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CAUT Bulletin Archives

October 2009

University of Calgary

‘Obscene’ Compensation Deal for Outgoing President

The faculty association at the University of Calgary wants the administration to scale back what it calls an “obscene” supplementary pension deal for outgoing university president Harvey Weingarten.

The recommendation is one of several contained in an open letter delivered to the university’s board of governors after Alberta’s auditor general revealed that after just nine years at the university, Weingarten will retire in January with a pension worth $4.75 million.

In an Oct. 1 report, Auditor Gen­eral Fred Dunn slammed the university for taking seven years to finalize Weingarten’s employment contract and the terms behind his pension, failing to document the original verbal agreement and failing to report the real value of his pension deal on financial statements.

In its letter to the board, the faculty association said there is a long-standing transparency problem at the institution, one that has led to a “widespread belief” in “all sorts of undisclosed expenditures hidden within the budget — slush funds to support the pet projects of the powerful few within the university administration — while the core programs are left to wither through continuous erosion of funding… (which) seems to point to either incompetence or malicious intent (in the sense of a specific desire to keep significant expenditures secret).”

The association has asked for an external financial audit, among other measures, to fix the transparency problems once and for all.

But it isn’t just the transparency issue that has upset the faculty association, it’s the value of the pension package.

“One of our big concerns with the auditor general’s report is his suggestion that there is nothing wrong with the amount the president is receiving,” said faculty association president Anne Stalker.

The deal tops up the pension Weingarten will receive from 22 earlier years of service at McMaster University to reflect his higher salary at Calgary.

“A president should be paid well, and Weingarten should receive a supplementary pension for his service at the University of Calgary,” said Stalker. “Our objection is to having that apply to his 22 years at McMaster and having us pay for it.”

Described in the letter as “obscene,” the faculty association suggests the amount is “additional under-the-counter benefits dressed up to look like ‘pension’.”

“This has a significant financial impact on the university,” said Stalker. “It will be like we are paying two presidents, while at the same time staff are being laid off, academic staff vacancies are not being filled and some departments can’t afford to buy pens.”

She said about 40 management and professional staff were laid off in early October and more cuts are expected ahead of an anticipated funding freeze from the province.

“Our members and so many others in the university commu­nity are outraged,” said Stalker, adding when times are difficult people need to pull together for the health of the institution. “This undermines those efforts…there is no trust left.”