and internet, personnel and materials for events at the house
  • A vehicle with a driver for official duties
  • Travel expenses
  • Membership to a country club, service and professional organizations
  • Entertainment

John M. Dunn, president of Western Michigan University, makes $398,240 per year. He has been president of WMU since 2007. When Dunn receives a pay raise, he reportedly donates it to student financial aid.

John Dunn is the president of Western Michigan University.
John Dunn is the president of Western Michigan University.

Additional compensations in Dunn’s contract:

  • Medical, vision, and dental insurance
  • Use of a vehicle from the university’s car pool
  • Park, athletic, and country club memberships
  • Storage costs of household goods
  • Post-employment moving allowance not to exceed $20,000.
  • Professional dues
  • Travel
  • Entertainment
  • Meeting expenses

Kelly Rocheleau contributed to this article. 


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