After only one year in the position, Arvind Gupta will receive his salary as president next year when he is on leave from the University of British Columbia.
Last year the former president, who resigned Friday, was paid $446,750.
“Any costs associated with the departure will be funded within the university’s existing administrative budget,” said Susan Danard, the university’s managing director of public affairs.
UBC has not released the full financial terms of Dr. Gupta’s sudden departure or if he was paid any additional severance. He will be returning to the university in the fall of 2016 as a professor. Some of the payments that Dr. Gupta is owed are contained in his presidential employment contract from the spring of 2014.
Most contracts for university presidents contain a provision allowing the president to take a one-year leave after finishing their term, similar to an academic sabbatical. Dr. Gupta’s is unusual only in that he served a quarter of his term.
Still, such clauses have been at the centre of some of the most heated university controversies in the past year across the country.
“We are concerned about the size of the [presidential] salaries and how they are negotiated,” said Judy Bates, the president of the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Association (OCUFA). “What we see is a series of incidents where presidents have been receiving additional payments as stipends, or payments out of certain clauses of their contract.”
It’s not clear what Dr. Gupta would have been paid had the Board of Governors terminated his contract without cause. Because the president’s contract is subject to B.C. legislation on executive pay in the public sector, the university may have owed Dr. Gupta less than a year’s pay, subject to negotiations.
This spring, after facing protests from faculty and others in the university community, Western University president Amit Chakma returned $440,000 he had received in lieu of a year of administrative leave. The school is reviewing its pay practices for senior staff in the wake of that payment. The issue showed that boards of governors, who make decisions on presidential pay, are not in touch with the campus community, said Kristin Hoffmann, the president of Western’s faculty association.
“We’d like to see more transparency around board appointments … our members don’t feel that the board understands what the university is for,” she said.
UBC is likely to come under increasing scrutiny just as it is gearing up for the back-to-school period and, this year, celebrates its 100th anniversary. On Monday, its faculty association’s president asked the Board of Governors for a fuller accounting of what happened to lead Dr. Gupta to resign.
The president “had a serious plan well under development to achieve the goals he set for himself and the University, and faculty were at the heart of his plan,” wrote Mark MacLean, the association’s president, in a letter distributed to professors at the school.
Not all those who are familiar with how presidential pay scales are set believe that salaries and benefits are too generous.
“In my estimation, often times the most cost effective investment a board can make is in hiring the best president a board can find,” said Raymond Cotton, a lawyer in Washington who has negotiated hundreds of U.S. contracts for senior university leaders. “That person is the chief executive officer of the day-to-day operations of the university, thus decisions that person makes affect everything the university does.”
Advanced Education Minister Andrew Wilkinson declined to comment on Dr. Gupta’s severance package, noting that the resignation “is a matter between the board of governors and their employee.”
Editor's note: A previous version said that the University of British Columbia would have owed former president Arvind Gupta three years pay if it had terminated his contract. The president’s contract is subject to B.C. legislation on executive pay in the public sector and therefore, the university may have owed Dr. Gupta less than a year’s pay.Report Typo/Error