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Hitt earns raise despite student protest

UCF president to see $26,500 annual increase


Published: Thursday, November 15, 2012

Updated: Tuesday, November 20, 2012 11:11

Protestors to Hitt raise

Adrienne Cutway/Central Florida Future

Members from SLAP and other student organizations entered the Board of Trustees meeting shortly before the proposed raise was to be discussed. They stood against a side wall with a large sign and purple tape over their mouths.

The UCF Board of Trustees approved a $26,500 raise for President John C. Hitt on Thursday while members of the Student Labor Action Project and six other registered student organizations stood against the wall with a large sign and their mouths taped as a protest to the proposal.

This will be the first time since 2006 that Hitt will receive a base salary increase, according to the university. The Compensation and Labor Committee had Paul McConnell from McConnell and Company conduct an assessment of Hitt’s performance during the past three years; these findings were discussed at a committee meeting on Oct. 18.

The committee found that, based on Hitt’s performance, he should receive a “modest increase” in base pay and incentive performance target units. Hitt’s base pay will increase from $463,500 to $490,000, or a 5.7 percent increase. In terms of performance-based pay, that number will increase from $240,000 per target unit to $245,000 per target unit, equaling 50 percent of his salary.

According to the presidential evaluation, in Hitt’s 20 years as UCF’s president, he has increased enrollment from 22,000 to approximately 59,000 students, doubled campus facilities and expanded academic programs.

Performance goals for 2012-2015 include improving graduation and retention rates, and securing more extramural grants and contracts.

Public funds account for $200,000 of Hitt’s compensation, while the rest comes from nonpublic funds.

SLAP organized the protest and had students arrive outside of the Live Oak Center shortly before the meeting started at 9:30 a.m. About 20 representatives from the RSOs wore “Students in debt” T-shirts and held a sign with the words “We tightened our belts, you tighten yours. No $26,500 raise!”

Paul Thurston, student outreach director for SLAP, said that although the organization recognizes the work Hitt has done, he believes the economy is too tough and now is not the time for him to receive a raise.

“We see a disconnect when [administrators are] saying that there’s no money in the budget, we have to raise tuition to make sure that standards don’t diminish and stuff like that, but yet there’s plenty of room in the budget for him to get a $26,000 raise,” Thurston said. “He’s already the highest paid president in Florida, the ninth highest paid in the country. … He’s not hurting, we would never begrudge anybody a living wage but we just see a disconnect in the proportion of burden [students are] taking and people in administration are taking.”

Thurston referenced the recent 15 percent increase in differential tuition, which was put into effect this semester and added an extra $19.24 per credit hour. This year marks the fourth consecutive year that differential tuition has increased the maximum percentage allowed.

The groups entered the meeting around 1 p.m. and stood against the wall with their sign and purple tape over their mouths, meant to symbolize their voices not being heard on campus, Thurston said.

UCF Student Government Association President Cortez Whatley objected to passing the raise, saying that it sends a bad message. Whatley is the only student to sit on the board.

“From my standpoint, I think that in the times of our budget cuts and the economic situation that we have been preaching this sends a very bad message to the families that we have been preaching to and to the students that I represent in my constituency,” Whatley said.

More than one trustee disagreed with Whatley, saying that Hitt deserves the raise and that the money does not come from public funds or tuition. Whatley was the only trustee to vote against the raise.

Trustee Marcos Marchena said not approving the raise would be more of a symbolic gesture.

“I think that it is not in any way, shape or form a message that we don’t care about the other separate issue or that we don’t understand what the students and families are going through — but this should be separated from that,” he said.

Luis Lopez, a member of SLAP, said after the raise was approved that he wasn’t surprised by the Board’s actions, although he was proud that Whatley spoke out against the pay increase, especially in such an “intimidating” atmosphere. He described the vote as “unfortunate” and “insensitive.”

“President Hitt has been telling us, the student body, that we need to tighten our belts in tough economic times, well obviously he’s not embodying that message himself. He needs to step up and be a leader,” Lopez said.

He said that from here, the group will work on getting students’ voices heard and making sure there is more student inclusion in these types of decisions. He said from this decision, it is obvious the Board of Trustees is not looking out for the student body.

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