Michael Wenye Li / Sun Senior Photographer

President Martha E. Pollack gave updates about the University's anti-racism initiatives progress in her latest email to the campus community.

July 31, 2020

President Pollack Takes 20% Pay Cut

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Cornell’s top administrator will lose one-fifth of her salary due to COVID-19.

President Martha E. Pollack will take a 20 percent pay cut for a full year, the University confirmed Thursday. The pay cut is part of Cornell’s pledge to reduce the salaries of top administrators, as it attempts to save money while projecting millions in financial losses.

Along with Pollack, other top administrators will also take pay cuts, although the details on these cuts are not public.

The University announced in March that top administrators would receive pay cuts, including Pollack, Provost Michael Kotlikoff, vice presidents, deans and vice provosts. Cornell said the reductions were voluntary and earmarked to be used toward meeting students’ financial needs.

“Every dollar of these recaptured funds will be used to help meet the financial aid needs of our undergraduate, graduate or professional students,” Kotlikoff and Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Joanne DeStephano said in a March email announcing the cuts.

Pollack’s base salary for the 2017 to 2018 academic year — her first year at the helm of Cornell — was $671,693, the lowest in the Ivy League at the time. Most recent tax returns show that the president was compensated $1.2 million in 2018, according to Bloomberg. Pollack’s compensation for the current year is not public.

Cornell’s belt-tightening comes as it has already lost millions of dollars due to the pandemic. Pollack and Kotlikoff wrote earlier this month that the University lost $45 million in the fiscal year that ended June 30, and they projected $210 million in pandemic-related losses for the current fiscal year.

In April, Cornell froze hiring and employee salaries and approved emergency furloughs to help cut costs.

Half of the eight Ivy League presidents have reported taking pay reductions. Like Pollack, Philip Hanlon at Dartmouth College and Christina Paxson at Brown University will incur 20 percent cuts. Harvard University’s Larry Bacow will take the largest pay cut, a 25 percent reduction.

Columbia University, the University of Pennsylvania and Yale University implemented a pay freeze on their presidents’ salaries. At Princeton, president Christopher Eisgruber will not receive merit pay for this year.