Principal’s salary contract reveals details of perks

Principal Heather Munroe-Blum began her tenure at McGill with a $350,000 base salary and a list of perks, along with other compensations, worth tens of thousands of dollars, as her 2002 contract reveals. The document, which details the conditions of Munroe-Blum’s 2003-2008 term, was obtained in full by The Daily last month.

Munroe-Blum’s salary and benefits were previously publicized, but details of the contract were largely kept out of the public eye. Her current salary stands at $369,250.

In Quebec, the salaries and benefits of senior administrators are filed annually with the provincial Ministry, and full contract details are available through Access to Information requests. Based on documents acquired from the National Assembly, both the Journal de Montréal and Maclean’s OnCampus have published figures stating that Munroe-Blum’s benefits are worth more than $229,000 a year.

The contract states that the base salary figure has the potential to increase annually as per review by the Human Resources Committee, a committee of the McGill Board of Governors. Munroe-Blum sits on the Human Resources Committee, except when it is reviewing her own salary – eight other members of the Board compose the remainder of the group. None of the current voting members on the Board began their terms before Munroe-Blum assumed her position in 2003.

In addition to the University’s standard holidays and five weeks of paid vacation, Munroe-Blum is permitted to spend up to 20 per cent of her time engaged in “remunerated professional commitments outside the University.”

Munroe-Blum also accrues the right to administrative leave of one year after she serves a five year term. On administrative leave, she would receive a full salary equal to what she was paid in the final year of her term. Munroe-Blum did not exercise this right at the end of her first term, and the contract states she would discuss “the postponement of the administrative leave and…whether there ought to be any further accrual of administrative leave during the second term.”

Other benefits include a monthly housing allowance of $4,000, annual automobile allowance of $16,000, and annual maximum of $3,000 in personal financial planning services. McGill also foots the bill for travel expenses, club expenses, and expenses related to the hosting of receptions and events at the Principal’s residence.

Joël Pedneault, SSMU VP External, spoke about his surprise at the provision for club memberships, which he pointed to as a “concrete example of where the lines are blurred between Munroe-Blum’s role as the University Principal and her role as a member of the elite in Canada.” He added that Munroe-Blum is on many corporate boards and, that, last June, she was appointed to the Royal Bank of Canada’s Board of Directors.

When Concordia Interim President Frederick Lowy assumed his position in February 2011 following the surprise resignation of his predecessor Judith Woodsworth – who received a highly-publicized $703,500 severance package – the website of the office of the president featured his full contract. The site also posted an update to the document when an amendment was added in April.

Christina Mota, director of media relations at Concordia University, said that this action was a decision on the part of Lowy. “[Lowy] himself said that he wanted to have the details of his contract posted online,” she explained.

“He felt that it was important for the community to know what the contents of his contract were,” she added. Lowy’s contract is the first that Concordia has ever posted in full.

Vaughan Dowie, executive head of public affairs at McGill, explained in an email to The Daily that “different universities take different approaches to the provision of this information, bearing in mind privacy considerations and other factors.” He said that McGill has no plans to change their practices regarding distribution of salary information.

While Munroe-Blum’s salary and benefits are comparable to her counterparts at universities like Concordia and Université de Montréal, Pedneault noted the apparent lack of guidelines in the context for expenses. Lowy’s contract includes specifications, including the fact that his travel is Business Class, and that Concordia will pay for two club memberships. Munroe-Blum’s contract is more loosely worded, allowing for membership at “any clubs in Montreal where membership is related to…your duties at the University,” as well as “appropriate business clubs” outside of Montreal upon approval of Stuart Cobbett, Chair of the Board.

Munroe-Blum began her second term on January 1, 2009. Her 2002 contract states that it was the “mutual expectation of the Chair and you that this appointment will be renewed for a second five year term following a review.”