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Report: Gee ties on nearly $8M in various expenses

Andrew Holleran / Photo editor

President E. Gordon Gee’s paycheck is larger than that of any other public university president in the nation at about $2 million a year, but a recent Dayton Daily News investigation found that the university spends almost as much on Gee as the millions he makes.
Using his passport like a driver’s license, wining and dining with donors, faculty, visitors and dignitaries, and maintaining his arsenal of bow ties and bow-tie paraphernalia are bank-breaking expenses that don’t come out of Gee’s pocket. Since 2007, the university has spent about $7.7 million on Gee’s expenses in addition to the $8.6 million in salary and compensation he was paid during the same time period.
The university’s expenditures on Gee total about $1.1 million on travel, $813,000 on tailgating, almost $2.2 million on special events, $1.6 million on Gee’s office and $2.1 million on the president’s residence, according to the report.
Gee makes no apologies for the expenses.
“The reason I do it is the fact that’s it’s my job,” Gee told The Lantern during a Sept. 10 interview. “And secondly of all, I make no excuses for it, I raised $1.5 billion and the university is in the best financial shape of any institution in the country. You know I’m the highest paid university president in the country and I feel it’s a privilege to be a president here and I want to earn that salary every day. I think that I do.”
JobsOhio President Mark Kvamme told the Daily News that this was the cost of running an institution that provides a wealth of jobs to the state.
“In order to do everything that he does, he needs to be everywhere all the time,” Kvamme said. “The way I look at it, every second of Gordon’s time is very, very valuable for the state of Ohio.”
Gee’s famous affinity for bow ties has cost the university $64,000 including costs for bow tie cookies, O-H and bow tie pins for Gee and others to distribute, and the bow ties themselves, the report said.
“It’s a nice icebreaker. The freshmen show up on campus and President Gee hands them a cookie. They love it. The students love it,” OSU spokesman Jim Lynch told the Daily News.
The travel and entertainment expenses are paid for from endowment funds donated to the university, according to the report.
“No tuition or tax dollars are used to fund the president’s travel and use of the residence,” said the university in a statement Sunday.
That’s a distinction many OSU students said was important.
“As long as it’s not coming from my tuition, I really don’t care,” said Joe Totts, a third-year in mechanical engineering.
Between his base salary, bonuses, deferred compensation and supplemental retirement, Gee was paid $1.9 million last fiscal year.
Gee, who lives in a 9,600-square foot, OSU-owned mansion in Bexley, has hosted 16,000 guests at 275 events in the last five years. During his tenure, the house underwent a $1.3 million remodel and was filled with $673,000 in artwork, decorations and furnishings, according to the report.
“I think it is interesting that he spends that much money on personal luxury instead of spending on ways to improve the campus or to help students out with educational facilities or with safety recently,” said Justin Hoyng, a fourth-year in strategic communications. “I think he can probably spend money on more safety features to stop accidents happening just recently as compared to spending on stuff that is so unnecessary.”
Despite the spending, OSU is still bringing in money. The report said that since Gee took over as university president in 2007, OSU has raised $1.6 billion and hopes to raise $2.5 billion in gifts by June 2016.
“I think the university runs really well how it is. Extra money is just extra money,” said Dylan Merry, a first-year in computer science engineering. “I guess I don’t really care either way about what really he is doing. I, as a student, just get my education. President Gee is doing an awesome job running the university.”
Not everyone was so supportive.
“There is more he can do to improve the school,” said Allie Lawson, a fourth-year in chemistry. “We could use those funds for something else.”
Andrew Lewandowski, a first-year graduate student in social work, agreed.
“While he does deserve high compensation as president of a large university, it’s ridiculous that he makes that much money,” he said.
OSU maintains that money spent on Gee is necessary for the growth of the institution.
“The university has rigorous standards and processes in planning the president’s budget and reviewing his expenses,” the university said in a statement. “As a public institution, we are committed to transparency in our operations … A significant proportion of President Gee’s time, travel and use of the university residence is devoted to resource-generation to support the work of our students and faculty.”

Jennifer Jung, Nate Moseley, and Zach Low contributed to this story

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