University President Takes Pay Cut

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Ethical Leadership In the News

University President Takes $90,000 Pay Cut, Gives Money to Staff
By Kevin Tibbles and Elizabeth Chuck

The man at the helm of a Kentucky university is giving up $90,000 from his salary to gain something priceless: satisfied employees.

"I think it will be impactful. How impactful, I don't know," said Raymond Burse, interim president of Kentucky State University in Frankfort, who is taking the pay cut so the lowest-paid workers on his campus can get a wage boost.

Burse, a Rhodes Scholar who had been president of Kentucky State in the 1980s and then went on to have a successful business career until 2012, was cajoled out of retirement this year to head the university once again. His first move: find out who was making the least money, and help them out. By reducing his own annual salary of $349,869 by more than $90,000, 24 employees got a pay hike that took them from $7.25 an hour to $10.25 an hour.

"It was about the act of doing something that would be impactful to individuals to whom I was going to demand a lot from, and so that's what it's all about," Burse said.

His selfless decision stunned university board members. "I was having coffee with my board chair and I said to her, 'I'm thinking about giving you back some of your money,' and she was a little bit shocked," he said.

Ultimately, he said, she told him, "It’s your money. Do what you want to do."

So he did, without hesitation. "I have been richly blessed in life and I am in a position where the money didn't matter," Burse said. But Burse's generosity comes with expectations.

"This is not a gift ... It is an investment," he said. "I expect these people to work hard because they are all a part of this university."
Burse hasn't sought out the employees he helped, but some have found him.

"One of the young ladies who was impacted, she shook my hand and with tears in her eyes thanked me for it," he said.

Despite his string of successes, Burse, who once worked minimum-wage jobs himself, never forgets his roots.

"I look at myself as a poor country kid from Hopkinsville, Kentucky, trying to do well in this world by treating people right."

Original Link (date last accessed August 24, 2015):

Some questions to think about, write about, or talk to colleagues about after reading the article:

  • What makes this president an Ethical Leader?
  • Why don’t we see more of this kind of behavior or hear more about it?
  • What things have you done recently in the workplace for which you are proud? Anything particularly linked to ethical leadership?