Editorial: Leading by example

NW Staff

Recently, President Les Wong declined a $10,000 salary increase proposed by the NMU Board of Trustees. In light of possible budget cuts, The North Wind feels that this was the right step for the administration to take.

With recent economic downfalls hitting Michigan, such as General Motors declaring bankruptcy, it seems obvious that the state of the economy will not be improving anytime soon. Although higher education is protected by President Barack Obama’s economic stimulus bill, which declares that university budgets cannot be cut below 2006 levels, appropriations for higher education and other government related forums will decrease substantially with the loss of state tax revenue.

Wong has recommended freezing staff salaries as a way to cut half of the proposed $4 million dollar budget short fall. Despite facing some scrutiny, he has repeatedly supported this idea as a way to ultimately protect positions from being terminated. By freezing his own salary, Wong is not only leading by example but proving his dedication to helping the university through these upcoming hard times.

While The North Wind agrees with rewarding people for a job well done, the reasoning behind the Board of Trustees decision is unclear. Raising President Wong’s salary would seem a rash decision in one of the toughest financial situations Northern has had to face. While the gesture showed that the board clearly approved of Wong’s performance over the past year, the members should have considered how such a proposal would look in the eyes of the community members and NMU faculty. By declining the increase, Wong has done his part in making sacrifices for the university. While other Michigan university presidents, such as Mary Sue Coleman of the University of Michigan, have accepted salary increases this year, Wong’s example will encourage others involved with NMU to accept necessary cuts. Although Wong has always kept a good relationship with faculty, it has recently been strained due to the proposed salary freeze and possibility of lost positions. By showing he, too, will bear the burden of a salary freeze, Wong is proving he’s more than just talk and that he is willing to take the same drawbacks as everyone else.

The North Wind understands that a salary increase for a university president is not unusual, but the severity of the economic issues at hand makes the suggestion illogical. President Wong has illustrated what he is willing to do to protect the students and faculty as well as the quality of education at NMU from being damaged during these hard times.