Broward president's sabbatical pay draws criticism
- Outgoing Broward College President David Armstrong will step down from his position in June with a $421,000 payout of salary and benefits during a one-year sabbatical, a decision that the school's board of trustees defended as cost being outpaced by services rendered over a 10-year tenure of leadership.
- The decision, which prompted a reaction from legislators and an attempt from one lawmaker to cut the school's appropriations by the $381,000 amount of the salary payout, follows the school's plan to designate Armstrong with emeritus status, and to use him as an advisor to the board with a connection to the school's leadership transition process. That effort accompanies a report from the state's Auditor General's office, which expressed doubt about the value of the public absorbing the salary with no clear benefit to the institution.
- Board Chairman John Benz said in February that his expectation is keeping on a president who has served for ten years in a consulting role will benefit the university by helping a new president to acclimate to the institution while providing needed outreach to business partners and legislative stakeholders.
Stakeholders may not like the look and feel of a big payout to a former president, but decisions like these are as much about future talent retention as they are about rewarding good service from an outgoing executive. Every salary and benefits package directly influences the appeal of a presidency, and thereby, the caliber of candidates applying for the job. Showing that the board is committed to strong compensation, and helping a new leader to adjust to the campus with the aid of a president who is clearly defined in his role of influence, is a strong job announcement for a diverse range of potential applicants — particularly for a smaller institution competing against larger institutional brands in a given city or state.
Beyond these factors, compensation and benefits also induce leaders to stay longer at institutions where they can enjoy their work and visualize a long term of service without being lured to other schools. Longevity in the campus C-suite helps existing faculty to feel more comfortable and more empowered to engage in high-caliber research and commitment to the school, while exhibiting stability to potential faculty members, donors and legislative partners. Colleges could do well in sharing the nuances of executive talent spotting and recruitment with campuses communities, in order to showcase the massive responsibilities associated with the job and the rigor in keeping quality talent from being poached.
High salaries may be a source of controversy, but in higher education, they are an asset to maintaining sound leadership over long periods of time.
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