Bloomberg News concludes its six-part series on public employee pay with an article featuring the president of Ohio State University, Gordon Gee:
The Ohio State University President E. Gordon Gee lives in a 9,630-square-foot Tudor Revival mansion that was renovated for him, featuring a great hall, pool, elevator and tennis court.
Gee made $1.9 million last year as the highest-paid public university president in the U.S. He also logged $1.7 million in expenses in fiscal 2011, including airfare for trips in private jets, country club dues and fundraising parties at his residence.
"He's overpaid," said CJ Jones, 19, a junior public affairs major at Ohio State, whose tuition has risen 9.7 percent during her 2 1/2 years at the university, based in Columbus, the state capital. "You should want that job for a sense of Buckeye pride. Why do you have to suck so many resources from our budget? I know kids graduating from OSU with $90,000 in debt, and it's a public university."...
Gee also enjoys perks not received by other public officials. He lives rent-free in a fully staffed house. He rides private jets, including a $7,191 flight covering the 107 miles (172 kilometers) from Columbus, Ohio, to Cincinnati, according to expense reports obtained by Bloomberg. He billed the university for everything from $2,427 for a cabin upgrade during a 2008 alumni cruise in the Baltics to vitamins. School officials said Gee's expenses are paid by endowments or other non-public discretionary funds, not by tuition or tax dollars. [The Bloomberg article could have noted here, but didn't, that the endowment benefits from being tax-exempt.]
The Bloomberg article doesn't get into it, but there's a pattern here. The Wall Street Journal reported in 2006: "Vanderbilt paid more than $6 million, never approved by the full board, to renovate and enlarge Braeburn, the Greek-revival university-owned mansion where Mr. Gee and his wife, Constance, live. The university pays for the Gees' frequent parties and personal chef there. The annual tab exceeds $700,000."
The Bloomberg article also fails to credit a Dayton Daily News investigation by Laura Bischoff published in September that turned up many of the details reported by Bloomberg. That article reported: "At Brown University, where he served as president from 1998 to 2000, he was criticized after the university spent $3 million renovating a home for Gee, including $400,000 that paid for a conservatory that was built in Great Britain and shipped to Providence."
At this point, the guy has done lavish presidential home renovations at three universities — Brown, Vanderbilt, and Ohio State. [Update: See the comments below, pointing out it's actually four — "A 4,500-square-foot stucco mansion sprung up east of the Williams Village twin towers in Boulder in 1987, the first official president's residence at the University of Colorado in decades. The home, which cost $700,000 to build, was intended as a way for CU regents to recruit Gordon Gee as president by giving him and subsequent leaders a stately place for fund-raising events."] I'd be in favor of a law — call it Gee's Law — that says if a college or university spends more than $1 million, indexed to inflation, renovating or building a residence for its president, the college or university gets an immediate 25% cut to its federal research and Pell Grant funding. If individual donors or tuition-paying parents want to fund this sort of thing, fine, but money is fungible, and there's just no reason to borrow money from China or future generations or raise taxes to pay for this sort of thing.