UR President Received $1.3M Golden Parachute Amidst 2018 Sexual Harassment Scandal

by DARIEN LAMEN

(WXIR-Rochester) Former University of Rochester President Joel Seligman received roughly $1.3 million in additional compensation in 2018 as part of the terms of his resignation from leadership.


The resignation payment was on top of the nearly $1.5 million he received in salary and benefits that year.


That's according to newly-obtained tax filings for 2018.


Seligman announced his resignation from the presidency (though not from UR faculty) in January 2018 amidst widespread outrage over his handling of a sexual harassment scandal that made national headlines.


The federal lawsuit filed in the case center around UR Professor Florian Jaeger, but named Seligman as a defendant, alleging that he and other university officials failed to take allegations of sexual misconduct and retaliation in the UR's Brain and Cognitive Sciences program seriously.


The University recently settled that suit this past March for $9.4 million.



Seligman's resignation payout effectively doubled his compensation for 2018. Seligman was already among the top ten highest-compensated university presidents in the nation, making the ratio of total compensation to average professor's salary at the UR about 13:1 according to data compiled by the Chronicle of Higher Education.


But Seligman was not the only administrator at the UR to make 7-digits in 2018.


The latest tax filings show that 5 administrators received over a million dollars in total compensation in 2018.


Employee compensation information at private universities is not public. But non-profit institutions like the UR are required to disclose information on administrator compensation to the IRS.


The revelation around Seligman's resignation payout comes as the University of Rochester braces for a period of financial uncertainty.


In June, faculty members across several schools received their own compensation letters. The letters included new language reserving the right to reduce faculty salaries during the coming year "if necessary or advisable to address financial pressures related to the pandemic."


The letter goes on, "It is not possible to know in advance exactly whether and how reductions might be made, but any decisions will be based on objective, communicated criteria.”


The compensation letter is just one indication of hard times to come.


University of Rochester administrators also recently convened a blue-ribbon panel to come up with "big and bold" ways of overhauling the institution in the face of the ongoing crisis.


But many skeptical faculty members have dismissed the so-called "Project Imagine" as at best a superficial rebranding exercise, and at worst, what one faculty member describes as "Administration's cynical attempt to misdirect faculty attention from the real issues."


In an open letter to faculty last week, UR Professor Mark Bocko laid out his own "big and bold" ideas to reimagine the university, which included "a University with 50% fewer administrators, and with salaries commensurate with the University’s means," as well as a lower debt-to-endowment ratio.


In the midst of the COVID-19 shutdown this spring, administrators announced that they would reduce their own salaries by 20% and reduce salaries of faculty members receiving over $280,000 by 10% of the amount earned over $280,000.


The UR planned to furlough nearly 3500 employees and reduce contributions to employee retirement.


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DARIEN LAMEN is news producer/director for WXIR Community Radio. He can be reached at wxirnews@gmail.com

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