In troubled economic times such as those we face right now, a lot of citizens look to people in positions of leadership to, in effect, put their money where their mouth is. One of a number of officials who has been doing that of late is Gary Forsee, the president of the University of Missouri system.
Forsee has been on his new job a year and his contract states that he now is eligible for $100,000 in performance pay. He has turned that bonus down in a move that has been an eye-opener in many circles.
Citing huge fiscal challenges facing the Missouri higher education system, Forsee also told his Board of Curators he won’t take any increase in 2009 on his $400,000 annual base salary and will forego any performance pay in 2010.
The performance bonus would have gone to a deferred fund that Forsee would be able to collect after five years on his job. Now it stays in the system’s general operating fund at a time when every cent is needed.
“I think the president is sending a message that he is not going to be treated any differently from any other employee,” said curator Bo Fraser, a member of the Missouri human resources and compensation committee. He added that, in declining the extra money, Forsee “is right in line with what has been asked of all other employees.”
Forsee has called for all the departments on the MU system’s four campuses in Columbia, Kansas City, St. Louis and Rolla to reduce spending. He also has issued a hiring freeze and is requiring employees to pay 1 percent or 2 percent of their salaries toward their pension plans.
Forsee is the former chief operating officer of Sprint Nextel who left the company in 2007 with a very handsome severance package and stock options. His compensation package at MU includes a residence, car and country club membership.
What Forsee has done is in keeping with the current economic climate. While people out of jobs and those struggling to make ends meet will contend that Forsee’s $400,000 salary makes it a little easier for his approach, at least he saw the picture and did something about it. That is quite a contrast to those wealthy financial people who have been handing themselves exorbitant bonuses while their firms were begging for government bailouts.
It’s also interesting to note that Ford Motor Co. chairman Bill Ford and CEO Alan Mulally from Lawrence have announced they will take 30 percent pay cuts this year and next to help their struggling firm bounce back. Further, the Ford board of directors will work without pay, and executive bonuses have been eliminated.
There’s the old saying that from those to whom much is given, much is expected. It is hoped we see more people following the example of Forsee and Mulally who are doing their part to help the nation and its people overcome our massive economic threats.