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Wayne State University's New President

Dr. M. Roy Wilson comes with impeccable credentials and an unprecedented salary and benefits package. Will he be worth it?

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High Salary, High Expectations

Wilson's rank as a top physician and researcher commanded a starting salary of $470,000 for a five-year contract that will increase each year ($483,000 the second year and $497,000 the third year). Wilson's starting salary is more than his predecessor, Allan Gilmour, whose base pay was $410,000. Wilson is set to receive a $50,000 bonus at the end of his contract.

Wilson's salary hasn't sat well with some, especially students who feel that it's too hefty at a bad time. In June, WSU's board of governors voted to increase tuition 8.9 percent—an additional $900 a year for full-time undergraduate students.

Nicholas Klaus, a Juris Doctor candidate in the university's law school, says students are angry about the tuition hike and Wilson's salary because it feels like they're being asked to pay more with little explanation.

"My hope is that the man has a creative mind," Klaus says. "I hope he has a knack for fund development and economic justice. Between the dramatic increase in both his salary and our tuition, isn't that what we've paid for?"

Willie Burton III, 25, a senior business management major, agrees.

"A lot of students haven't been too thrilled about how much money he's getting and how much money we're going to have to pay out," Burton III says. "They need to stop raising tuition. We're young adults and we pay enough. There are plenty of ways to save money on campus."

Trent recognizes Detroit is hurting financially but the university also has to pay top-notch administrators what they're worth to attract them.

"His salary is in line with other institutions. All I can say is we are really going to charge him with truly offering us a path forward," Trent says. "We're looking at some very serious long-range planning. I think we will get our bang for our buck. We're holding him to high standards, and I think he will meet those high standards."

Pollard says the board takes no joy in increasing tuition, and the move comes after Wayne State received the Michigan legislature's lowest increase in funding among all public universities for the second consecutive year despite being the state's third-largest university.

And Wilson's salary at the National Institutes of Health, Pollard says, was nearly twice of his university offer.

"He's leaving that to come to Wayne State."

Staying Power

Wilson realizes his goals may take time to accomplish. He's committed to staying in Detroit long enough to see his plans come to fruition.

That's good news to Burton III, who has attended Wayne State since 2006. This student, who's also Multicultural Greek Council president, says having a president with longevity gives the university stability.

"We need somebody who is going to lay their foundation in Wayne State," Burton III says. "We need the consistency and persistence. We don't need to be changing presidents with the seasons. We need someone who wants to get in and stay."

He has reason for concern. Irvin Reid ended a 10-year presidency in 2008. Jay Noren's two-year presidency at Wayne State ended in 2010 and Allan Gilmour, Wilson's predecessor, was president of the university from 2010 until this year.

It means a lot to the university to have a president stay anchored for a while, Pollard says. "I see Dr. Wilson's stay 10 years or longer. During the time that he'll be here, I see the university, as well as Midtown, turning around."

Wilson says he doesn't plan to be a short-term president. He considers his Detroit move his last. Wilson is a divorced father of two children, son Travis Yoshi, 21, and daughter Presley Rei, 17.

"When you get to my point in my career, I've done a lot. You start thinking about what you want your legacy to be," Wilson says. "I want to make sure that I use whatever talents, whatever knowledge and experience I have to be able to exert the most influence and making something really better.

"Part of the draw is to not only to be able to contribute to the growth of the university, but also contribute to (the) growth of the city that the university is a part of."
 

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