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College administrators' pay scrutinized Issue arises as tuition jumps, givebacks eyed

The state may be looking to save money with employee givebacks, but it's not coming from top college administrators -- or former administrators.

Five presidents in the State University of New York system -- including Fredonia State College President Dennis Hefner -- have received pay raises of $8,600 or more after their recent annual reviews.

Hefner, Fredonia president since 1996, saw his salary go up $8,600 to $223,600, according to SUNY.

At the same time, a practice that still pays former top administrators top dollar as faculty members has sparked renewed attention at the University at Buffalo.

Recent stories in the student newspaper, the Spectrum, shed light on a controversial practice that pays former top administrators -- now serving on the faculty -- almost as much as they made in their old jobs.

The student paper pointed out three examples, including former UB President William Greiner, who earns more than $225,000 as a law professor teaching two courses each semester during the 2008-09 academic year.

"The student reaction we have gotten has been outstanding," said Stephanie Sciandra, editor in chief of the campus newspaper. "They're outraged, because their tuition has just gone up $600."

The public scrutiny on state salaries is heightened during this fiscal crisis, as New York raises tuition $620 a year, slashes budgets and looks for concessions from state workers to help close a budget gap.

Gov. David A. Paterson, for example, has been pushing a plan to eliminate raises this year for public employee unions, saving the state $180 million.

Besides Hefner, the other SUNY presidents receiving raises recently were: David Heath, of the College of Optometry, whose salary went up $8,800 to $228,880; the Rev. Calvin Butts, the College of Old Westbury, up $10,000 to $198,000; John Schwaller, Potsdam, up $8,600 to $193,600; and Vice Adm. John Craine, Maritime College, up $10,000 to $205,000.

SUNY follows a predictable salary plan for its presidents on 29 campuses, and if any raises are given, it's only after annual reviews, which come up at different times of the year for each president, explained David Henahan, a SUNY spokesman.

The pay hikes raised no outcry from the statewide Student Assembly, which represents SUNY students, or the United University Professions, the faculty union, which said it only wants to see public higher education receive the proper funding.

"A handful of presidents are up for a well-deserved pay raise, and a very modest one at that," said Michael Barone, director of public relations at Fredonia. "We're talking less than 4 percent."

At UB, it's unclear exactly how many former top administrators are currently receiving roughly the same amount for faculty pay, an issue The Buffalo News has written about in the past.

The student newspaper cited three examples, including Greiner. John Naughton, former dean of medicine and vice president for clinical affairs, earned $310,263 last year as a professor in the department of rehabilitation medicine. And Kerry S. Grant, former vice provost, makes $174,254 as a music professor.

UB officials Thursday confirmed the figures in the Spectrum report but did not immediately verify names and salaries of other former administrators who may still be on the payroll as faculty.

While university officials said they're obligated to honor those contract agreements that may have been made years ago, the current practice is for administrators to lose their administrative salaries once they return to the faculty ranks.

"The leadership of UB has been very aware of this issue and has worked to ensure that salaries are fair and appropriate when an administrator steps down to assume another position within UB," said John Della Contrada, UB spokesman.

e-mail: jrey@buffnews.com

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