WesternU president’s 2014 salary raising eyebrows

April 1, 2015

Western University is under fire after Ontario’s annual Sunshine List was released last week, revealing that President Amit Chakma was paid $967,000 in 2014—more than twice his normal salary of $479,600. Chakma received the extra payment for foregoing a paid sabbatical at the end of his first 5-year contract and working through what a WesternU news release called a “critical time” for the university. MPP Peggy Sattler, NDP critic for Training, Colleges and Universities, raised the issue in legislature on Monday, asking the governing Liberals to prohibit similar double pay-outs to university presidents. Alison Hearn, President of the University of Western Ontario Faculty Association called the payment “a slap in the face.” Chirag Shah, Chair of WesternU’s board of governors, commented that “we are satisfied that the salaries of Western faculty and staff reflect fair compensation for each individual’s scope of responsibility, academic and professional credentials, and years of service.” An online petition of non-confidence in both Chakma and Shah has gathered almost 5,000 signatures. CBC | WesternU News Release | Ottawa Citizen | London Free Press | Peggy Sattler News

Postscript: April 2, 2015

Yesterday Western University’s board of governors responded to controversy over President Amit Chakma’s compensation by announcing the appointment of former Ontario Appeal court justice Stephen Goudge to conduct an “independent and impartial review of the university’s presidential compensation practices.” Board Chair Chirag Shah reinforced the board’s confidence in Chakma’s leadership and his many accomplishments during his first six years. In a separate statement, Chakma explained that in hindsight, he should have carried over the administrative leave until the end of his current term, and announced that he has voluntarily refunded the in lieu payment to the university, and will not exercise his right under the current contract to a similar payment at the end of his second term. Board statement | Chakma statement

Postscript: April 9, 2015

Western University President Amit Chakma has apologized for accepting a double payment of his 2014 salary in lieu of taking administrative leave. "It is difficult to express how truly sorry I am for the lack of judgment I showed," he said. On April 1, Chakma volunteered to return the extra money; however, critics said that his gesture did not address their underlying concerns regarding administrative decisions. Chakma responded, "those critics are right ... I became so focused on those external matters—fundraising, for example—that I was not staying on top of concerns being raised on our campus. I was disconnected." WesternU's senate has called a special meeting to discuss a non-confidence vote in Chakma, who will address the senate today. Western News (Apology) | Western News (Senate)