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Is president of UB worth $650,000?

I have no idea how good of a president Satish Tripathi will be for the University at Buffalo. But I can tell you this: He's overpaid.

UB announced last week that its new president would get a package worth $650,000 annually. That doesn't include a university car and the keys to UB's presidential digs on Snyder's tony Le Brun Road.

What, no country club membership and free dry cleaning?

The pay package is $172,701 more than predecessor John Simpson collected -- at a time of state budget cuts, of inevitable tuition hikes and what looks like the downsizing of the grand UB 2020 master plan. A 36 percent pay spike for an in-house hire, after a behind-closed-doors search, reeks of a let-them-eat-cake mentality.

It's bad enough that corporate CEOs are getting obscene pay-and-bonus packages, while the middle class shrinks, unemployment spikes, labor gets exported overseas, and retirement funds have disappeared in the aftermath of the 2008 crash. What really hurts is when the Overpayment Virus extends to a public, taxpayer-funded university in the middle of upstate's stagnant economic pool.

You don't need an advanced degree in mathematics to see the painfully skewered calculus.

UB defends the package as the going rate for presidents at similar universities.

Spare me.

The university didn't have to look farther than down the hall to find Tripathi. There reportedly was an international field of 60 candidates. You can't tell me that no qualified applicant would not have done the job for money like Simpson's. If Tripathi wouldn't take the job for what Simpson got, then UB should have kept looking.

There might have been some limp face-saving justification had the new guy been lured from out of town. But this was simply a bump-up from Tripathi's No. 2 job as provost. He didn't have to relocate to Buffalo, to uproot his family, to be lured to a region that headhunter types constantly remind us is a tough sell. There was no relocation sweetener needed to entice Tripathi to Buffalo. He was already here.

Granted, forking over an extra 172G for a president isn't going to break a university with 29,000 students and a $614 million operating budget. And $265,000 of Tripathi's annual pay comes not directly from taxpayer pockets, but is UB and SUNY foundation money.

Even so, I don't think that a public university should compensate its ruler like royalty. Particularly when UB students are just two years removed from a 12 percent tuition increase that -- to the disgust of every student (and parent) -- was funneled not to the school, but to the state's general fund.

The 10-member UB Council is the governing body that supposedly, in part, watches our backs. If this is its idea of taxpayer protection, it's time we hired a private security force. The problem is that the council is top-heavy with corporate executives and partners from large law firms. To put it kindly, these are imperfect -- if not somnolent -- guardians at the gate of administrative overcompensation. I think we need more folks in that room who drive a Chevy, lunch at Louie's Hot Dogs and have never seen the inside of the Buffalo Club.

By the way, the president of UB will make more than the president of the United States. Whatever the challenges Tripathi faces, I would like to hear anyone make the argument that he has the tougher job.

I have nothing against Tripathi. As past UB provost, he knows how the system works and is on board with UB 2020, which no doubt was a huge consideration in his hiring. Who knows? He could lead the university to a bright new era. With the money we're paying him, he ought to.

e-mail: desmonde@buffnews.com

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