Today’s New York Times featured two fascinating articles which, taken together, speak volumes about ethics and appearances. The first was an op-ed piece by Frank Bruni, which analyzes the obscene payments (both salary and retirement bonuses) to university presidents around the nation. Bruni eviscerates each argument universities offer in favor of huge payments: that others have jobs just as all-encompassing as university presidents (and that overworked university presidents nonetheless have plenty for lucrative service on corporate boards); that others beside the presidents are involved in high-level fundraising; and that it doesn’t necessarily require a huge salary to attract great talent (the late, great Theodore Hesburgh, who ran Notre Dame for 35 years, would have agreed.) When I consider the salaries paid to university presidents in Philadelphia, and that as a whole their institutions are fighting PILOTs (Payments in Lieu of Taxes) vehemently (with a host of flimsy arguments to justify what is, in essence, civic mooching), I question the institutions’ ethics.
Congratulations Class of 2015. Your average $30,000 in loan debt, acquired at above-market rates, helped to finance profligacy and parsimony wrapped in ersatz altruism.
The second article was an obituary for Rev. Lo Schiavo, who for years was President of the University of San Francisco. He took the courageous step of shutting down a highly lucrative basketball program for several years, because it gave the appearance of impropriety that reflected poorly on the University and its mission. While he believed the accusations against USF were unjust, he nevertheless though it was more important to preserve the University’s integrity than acquire championship titles and revenue.
The differences between right from wrong are often clearer than some would lead us to believe.