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Cornell responded to PETA's letter to President Martha E. Pollack, accusing Weill Cornell Medicine of animal misconduct.

February 21, 2020

Cornell’s Highest Paid Employees Are Clinical Professors, Boasting Multimillion Dollar Salaries

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Cornell’s latest tax returns reveal that the University’s highest-paid employees were clinical professors — sporting salaries that range from around $4 to $8 million in the fiscal year ending in 2018.

Form I990, a publicly available IRS report filed by tax-exempt organizations, discloses the salaries of the University’s 20 “key employees” from the tax year beginning July 1, 2017 through June 30, 2018.

The IRS defines “key employees” as individuals who receive at least $150,000 in total compensation from Cornell and related organizations, and exercise responsibility over the entire University or manage over 10 percent of the University’s expenses. Because Cornell is required to list only 20, a number of staff meeting those criteria may be excluded.

The highest paid professor was once again Zev Rosenwaks, M.D., reproductive endocrinology and infertility, who earned $7,852,903 in the 2018 fiscal year.

Rosenwaks, the director of the Ronald O. Perelman and Claudia Cohen Center for Reproductive Medicine, works at the Weill Cornell Medical New York-Presbyterian Hospital, is a clinical professor, meaning that he teaches while working as a practicing doctor.

In 2016, Rosenwaks earned $6,364,250, when he was the fourth-highest-paid person in the Ivy League, The Sun previously reported. The physician is best known for his work in pioneering “assisted reproductive technology,” a type of fertility treatment in which both eggs and embryos are handled in a laboratory.

The second highest paid professor was Hey-Joon Kang, M.D., reproductive endocrinology and infertility, who earned $4,677,438. Kang is also a clinical professor, who sees patients at the Long Island-located Center for Reproductive Medicine Garden City, which is also affiliated with Weill.

According to John Carberry, University spokesperson, the disproportionately high salaries of clinical professors compared to other University staff is due to the multiple jobs they work in their positions.

“The compensation of full-time faculty is based upon their teaching, research and administrative responsibilities, as well as the income derived from their clinical practices,” Carberry wrote in an email to The Sun.

Cornell is unique in having a pair of reproductive doctors rank atop its payrolls, with a number of other Ivy League schools most highly compensating their endowment’s money managers. For instance, in the 2018 fiscal year, Yale’s highest paid employee was Chief Investment Officer David Swensen, who earned over $4.3 million for overseeing the university’s $27 billion endowment.

Cornell’s CIO Kenneth Miranda, on the other hand, made just under $2 million, although he manages a significantly smaller fund.

Explaining Cornell physicians’ big paychecks, Carberry wrote that “recruiting and retaining talented researchers and clinicians enables us to provide world-renowned patient care and conduct life-saving medical research, while educating the next generation of clinical leaders.”

Compared to clinical physicians, President Martha E. Pollack earned $676,905 in 2018 fiscal year. In the same fiscal year former President Hunter R. Rawlings III was the highest paid employee not affiliated with Weill, making $1,197,420. He served as interim president from 2016 to 2017 after the death of President Elizabeth Garrett.

Carberry said the difference in compensation between presidents  stemmed from the fact that Pollack was only a few months into her role as University president, while Rawlings had just retired. After their term expires, retired and past presidents can receive compensation if any of it was deferred during their term as president, Carberry continued.

Among the 20 employees listed, one of the highest paid non-clinical, faculty members was School of Industrial and Labors Prof. Harry Katz, labor relations, who made a total of $436,000. Katz previously served as a dean of ILR and an interim provost, and now teaches a number of courses on collective bargaining and the practice of arbitration.

The 16 highest paid employees listed in fiscal year 2017 did not include any Black or Hispanic employees, which was the case with the previous year’s tax release as well. While 35 percent of the University’s top-earning staff were female in fiscal year 2017, only 24 percent of them were women in the 2018 fiscal year.

Of the top five highest paid employees, Dr. Kang was the only female.