Journal reports find Randel in line with peers

By Lorraine Bailey

Two recent reports on university presidents released by the Chronicle of Higher Education place the University of Chicago where it normally doesn’t find itself: right next to everyone else.

U of C President Don Randel resembles other university presidents not only in race, gender, religion, and previously held positions, but also in salary earned.

The most recent report, released Monday by the Chronicle, listed the salaries and benefits received by American university presidents. In the academic year ending in 2004, Randel made $594,769 with salaries and benefits combined. This number is similar to the salaries of peer institutions’ presidents. Stanford University President John L. Hennessey made $562,117 in 2004; Northwestern University President Henry S. Bienen pulled in $691,020; and Harvard University President Lawrence Summers made $554,098.

The highest paid university president last year was Lynn University President Donald E. Ross, who made over $5 million in a combined salary, benefits, and deferred compensation package. The average salary at doctoral and research institutions like the U of C was $468,704.

The other, more comprehensive report sheds some light on the ivory tower’s top job. The October survey was answered by 764 university presidents, only 57 percent of those given the survey. Randel said he did not remember if he received the survey, but was positive that he had not filled it out.

The survey found that Randel is typical of university presidents nationwide. He is white (like 89 percent of presidents), protestant and male (like 81 percent of presidents), and was a provost before becoming president of the U of C in 1999.

Randel will step down as president at the end of this academic year to head the Mellon Foundation in New York. He offered only one piece of advice to the search committee looking for his replacement: “Don’t go get some tired old white guy who is clawing and scratching his way up the academic ladder.”

Though Randel said he does not have a large role in selecting his replacement, he did note that the two names he suggested to the search committee were both female. He would not reveal the names of his suggestions.

Hanna Gray, the U of C’s first female president, served from 1978 until 1993. She currently holds an endowed chair in the history department. The U of C has never had a minority president.

The Chronicle survey covered almost all aspects of life for university presidents, including who they regularly meet with, what they do for leisure activities, what concerns they have about higher education, and their political leanings.

Fundraising was the number-one activity that university presidents engaged in daily, with 53 percent of respondents picking it as their top daily priority, according to the Chronicle survey. But Randel said he thought the survey was defining fundraising too narrowly. For example, he added that he rarely asks for money directly.

“My job is to help create the environment in which the institution can flourish, so faculty and students can do what they came here to do,” Randel said. To him, this overall vision and leadership is fundraising, as well.

Last year was the most successful fundraising year to date, with $217 million raised. Randel said that the money was raised “the hard way,” since the single largest donation was $9 million.

Randel, like other university presidents, voted for Senator John Kerry in the last presidential election, a vote that he added he would make again. Twice as many university presidents voted for Kerry as for Bush.

He said that he strongly disapproves of many Bush administration policies. The survey found that the partisan affiliation of university presidents has an effect on which types of policies they support. For example, Republican university presidents were less likely to support embryonic stem cell research or access to emergency contraception at their universities than their democratic counterparts.