By Richard Vedder
Karen Holbrook stepped down as president of Ohio State this summer, to be replaced, at considerable cost, by Gordon Gee, president extraordinaire who received a contract that should keep him employed to age 73 or death, whichever comes first. The retiring president had a contract that provided for a bonus payment, which she received, but the Trustees, wanting to show their love for her (actually, Ms. Holbrook had less than stellar support among the trustees, rumor has it) by giving her a going away bonus in the six digits. Why? She was gone. It was pure economic rent --a payment made which elicits no output.
Moreover, the Trustees just did it --no public vote, which is illegal under Ohio law. This is another example of the extravagance and arrogance of universities. Laws do not apply to us, they think. Taxpayers are to be seen and to empty their billfolds--but not to be heard. Money is available by the buckets from governments or students. We will raise student tuition or fees $2 a quarter to pay for it.
The question is: where is the public? Where is the oversight? The Trustees at OSU are not looking out for the taxpayers, the students, or the public, but instead making payments to their friends. It happens everywhere, all the time in higher ed.
When are we going to put a stop to it? I am speaking to a convention of state legislators in Philadelphia this week, and believe me I am going to encourage them to demand more accountability from their universities. Will it do any good? I doubt it.