The Chronicle of Higher Education
December 8th, 2014
In the official history of Rensselaer
Polytechnic Institute, Shirley Ann Jackson will very likely be
remembered as a trailblazing president, whose unparalleled vision and
determination transformed a respectable regional private college into a
nationally recognized research institution.
This is the reason, her supporters on the governing board say, that
Ms. Jackson earned $7-million in 2012, making her the nation’s
highest-paid private college president that year, the most recent for
which federal tax forms are available. This is the explanation, her
backers say, for Ms. Jackson’s perennial position as a front-runner in
the college presidents’ pay race, routinely earning over a million
dollars a year.
But Ms. Jackson has been a polarizing figure, clashing publicly with
professors and battling behind the scenes with her cabinet members. To
many people who have worked closely with her, Ms. Jackson’s
well-compensated 15-year run as president is a striking example of the
tremendous accommodations that some college boards are willing to make
for leaders who present themselves as change agents.