Sharing the Wealth

sharing moneyWith the debate over minimum wage still swirling, one university president is taking it upon himself to see that his lowest-paid workers’ salaries get a boost.

The Lexington Herald-Leader reports that Raymond Burse, interim president at Kentucky State University, is giving up more than $90,000 of his annual salary in order to increase the salaries of 24 KSU employees—some of whom were earning as little as $7.25 hourly—to $10.25 an hour.

Burse—who served as KSU president from 1982 to 1989 and was an executive at GE for 17 years—told the Herald-Leader that he and the KSU Board of Regents discussed his potential pay cut before the board met to approve his contract in late July.

Burse’s annual salary had been set at $349,869. That number now sits at $259,745, which seems to sit just fine with Burse.

“My whole thing is I don’t need to work,” he told the paper. “This is not a hobby, but in terms of the people who do the hard work and heavy lifting, they are at the lower pay scale.”

He was also quick to point out that the move isn’t simply a publicity stunt.

“You don’t give up $90,000 for publicity. I did this for the people. This is something I’ve been thinking about from the very beginning,” he said, noting the raise in pay for the affected employees will remain in place after a new president is selected.

Burse is also under no illusion that his counterparts in academia will begin sharing their salaries with employees on the lower rungs of the pay scale, and says his largesse “is not a poke” at other university presidents to follow his example.

“I was in a position where I could do that,” he told the Herald-Leader. “That is not always the case.”

Fair enough. And it’s safe to say Burse probably hasn’t started a trend here. But, whatever his reasons, give Burse credit for taking steps to beef up the paychecks of some of his lowest-earning employees, and doing so at his own expense.

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