• Doug Most

    Assistant VP, Executive Editor, Editorial Department Twitter Profile

    Doug Most is a lifelong journalist and author whose career has spanned newspapers and magazines up and down the East Coast, with stops in Washington, D.C., South Carolina, New Jersey, and Boston. He was named Journalist of the Year while at The Record in Bergen County, N.J., for his coverage of a tragic story about two teens charged with killing their newborn. After a stint at Boston Magazine, he worked for more than a decade at the Boston Globe in various roles, including magazine editor and deputy managing editor/special projects. His 2014 nonfiction book, The Race Underground, tells the story of the birth of subways in America and was made into a PBS/American Experience documentary. He has a BA in political communication from George Washington University. Profile

Comments & Discussion

Boston University moderates comments to facilitate an informed, substantive, civil conversation. Abusive, profane, self-promotional, misleading, incoherent or off-topic comments will be rejected. Moderators are staffed during regular business hours (EST) and can only accept comments written in English.

There are 50 comments on BU to Suspend Employee Retirement Contributions as Cost Savings

  1. I am an alum, and while this is unsurprising, it is rather sad. Brown’s own compensation is obscene, even compared to places like Harvard and MIT. The same is true for various deans of the squid monster than is University Admin Machine. These people are just professors who realized they could make more money shuffling around paper. Wonder how the “pay freeze” impacts their contracts.

  2. As an alumnus, it’s said to me that the next generation of students won’t fully enjoy the social interactions, friendships and coming of age at BU that made the college experience so notable. I still keep in contact with many of the college friends I met 40 years ago. We reunite in Boston every year.

    Undoubtedly, safety is the priority. We can only hope this crisis fades as quickly as possible.

    1. The suspension applies to the core and matching contribution as well as the transition contribution for those employees who may be eligible.

        1. Contributions will not be made retroactively. When it is determined that the University can once again commence contributions to the BU Retirement Plan, it will be done on a current basis only.

    1. Publish or perish – the mantra to a successful university career. Dr. Brown has rightly earned his lucrative compensation, so please refrain from being mean-spirited and afford him the respect he deserves.

      1. People have a right to question the university’s expenditures on upper administration when they’re being told their classes may be cut.

        Payroll for about 600 part-time faculty teaching over 800 classes each semester works out to less than $5.74 million, or ca. $11.5 million for an academic year.

        The latest IRS data (from 2016) shows that President Brown’s compensation was over $1.8 million.

        So, BU can pay the President or employ on average 190 faculty teaching 253 classes.

        Everyone’s being asked to make sacrifices and tighten their budgets. But there are few places where the inequity of the request is this stark. Students have a right to expect their university to prioritize their education, not its administrators’ compensation.

  3. Suggesting employees contribute more to make up for what BU will no longer be contributing shows just how out of touch the leadership can be. Every letter Brown has sent since the closure has been preparing employees for layoffs.

    1. Agreed! I worked there for 7 years and was a union rep. I watched as they cut away options for health insurance, pushed lower cost lower quality insurance that restricted the user to BMC, and saw in less than 24 hours an email praising the billion dollar fundraising that year and then telling us it would be a lean year so we had to cut costs.

      The dishonesty, below average pay and benefits, and mistreatment of union employees is why I left. I’ve worked at other schools since, and they are treating their employees better than Bottom Line Bob is.

  4. I feel it’s important to remember that despite the misfortunes that the university has to implement in order to maintain financial health, it is my understanding that the vast majority of positions have been sustained and fully compensated for the past 9 weeks and counting! I can’t speak for all employees but there are many who haven’t had to do even a fraction of what others have had to, yet are still being compensated full pay and benefits to date. As painful as it is to lose the generous benefit of the 401k contribution, it is reasonable to realize that this unprecedented time in history will have some impact on all people in some way or another, and at the very least that we remain humble and grateful that We are still employed and receiving a paycheck. I myself would be willing to forfeit even more of my benefits if I had to. No, not to be noble, but as a token of gratitude for all that BU does do for its employees. I believe most people at BU feel this way, which IS what makes the BU community what it is, and that is a very great thing. President Brown’s income or anyone else’s for that matter shouldn’t have be part of anyone’s gripes, I certainly don’t envy his position during these times, and if anyone doesn’t believe that he carries a very heavy burden having to make very difficult decisions through this crisis , as well as the immense And immeasurable responsibility associated with it, the impact on mental and physical health, well then that to me, is the true misfortune. Sending forth my wishes to all for health and wellness and to do our best to help one another whenever possible.

    1. MT, I believe the vast majority of positions have been maintained because we able able to work from home. My job and my workload haven’t changed at all, I’m just doing my work from home instead of at BU.

      The BU retirement plan almost compensates for the under industry average salaries most of the non management staff earn. We earn no bonuses, no stock options, no profit sharing, and our annual ‘merit increases’ have really been cost of living increases (barely).

      Am I glad to be employed during this time when so many have been laid off or their businesses have closed for good? Yes, of course. But I agree with others that there is certainly more that can be done that could reduce expenses without this huge financial impact on the rank and file employess.

      1. A donkey can be successful as a president during the booming economy. The true nature of leadership is shown right this very moment and it is uninspiring.

  5. Is anyone happy with this? Of course not. But to go attacking upper administration for their compensation is rediculous. In the grand scheme of the university budget, they are small potatoes.

    I am thankful to have a job, healthcare, and some piece of mind that the institution I work for is trying to do the right thing. Keeping all of us employed at this time is much more than many people out there are experiencing. I, personally, count my blessings that I work at a place that communicates regularly and aims to have the students and employees best interest at their core.

  6. My feeling for awhile has been that today’s American colleges and universities have become like the banks in 2008. They have played fast and loose with other people’s money – trying to avoid any risk to themselves. Now BU seems to be trying to balance budgets on the backs of professors and employees because the administration certainly can’t raise tuition and pass their financial problems on to students and their families. Universities like BU have billion dollar endowments. The school can’t draw on those dollars in a situation like this? I know this is a hard time for everyone, but it sure seems callous to ask the workers at risk to sacrifice when there are other resources the university can use.

  7. I wonder if you could point me to the best place to find out why our recent Capitol Campaign Fund – 1.85 BILLION – cannot be used for operations?

    – Say, for example, matching retirement funds?

    – Or, say, for another example, we’re undergoing unusual circumstances?

    Yes, for sure I should know this, but I don’t.
    Thank you

  8. It’s upsetting to see people on here saying “don’t complain about admins getting paid too much,” Why not? Why shouldn’t we critique a system that over compensates administrators while cutting pay and benefits for those who actually make the university run? Have we considered cutting athletics funding (there won’t be any sporting events with crowds for a while), dipping into the muli-billion dollar endowment, or cutting the top salaries to try and amortize gaps in the budget? I don’t think for second that the university is more concerned with caring for its employees than it is with holding onto status, power, and wealth for both the institution and the administrators.

    1. If you read President Brown’s letter you would see that they are in fact cutting budgets for items that won’t run like athletics. Upper management and all of the dean’s have all taken pay cuts. I am not happy about any of this either but the pain is being shared. Oh, and if we lose status, we lose students which means we lose money and jobs. So…..it is all tied in together. There is no perfect answer to any of this. If the entire upper administration took zero dollars next year the decimal point on the bottom line barely moves. Attacking the very people who I am sure are working harder now than ever does us no good. What should you have them do, throw their hands up and say “let’s see what happens”. Seriously, what is your plan?

      1. The plan should be to get rid of at least half of the administrators. How many VPs, directors, assistant directors, associate directors, etc. does a functioning organization need. The years of administrative negligence is on display right now. Compare the ratio of managers at BU and other educational institutions to other sections of industry. We have entire departments full of incompetent administrators who are unable to get anything done.

        1. This is so true. Every college I have interacted with has layers of administrators, many of them have been ineffective. Dr. Brown has done a lot for BU, and there are many good administrators, but their sheer volume is obscene and has also driven up the cost of tuition in colleges nationwide.

        2. Administrative bloat is an easy target in discussions like this. If faculty want to go back to overseeing residence halls, administering conduct hearings, helping 500 student clubs/organizations host their events, tackling financial assistance, providing accommodations for students with disabilities, processing visas for int’l students, and handling the hundreds of other components involved in the student experience beyond the classroom, have at it and godspeed. BU is not a small liberal arts college and it’s not the 1600s anymore.

          1. “…helping 500 student clubs/organizations host their events, tackling financial assistance, providing accommodations for students with disabilities, processing visas for int’l students, and handling the hundreds of other components involved in the student experience beyond the classroom, have at it and godspeed.”

            How about getting back to the basic mission of educating young people and letting researchers do their research in peace instead of creating administrative distractions for them? Who started all this? Exactly the same people who are responsible for the bloat for which students pay much more than what they get back.

            No, it is not the 1600s anymore; there was no BU and administrative bloat then, yet that era give us Locke, Pascal, Newton, Penn, Milton, Halley, Perrault, Vivaldi, Bach, Rembrandt, just to name a few.

  9. It appears as though every email like this is teeing up layoffs and just trying to soften the blow by getting us there incrementally.

    As nontenured teaching faculty I am very nervous.

    For those tenured faculty and administrative big wigs making 150k plus a year this change is a lot less painful than for the staff and teaching faculty who make 50 or 60k a year. The ones spending their summer quarantine in second homes already have safe retirement. As a tuition driven institution it is those teaching faculty and staff who apparently make the entire enterprise possible. The economic inequality in higher ed is obscene and this is only making things worse. As much as we paint ourselves as golden residents of the ivory tower it’s always the same thing.

    And with research at a minimal level those senior faculty salaries for the folks who teach 2 classes a year will be even harder to justify. At some point even the anointed ones should start to feel a bit nervous too.

  10. Are you telling me this is one of the solutions that the brightest minds from this university could think of? A solution that would have the most negative impact to those who are about to retire and are near-retirement. Sure, there is a pandemic going on, but applying a traditional solution to cost-cutting? I guess creative solutions are only for when the sun shines and not when the going gets tough. I think we are better than that. Often, we are told to think out of the box when faced with formidable challenges. Time to think out of the box. Focus more on people than the institution.

    1. “Focus more on people than the institution.”

      Please share with us what this means and your ‘out of the box’ alternative for coming up with $84 million.

      A “traditional” cost-cutting solution would be moving immediately to furloughs and layoffs, as many who work outside of higher education have already seen and experienced. Would that be preferred?

      1. A focus on people rather than the institution means drawing from the endowment. The faculty, staff, students, and alumni helped to create that endowment through massive fundraising efforts like last year’s capital campaign. WE did that.

        http://www.bu.edu/articles/2019/campaign-for-boston-university-faq/

        $84 million is a drop in the bucket compared to what WE raised last year.

        A focus on people means redirecting money earmarked for buildings back into faculty and staff. It’s a short term adjustment that will protect our fellow terriers. And it will generate tremendous goodwill, to be paid back in the next campaign.

        1. I totally agree with JM here. A focus on people, redirecting some of that $1.85 billion to employees during this highly unusual time, is the most compassionate and practical thing to do.

          Alumni, faculty and staff will be proud that BU took care of its employees.

  11. We, BU alumni and students have given lots of donations. The last campaign collected over $1.7billion.
    Use some of that money to Sustain the budget shortfall. That is investing that endowment money In BU. BU should see that as the best investment opportunity: it’s programs, it’s students, it employees. The Pandemic will not last forever. BU’s roots are established in its belief in God. Somehow the current administration has forgotten that. Have faith in God that He will see you through the difficult times of you persevere and do what is right. Hoarding money is not right. Now, the BU community needs you to have strong faith more than ever. Have you not heard the story of Joseph in the Scriptures? You wisely collected $1.7 billion during good times. Now it’s time to spend it wisely. The best expenditures is to believe in BU and not be scared.

  12. Over the past 7 years, BU faculty, staff, students and alumni raised 1.85 billion dollars for BU. We did that because we care about the institution. We did that because we believed that the money would be used to support fellow terriers. $84 million is a drop in the bucket compared to what we raised.

    http://www.bu.edu/articles/2019/comprehensive-campaign-raises-1-8-billion-plus/

    Why isn’t the endowment being redirected to support faculty and staff? The administration’s silence on this issue is deafening.

    Those earmarks can be channeled toward supporting terriers. It’s the right thing to do. It’s also the smart thing to do because it will generate the kind of goodwill that will be paid back in normal times, during the next campaign. We will remember this moment.

  13. In case anyone is wondering, according to a Business Insider article Robert Brown made $1.67M in 2016.

    Numerous Fortune 500 CEOs have elected to not receive any compensation for 6-12 months to help offset financial impacts from COVID-19. Since BU is a successful multi-billion dollar business, I would expect the CEO to do the same.

  14. I have spent almost twenty years at BU, and these kinds of actions from the administration do not surprise me anymore.

    BU, as many other universities, sells a product, “the undergraduate experience”, at exorbitant prices to families that, with great sacrifice, are hoping to get a better life for their kids, or simply are rich enough.

    This is done by showing them shiny buildings, fancy athletic complexes and theaters, targeted and expensive marketing campaigns and the fact that “Boston is a great place”. The real quality of the education provided and the compensation/benefits of faculty and staff is a secondary factor.

    In other words, BU is a business run by business-like people, and the business is in trouble.

    With $2B endowment, that was growing at double digit rate in the last few years, (http://endowments.com/boston-university/) and a funding campaign netting another $1.8B (http://www.bu.edu/articles/2019/comprehensive-campaign-raises-1-8-billion-plus/) one would think that enough funding can be diverted to cover even a $100M shortfall.

    If the administration really wants the support of the BU community, they need to start providing clear explanations on how these financial decisions are reached and how the endowment is used.

    I personally do not care how much the president makes a year, I just do not tolerate the endless patronizing and lip service to the supposed values of the university.

    1. Totally agreed, Realist. I’m an alum. BU is not so much in the business of providing an exceptional education as it is in providing an obscenely expensive, indulgent, “laser light show” of an experience for students. With their vast endowment and funding available… and a $97 million dollar FitRec center with a lazy river and a whirlpool hot tub, among other excesses… it’s pretty evident that BU’s educators are getting the shaft now because they simply aren’t considered “essential” to the business.

    2. We really should be concerned how much the president makes a year when wage inequality in the United States continues to be a growing problem, particularly when compared to other developed regions of the world. The sad reality is that there are plenty of CEO’s and university presidents who are vastly overpaid even when they continue to make poor business decisions that impact the lowest paid workers.

  15. After seeing how the president Brown acts and experiencing BU’s campus life, I would say I love the people I met here, and some professors and faculties are nice. But will I choose this school again? Absolutely No. In simple words, does the school really care? I would rather have my money go to make sure professors don’t get laid off at this time than being compensations to president Brown’s wallet.

  16. This coming on the heels of the infamous ” Boston University Job Reclassification Initiative” announced in January 2020.
    This initiative made a new framework for my job. I have worked at BU for 15 years. I am reclassified as an entry level worker. A new hire for my position makes the SAME salary as me.
    I do not know if anyone else was “reclassified”?
    Concerned about my future said it very well.
    ” I believe the vast majority of positions have been maintained because we able able to work from home. My job and my workload haven’t changed at all, I’m just doing my work from home instead of at BU.
    The BU retirement plan almost compensates for the under industry average salaries most of the non management staff earn. We earn no bonuses, no stock options, no profit sharing, and our annual ‘merit increases’ have really been cost of living increases (barely).”
    We work at BU for the under industry average because the tuition and retirement benefit were a bonus. Now we work under the industry average, get told that they are bringing salaries up to the industry average , slap all of us who brought BU to what is is today, and now cut retirement.
    Yes we have the opportunity to work from home. Most of us working from home are actually doing MORE work than we would otherwise be doing at the office. So now we are doing more work for less pay and less benefit.
    Lets release some of the 2B.

  17. I’ve been an employee here for 35 years, and I’ve seen many ups and downs and seemingly heartless and incomprehensible behavior on the part of the administration, but this takes the cake.

    For example, I have observed that some rather expensive lab renovations for new faculty are going ahead, as they cut our retirement benefits. I wonder if the faculty in question were informed that their shiny labs would fund maybe 20 employees benefits for a year if they would voluntarily permit a delay in the renovation?

    Also, I’ve been required to fire my undergraduate technicians despite the fact that their salaries come from research grant money. Is it even the University’s business to interrupt the flow of external grant funding? Also, the students in question have already had their lives disrupted and cannot participate in summer internships which seemed like a sure thing. I was pleased to be able (I thought) to offer them an alternative, but apparently student employees are being sacrificed too.

  18. I am part of what is classified an “Essential Worker”. We have been working through the pandemic, putting our health and our family’s health at risk, we have marched forward without any fear because we consider this is our duty. Are we thankful we have a job? of course we are. Is suspending our retirement benefits the right administrative decision? We don’t think so. We are sure the BU think tank could have come up with a solution that would not affect the employees in such a way, loyalty is not appreciated. With a billionaire endowment like the one our school has, we do not agree with the decision of the administration to suspend our retirement benefit for a whole year. You can do better than that and show your employees they matter.

  19. A lot of comments are asking to use endowment to supplement the retirement plan. But is it me or it sounds really weird? It sounds like selling the University for employee benefits. Isn’t that border line corruption? Plus endowment was given by donors, usually earmarked with specific use, say professorships or student scholarships. Can University use it as it wish?

  20. As a BU alum I am disgusted by President Brown’s decision. He makes $1.7 million a year and executive staffs such as deans make more than $300,000 a year. A lot of CEO from companies such as simon property group, Delta, etc. are forgoing their salary. President Brown doesn’t make the same sacrifice which tells me that he doesn’t care about employees.

    BU has worked hard these past few years, but the school will have a big setback thats going to take them years to rebuild. Laying people when there is a global pandemic is a heartless decision and its difficult for these people to get rehired when most companies are not hiring. I as a alum will never donate to the school and will not send my kids to such a greedy and heartless institution.

  21. What if the retirement contribution for a staff member was a line item in a budget funded by the NIH? How can the university just take that money and the overhead? Isn’t that illegal?

Post a comment.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *