Opinion: Keep SDSU’s credibility intactOne of the major reasons for paying a university president in South Dakota a $320,000 salary is because it takes a lot of money to hire a great talent with the right skills, credentials and experience to serve as president.
By: Frank Kloucek, Submitted columnist
One of the major reasons for paying a university president in South Dakota a $320,000 salary is because it takes a lot of money to hire a great talent with the right skills, credentials and experience to serve as president. If the state paid a salary of less than $50,000 then you’d expect that a person of great stature and ability with full time responsibilities would need to seek out other income sources, such as an additional salary of $195,000 plus a onetime stock option payoff of about $200,000 to sit on the board of directors of a multinational agricultural biotechnology corporation. But that’s not the case.
Monsanto’s gain is South Dakota State University’s loss. This $400,000 payoff creates a perceived conflict of interest not only for the university president, but also for the quality of the research results coming from SDSU.
How are the results of research investments at SDSU to be taken seriously when one of Monsanto’s competitors can point to the university president’s $400,000 purse from the corporation and declare the research is skewed? If the perception is tainted, why would benefactors invest in the research services of SDSU or any other South Dakota university if it appears our university presidents can be bought and it becomes tolerated?
Personally, I like President Chicoine and consider him a good friend. I strongly supported and campaigned for him to come to SDSU. When he was hired, I felt SDSU had made a major leap forward in its growth as a prestigious institution. The job is full time, requiring the full devotion of talents and energies of the president. If a $320,000 salary isn’t enough to keep Chicoine on the job at SDSU, it should be negotiated so that we can retain a great talent whose full time energies are devoted to SDSU. If President Chicoine has spare time to promote the interests of a multinational corporation, he should refuse the pay other than to cover his expenses for travel, food and lodging.
Service to academia should not appear as an opportunity to cut a fat hog at the expense of the university’s future. As a leading national land grant research university known for its excellent non-biased research we must do all we can to keep its credibility intact. What message does this send to other university presidents? What message are we sending to corporate America?
We should not turn this debate into nitpicking about conflicts of interest. If President Chicoine received a salary of $1,000 a year to sit on Monsanto’s board, there would probably be no discussion. That clearly is not the case here. The Board of Regents needs to resolve this matter immediately. If the board does not act, this issue will be presented to the South Dakota Legislature for a more permanent solution that will address it fairly and reasonably.
Frank Kloucek is a Democratic state senator from Scotland, who also owns a family farm.
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