A Generous Gift, A Structural Problem

Major donations to universities usually come from outside. Rich alumni or interested parties give money to schools they prefer to promote ideas (see below) or give something back. At Hampton University, a historically black private college in southeastern Virginia, however, the latest major donation has come from its own president.

According to a piece by Samieh Shalash in the Daily Press:

President William R. Harvey and his wife Norma have donated $1 million of their fortune to the university to raise salaries for instructional staff, HU announced Thursday.

For the next three years, HU’s approximately 300 faculty members are guaranteed a 3 percent raise and can earn up to 8 percent based on performance. The higher percentage will be used as an incentive for faculty who receive grants, publish articles in peer-reviewed journals, or provide significant service to HU, the university said.

The average faculty salary at Hampton appears to be about $55,000 a year, compared to a national average of $81,000 a year.

According to the university:

The faculty are excited and thankful to Dr. and Mrs. Harvey for their gift to enhance salaries and reward faculty for their dedication and commitment to the Academy. This donation signals across all professional ranks that we will remain competitive in the market place.

That is a very generous gesture for sure.

What’s odd about this, however, is that as the president of the university it’s William Harvey who should bear some responsibility for the low salaries at his school.

The donation is nice but the compensation problem at Hampton might be a little more structural. Harvey earned $317,743 in 2008-09. That compensation isn’t astronomical—many college administrators earn more—but it’s still almost six times the salary of the average professor.

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer