St. John’s president: Increasing demands equals more administration

St. John’s University President Michael Hemesath writes in the Quad 136 blog that the debate over presidential pay is a proxy for the debate over whether college administration has become bloated.

He says many people don’t fully understand that society has put increasing demands on colleges over the years — which have required larger administrations to deal with them:

Hemesath (SJU)

The issue for students, parents and the public, however, should not be the total dollars paid in compensation, but what educational services are being provided by these administrators.  If there is little or no value added and what we are seeing is simply administrative bloat, then there is no question about what should be done.  If, on the other hand, there are valuable and necessary services being provided by these administrative professionals, we need to recognize these costs as essential to the educational outcomes we are hoping to achieve.

Hemesath offers links to The Chronicle of Higher Education‘s chart on presidential pay — but he’s not included.

I called the school to ask why, and a spokesman Michael Hemmesch told me St. John’s had been exempt because of it was a part of St. John’s Abbey.

As of next fall, however, the university will making the data public. In July 2012, the university became a corporation separate from the Abbey.

Hemmesch said the legal change has become quite common — St. John’s is one of the last in Minnesota to carry it out — but is not one that students or alumni will notice.

Hemmesch did say that Hemesath’s salary is $310,000, and that his total compensation is approximately $350,000.

That would put him between Augsburg College‘s Paul Pribbenow ($277,00) and The College of St. Scholastica‘s Larry Goodwin ($390,000)

On a side note, you may have noticed that Fr. Dennis Dease, who until recently led the University of St. Thomas, earned almost $780,000 in 2011 — far above the $324,000 from the previous year.

University VP for University and Government Relations Doug Hennes told me it was the result of a retirement payout:

St. Thomas set up a 457 retirement plan for Father Dease when he became president in 1991. Annual contributions were made and invested, and payments to him began in 2004.

A lump-sum payment of more than $530,000 was made in 2011 to zero out the fund; thus the reason for the overall jump in his compensation from $324,000 in 2010 to $779,000 in 2011.

His base pay ($87,000 in 2011) always has been significantly lower than his peers at non-religious private institutions in Minnesota (even though St. Thomas is easily the largest private college or university, by enrollment and revenue, in the state).