A comprehensive, but costly, third party review of Western President Amit Chakma’s infamous double dip salary has found such arrangements are “very common” among heads of Ontario universities.
The report, prepared by retired Justice Stephen T. Goudge, cost between $70,000 and $80,000.
That’s on top of the $100,000 Western spent in the spring on public relations and legal advice during the peak of the controversy.
The report found while it made sense to compensate administrators who take time off to enhance their skills, it shouldn’t be paid out if leave isn’t taken or during a current presidential term.
There was also a separate provision, allowing Chakma to “monetize” administrative leave at the start of his second term, earned during his first term, that was “not in line” with the practice at most peer institutions, though the salary itself is.
“I think they’re going to raise really serious questions for my colleagues on campus,” said Kirsten Hoffman, President of Western’s Faculty Association.
“They’re going to raise doubts about how much we can trust senior administration and the board of governors when they say that they are making changes and I think they are going to have to pay a lot of attention to reestablishing and restoring that trust.”
The review was ordered in April when outrage over Dr. Chakma’s nearly $1-million ‘double-dip’ salary for 2014 was at its peak. Justice Goudge’s findings were released Monday, more than five months after the review was launched, and less than 24 hours after homecoming celebrations at Western.
Among some of the report’s key findings:
- Western’s presidential compensation practices are in line with those of its peer institutions.
- The provision which provided Dr. Chakma an extra year’s pay in exchange for giving up a one year administrative leave is “very common,” and is contained in fifteen of the sixteen presidential contracts in Ontario examined by Justice Goudge.
- What the President’s contract permitted “took those involved in negotiating it by complete surprise.”
- The University and its senior officers acted in good faith with the renewal of President Amit Chakma’s compensation contract.
Justice Goudge, however, did find a “mistake” occurred when the amended renewal was not sent to the Senior Operations Committee for consideration before making a decision on the final approval.
The chair of Western’s board of governors, Chirag Shah, said that the board has accepted all of Goudge’s recommendations.
“We do believe that (this) will be the consideration for future contract negotiations,” said Shah. “The board did identify that we did accept Justice Goudge’s recommendations unilaterally.”
Shah stressed that Goudge’s report cited the payout option in lieu of administrative leave as being the problematic portion of Chakma’s contract, not the salary itself, per se.
“I think Western needs to ensure that it is going after the brightest and best talent. If we aspire to be a world leading institution, we want to ensure that our compensation practices allow us to attract the right calibre of leadership at the institution,” Shah said. “I’m very pleased with the report…that the original committee and board that did negotiate the compensation did so in good faith. The findings of Mr. Goudge’s report did identify that our presidential compensation is very comparable within the industry.”
After almost a week of intense public scrutiny and anger over the payout, Chakma announced on April 2nd — by way of a written statement — he would voluntarily repay the extra $440,000 he received for working through a scheduled sabbatical the previous year. He also said he would waive a similar payout option in his current contract in 2019.
Chakma would later narrowly survive a non-confidence vote by members of Western University’s Senate with 30 voting for non-confidence, and 49 voting against. Five members abstained.
Now, Shah said, it is time for the university to move forward.
“I think that the challenge for us as an institution was the level of discourse and distraction that has taken away from the great objectives that Western is achieving,” he said. “The biggest challenge for us is to ensure that we keep our momentum going forward. We’re very pleased that we’re able to have the resolution of this report to provide that clarify on the circumstances and the background on that compensation.”