Earth to Bravman: Questions we need answered

Haley Beardsley, Contributing Writer

Several Bucknellian editors came together to write an eloquent and alarming article about the University’s recent cutbacks that were concurrent with an increase in University President John Bravman’s salary. The article explains that “Bravman’s salary rose to $938k with a total compensation package of over $1 million” in 2018; meanwhile, the University has seen department cuts of up to five percent and various “stopgap measures” to mitigate the effects of the pandemic. The article is a well-articulated exposé about the agonizing depreciation of the College of Arts and Sciences, while administrative pay is on the rise. Guess who chose to not acknowledge the article? Bravman.

The president’s simple negligence of the article is pouring salt into an already open wound. As students feel the sting, one question arises: why is Bravman paid such an exorbitant amount of money?

As quoted in the article, Director of Media Relations Mike Ferlazzo explained, “[t]he Board of Trustees sets the president’s compensation, which includes an annual salary, non-annual performance-based and contractual supplemental payments,” and that the salary increase has a lot to do with “an analysis of data from organizations that have similar jobs and levels of complexity, length of service compared to national norms, and other performance metrics.”

It is not unexpected that Bravman’s salary has increased as administrative pay has been on the upward climb nationally. The Chronicle of Higher Education reports that since 2017, private and public university president’s salaries have increased 10.5 percent. For many institutions, the accelerated increase has taken six figure salaries and put them into the millions. This includes Bravman.

However, Bravman’s salary increase is still head and shoulders above those with “similar jobs and levels of complexity,” as shown by The Chronicle’s comparison with similar institutions. For example, Lafayette University President Alison Byerly raked in $706,331; President Adam Weinberg at Denison made $539,801 and President Ronald Crutcher, at University of Richmond, brought in $765,311; all significantly smaller than Bravman’s whopping $1,043,686. While Bravman may not control his base pay, he can certainly take a cut on his bonus and other “supplemental payments.”

While these universities and colleges are not entirely comparable, because they are not exactly the same, presidents of many Ivy League institutions such as Brown, Cornell and Dartmouth, have taken up to 20 percent pay cuts over the past year to assist departmental funding. Raymond Burse, president of Kentucky State University, recently took a $90,000 pay cut from his $349,869 salary, and he let that money roll directly to his staff’s paychecks. While Bravman did take a payout in the summer months, the cut did not carry over to the academic year. This raises questions about how he sees his role at the University.

The numbers certainly reveal an interesting perspective concerning the University’s priorities, but something about his disregard and the searing sting of Bravman’s lack of a response has spoken volumes more about his love for students than any salary could.

In all honesty, who cares about how much Bravman makes? The “bad optics” brought forth by the President’s radio silence in addition to the slowly surfacing information about the College of Arts and Sciences brings to light a whole new series of questions. As detailed in the article, Professor of English Michael Drexler explained that only 95 sophomores have declared any humanities majors. The incredibly low number of humanities majors feels reflective of the dwindling emphasis on arts and humanities by the University. Whether the cause for the declining humanities majors can be attributed to the University’s lack of emphasis or a cultural shift is up for debate, but it does threaten the values that Bravman and other University leaders have prided themselves on.

In a 2012 interview with LEADERS, Bravman said, “We’re a liberal arts college at heart,” which is a sentiment he seems attached to; however, how can the University truly value liberal arts when the College of Arts and Sciences is on the decline and the president’s salary is on the rise? What direction is the university heading in? 

As the year comes to a close, the monetary damage has been done and one last question remains: will Bravman respond to this article?

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