A recent analysis of private college presidents’ pay showed that while most earn 3.7 times as much as the average full professor at their own institution, some pull in much more, including James L. Doti, president of Chapman University, reported as receiving $1.5 million in 2009, or 9.4 times the pay of professors.
At a time when income inequality dominates headlines and fuels Occupy Wall Street protests that have spread to college campuses, the findings released by the Chronicle of Higher Education earlier this month might be expected to generate outrage. Yet, anecdotal accounts indicate Doti, with two decades as president of the county’s largest private college, defies expectations with plentiful supporters.
And a closer examination of Doti’s pay conveys a different picture than portrayed in the Chronicle’s narrow analysis.
University spokeswoman Mary Platt said the $1.5 million compensation the Chronicle attributed to Doti in 2009 is misleading. Due to reporting requirements, $846,176 of that amount represents an accrued five-year retention bonus, she said.
Over that same five-year period, Doti and his wife more than returned the bonus to the school, establishing an economics chair with a $1 million endowment, and making additional gifts totaling $360,000 for scholarships and building campaigns, Platt said.
Doti lacks any special retirement benefits other than the 401 K plan offered all fulltime employees, according to Platt, who added that his pay of $679,208 last year, approved by Chapman’s trustees, more accurately portrays his earnings, with a base salary of $320,000, augmented by home, car, health-care and retirement allowances as well as another retention bonus installment, the latter of which Doti will again donate back to the university, Platt said.
The Chronicle’s overall analysis included 519 private-college presidents whose institutional budgets exceed $50-million, a group whose median total compensation was $385,909 for 2009.
About 6,000 students are currently enrolled at Chapman, where undergraduate tuition costs $19,600 per semester. Three of last year’s Laguna Beach High School grads planned to enroll this fall.
Local resident and former Chapman professor Joan Gladstone was unperturbed about Doti’s pay. “I have nothing but tremendous respect and even awe of what he’s been able to accomplish, and I don’t say this lightly,” said Gladstone, a public relations expert who taught for two years.
Gladstone described Doti’s influence as “transformational” and praised his commitment to bringing his vision to fruition, in part by maintaining relationships with alumni in order to support expansion and scholarships.
Another local, filmmaker Christine Fugate, recently an adjunct Chapman professor, was equally unperturbed by Doti’s compensation package. “I do know that he is an incredible leader and has inspired me to be a better teacher and filmmaker,” she said.
Other professors and Doti loyalists had similar praise, but declined to be identified to protect relationships.
“I believe we are extraordinarily fortunate to have Jim Doti as president of Chapman University,” said Platt. “Clearly, we not only have a president who has provided great leadership, but we also have a president who sets a strong example of charitable giving to our institution.”