UofL accepting donations (to pay President Ramsey’s taxes)

The University of Louisville, despite recent controversies over shady settlement/severance  packages and non-disclosure curtains, has transformed itself into a much different institution than the one I knew growing up. What was once a commuter campus with no discernible campus culture has become an attractive destination for college students in a vibrant, urban setting. UofL has become the institution the community can embrace, not just the one we cheer for.

That being said, the Board of Trustees and President James Ramsey should be ashamed and embarrassed because that’s what I am as a Louisvillian and someone who wants the best for my hometown university.

I am referencing the recent proposal by the UofL Board of Trustees Compensation Committee, suggesting Ramsey receive a six percent merit pay increase, as well as a bonus of about $150,000. This would be embarrassing enough, as the University is increasing pay for its faculty and staff by three percent, while at the same time increasing students’ tuition three percent. But when Ramsey’s compensation already trumps that of most of his colleagues, it is a shameful, misguided and out-of-touch performance by the committee to suggest such a raise.

As the Courier-Journal reported, Ramsey’s pay is already two and a half times the average of other presidents in the Atlantic Coast Conference. The CJ also noted “that only five of the 35 universities it examined paid their president through a foundation, and none did so on the scale of Ramsey.”

Initially, I intended only to bring additional conversation to this proposal and suggest that Ramsey refuse the raise or commit the additional income to a research fund at the university. Essentially, give it back. But then I remembered, back in May, when Ramsey basically told us all to piss off (specifically the Board of Trustees and media) for asking about financial details regarding his overall compensation package. This is not an unnecessary probe or suspicion of nefarious activity, but rather the fiduciary responsibility of the board, whose job it is to approve financial transactions.

Now, I am joining the few dissenters on the Board of Trustees and calling for the full board to not only refuse the committee’s recommended raise, but direct Ramsey to begin a process of cleaning up the organization and accounting of the UofL Foundation, and possibly bring it under control of the overseers — as was proposed by board trustees Craig Greenberg and Steve Wilson. Ramsey refused their proposal to bring the foundation under the board’s oversight back in May because, as the CJ reported, “that proposal … would ‘kill’ donations to the university because the trustees are appointed by the governor. ‘Do you want to give money to political appointees,’ he asked.”

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Don’t want to make your job more difficult, Mr. President, but maybe your raise should come with a little more responsibility, like financial transparency and accountability.

In recent weeks, WDRB reported that in 2013 Ramsey was paid $1.86 million by the foundation, over half coming from “deferred payment.” Deferred payment can be a defensible form of compensation, as an incentive to keep a person or team, and ensure stability. However, as the report states, the largest portion was committed to over $300,000 in “gross up” — money calculated and paid to cover an employee’s taxes. In other words, President Ramsey pays no taxes.

WDRB’s report showed Ramsey also received nearly another $100,000, “because the foundation underestimated the ‘gross up’ in 2012, resulting in the executives’ having to pay taxes out of pocket.” Oh, the humanity!

The report continued to point out that Ramsey is even paid on future taxes! “Also, the foundation paid Ramsey $71,345 to cover his future taxes on an annuity the foundation bought for him, which pays $100,000 a year for 10 years.”

I’m sure they even pay for the accountant who figures out how much they’ll need to reimburse him for these taxes. The president of UofL should not be an offshore account.

This is not about what the “right” amount is anymore. This is about restoring the faith and confidence in UofL and the UofL Foundation. If Ramsey thinks nobody wants to donate to political appointees, I would like to ask him, “What do you think it will do to contributions when donors find out they are paying your taxes for you?”

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