Duff on list of highest paid private college presidents

By The Columbia Chronicle

James Boozer


A survey released last Friday by The Chronicle of Higher Education (TCHE) listed the pay and benefits of the nation’s highest paid presidents at private institutions during 1996-97. Columbia’s President, John B. Duff made the list with a salary of 407,227 including benefits. The survey also found that Duff receives large deferred-compensation payments that help push his salary higher than usual.

The survey is based on information obtained from Internal Revenue Service (IRS) returns, called Form 990, filed by all of the nation’s 475 private colleges for 1996-97. During that same period, a new federal law went into effect that allows the I.R.S. to impose large fines on officials of non-for-profit organizations who benefit from receiving sizable amounts of money and sweetheart deals.

Form 990 is considered by some to be the best source available for determining pay levels at private colleges, however it does not provide a clear answer due to lack of knowledge on how to fully complete the form. The form lists the finances of tax-exempt organizations, their revenue, and a list of the top paid officials of the organization.

Following Duff on the list is the director of the Institute for Science Education and Communication, Zafra Lerman. Her pay, including benefits, for 1996-97 was $210,376. Surprisingly, listed third is Columbia’s Executive Vice-President/Provost Albert Gall at a total salary of $168,669, nearly $42,000 less than Lerman. R. Michael DeSalle, vice-president of finance, received $160,035 and John Muvlany, chairman of the Art & Design and Photography departments, received $151, 374. Lya Rosenblum, vice-president and dean of the graduate school, completed the list with a salary of $142,206.

According to the survey, colleges are supposed to list the compensation, benefits and expenses provisions for key administrators and their five highest-paid employees. The I.R.S. instructions say “compensation” should include salaries, bonuses and severance payments paid in the current year. “Benefits” should include medical and insurance benefits and other payments such as future retirement funds. Housing or cars should be included under “expenses” along with expense allowances.

TCHE requested the tax forms from the private colleges listed in their survey from the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. Due to a retreat for Columbia’s full-time faculty, The Chronicle was unable to acquire comments on the survey from Duff, Gall, Lerman, DeSalle, Rosenblum or Mulvany.