SUNY chancellor defends pay hikes; she and her deputy giving up housing allowances


State University of New York Chancellor Nancy Zimpher, who is under fire after three employees each received $30,000 pay hikes, defending the increases at a public hearing held by the Senate Higher Education Committee this afternoon. The three high-level officials received the additional money because they are taking on new responsibilities, she said.

Zimpher said she has developed a compromise and made it clear she is not seeking approval of the Higher Education Committee, nor does she need to. The pay increases will stand, but she is withdrawing housing allowances provided to two of the three employees, and she and Monica Rimai, senior vice chancellor and chief operating officer, will forego their allowances too. That money will go toward the higher salaries of the members of Zimpher’s leadership team, she said. (Zimpher’s annual housing allowance alone is $90,000 and Rimai’s is $60,000.)

The chancellor said she plans to ask for salary increases in next year’s budget for management/confidential employees working at SUNY, whose wages have been flat in the past two years. Their unionized counterparts have gotten raises totaling 7 percent in the same period of time.

Two of the three people who received pay increases were going to get housing allowances too.

–David Lavallee, senior vice chancellor for academic affairs and provost, received an additional $30,000 for a total salary of $315,000. Trustees also approved a housing allowance of $5,000 a month. He was interim senior vice chancellor for academic affairs and provost.

–John O’Connor, senior vice chancellor for research and innovation and secretary of the university, received an additional $30,000, to $275,937, and a monthly housing allowance of $3,250, effective July 1. He has been service as secretary of the university. He will continue to serve as president of the SUNY Research Foundation. He was appointed by the Board of Trustees and receives no compensation for the position.

Johanna Duncan-Poitier, chancellor’s deputy for the education pipeline and vice chancellor for community colleges, received an increase of $30,000, to $250,000. She did not get a housing allowance. She has been the chancellor’s deputy for the education pipeline and is taking on additional responsibilities as vice chancellor for community colleges.

Zimpher and the SUNY Board of Trustees have been criticized for giving the raises at a time when the economy is suffering. SUNY’s state funding has been reduced by a total of $634 million in the past three years, and certain employees at SUNY Central in Albany are in a furlough program.

Carl Hayden of Elmira, chairman of the board, said Zimpher found $3.3 million in savings as part of her reorganizing plan.


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  1. The Old Professor on

    The old “taking on new responsibilities” excuse for handing out humongous pay raises to insiders. Put an ankle bracelet on them and keep them in the office two more hours a day. Inflation is near zero, we’re near depression, and the administrators join the public unions in raiding the dwindling public pocketbook. They have no shame.

  2. Townsend Harris on

    Adjusting for inflation, we’ve witnessed explosive growth in administrative jobs and administrative salaries at SUNY and CUNY these last few decades. And strong growth in tuition at SUNY and CUNY. The state legislature is content with this so long as it can continue to decrease public appropriations for SUNY and CUNY.
    How’d SUNY and CUNY administrations pull that off? Two ways: higher tuition and much, much less money spent on classroom instruction through part-timer-izing the people who work directly with our students, the teachers. Why did administrators do this? In order to justify their own increasing, corporate salaries and because they don’t really believe in supporting our students with teachers earning middle-class incomes.
    Are public unions in higher education a problem? Nope, they’ve been unable to prevent the phase out of decent full-time jobs with benefits for their members.

  3. The Old Professor on

    Pretty soon we’ll have multi million dollar administrators and hordes of $10,000 a year adjunct professors with no health plan.