President of financially struggling Clarion University says she is 'willing to take a pay cut'

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CLARION, Pa. -- Clarion University president Karen Whitney said Wednesday she's prepared to chip in to help the school right its finances if others do the same.

Responding to a question during the second of three campus forums on the school's controversial workforce plan, Ms. Whitney said she would forgo part of her income if other campus employees do so, too.

"I would personally be willing to take a pay cut," she said.

Ms. Whitney's $220,000 salary has not changed since her arrival in 2010, according to school spokesman David Love. University presidents are in the midst of a multiyear salary freeze across the State System of Higher Education, system spokesman Kenn Marshall said.

The question was posed by Mark Reinsel, 56, a $25,000-a-year mover in Clarion's facilities management department and local board member of the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees. He has worked at Clarion for nearly six years.

Asked if he was surprised by Ms. Whitney's answer, he replied, "Yes, I was."

But he said after the meeting it would not be fair if the lowest-paid employees on campus take cuts, too.

"The president, she gets a free place to live," he said. "She gets her lawn mowed. She gets a custodian to come in and clean her house. She gets a lot of perks."

The system's 14-member universities include -- in addition to Clarion -- the campuses of California, Edinboro, Indiana and Slippery Rock universities in Western Pennsylvania.

Managers are included in the 40 staff and faculty cuts contemplated by administrators at Clarion, which faces a $12 million deficit and is scrambling to shift classroom resources to higher demand areas in hopes of reversing sharp enrollment declines.

But Ms. Whitney said thinning the ranks of the university's 76 managers would not remove the problem facing her 6,500-student university.

Referring to regulations including those from the state and federal governments, Ms. Whitney said: "A third of our managers do work required [of them] by others. Somebody else would have to do that work with no additional compensation."

Clarion has 19 administrators with the title of dean or higher, less than most other system universities. Mr. Marshall could not say how Clarion ranks in administrative positions relative to peers but noted the school is one of the system's smaller universities.

Wednesday morning's forum in Hart Chapel gave employees, students and others a chance to comment on proposals being watched by those at the 13 other state-owned schools, many of which also face declining enrollment and budget shortfalls. The plan was heavily criticized by speakers, including some who stand to lose their jobs.

David Bailey, president of Clarion's alumni association, attended sessions on Tuesday and Wednesday morning but did not take the microphone.

Saying he was speaking only for himself, he said in an interview afterward that the plan makes sense and that many are forgetting the final version may look considerably different than what is proposed.

"I know that this is a rough time for people and it's very emotional," said Mr. Bailey of Chambersburg, who said he has been through similar retrenchment as a former public school administrator and teacher.

"It's something that has to be done."

education - breaking - state

Bill Schackner: bschackner@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1977 and on Twitter: @BschacknerPG. First Published August 28, 2013 12:15 AM


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