Brandeis University paid former president Jehuda Reinharz another $4.9 million this month

Former Brandeis president Jehuda Reinharz’s pay has sparked controversy.
Former Brandeis president Jehuda Reinharz’s pay has sparked controversy.
Yoon S. Byun/Globe Staff

Brandeis University disclosed today that former president Jehuda Reinharz received a staggering $4.9 million this month, most of it deferred compensation from past years.

The school said the announcement was part of a commitment to be more open and fair in setting executive compensation after an uproar over Reinharz’s pay.

Reinharz’s compensation has sparked controversy on the Waltham campus since the Globe recently reported that Reinharz earned more than $600,000 in 2011 to serve as part-time president emeritus after stepping down three years ago. More than 1,600 alumni, students and other people with ties to Brandeis signed a petition protesting Reinharz’s pay and asking the board to overhaul its compensation policies, while faculty representatives called on the board to revamp its pay practices.

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This week, the board of trustees approved a new slate of policies, including promises to include a faculty representative on its compensation committee, consider public confidence and fairness in setting executive pay, and promptly disclose presidential pay to faculty, instead of waiting to report the numbers on tax filings that are typically not available until at least 18 months later.

“Our new policies set very high standards,” said Brandeis board chairman Perry M. Traquina in a statement. “These governance changes turn a new page for the University and aim to make Brandeis a national leader in terms of best practices for executive compensation.”

As part that new promise of transparency, Brandeis revealed today that on Jan. 2 it paid Reinharz $4.1 million in deferred compensation and $811,000 for sabbaticals that Reinharz accrued but never took during his 17-year tenure as the college’s president. The university said the deferred compensation was included in his total annual pay on past returns, while the sabbatical pay was referenced in a past footnote and will be reported in a tax return in May 2016.

“Instead of disclosing it in 2016, we are disclosing it now,” said Brandeis spokeswoman Ellen de Graffenreid.

The Jan. 2 lump sum payment is in addition to money Reinharz has received as president emeritus since he stepped down at the end of 2010. Since 2012, Reinharz has received $287,500 a year in salary as a part-time president emeritus and professor, but that will fall to $180,000 a year starting in July. The university also revealed today it has agreed to let him keep that salary through 2024.

In total, Reinharz is expected to collect roughly $8 million after stepping down as president, much of which was earned during his presidency and paid out later.

Sahar Massachi, 24, one of the Brandeis graduates who started the petition, said he was stunned by the pay figures.

“I can’t even process it,” Massachi said. “It’s such a big number. It’s so staggeringly large.”

Massachi said he was glad to see the changes the board made, though he said it was disappointing that it took a pay scandal to spur Brandeis to make them and wished they had gone further. For instance, the petition suggested that Brandeis cap presidential pay at 15 times the pay for the lowest paid worker.

Other colleges across the state and nation have come under fire for presidential pay packages. But the issue has been particularly controversial at Brandeis, partly because the school has long claimed social justice as one of its core values and because some of the pay was negotiated or doled out at a time when the university was facing significant financial challenges that forced it to cut benefits, lay off staffers, and even explore the idea of shutting down a beloved campus museum and selling the art.

But past board members poined out that Reinharz also made a substantial contribution to the university during his tenure, raising $1.2 billion and overseeing the transformation of the university campus with the construction or renovation of 29 buildings. And the school said he remains a key adviser and fundraiser in his role as president emeritus.