Nfld. & Labrador

MUN president in line for nearly $1M in admin leave after departure

Memorial University's outgoing president, Gary Kachanoski, will be eligible for the equivalent to roughly two years' salary after departing the university in December.

Memorial says administrative leave clauses 'common practice' in Canadian universities

Gary Kachanoski became Memorial University's 12th president in July 2010. He is also the vice-chancellor. (Memorial University)

Memorial University's outgoing president, Gary Kachanoski, will be eligible for the equivalent of nearly two years' salary and other benefits after he leaves the position in December, which will come with a price tag of nearly $1 million.

It's called administrative leave, and university officials say it's common in Canadian universities.

And there's no indication from MUN that Kachanoski's successor, expected to be named in the coming months, can expect to feel the pinch of widespread belt-tightening at the university.

There's been no directive to the search committee to reduce executive level compensation for the university's top administrator, with more than 80 per cent of the university's revenues coming from a beleaguered provincial treasury.

"A contract is developed and negotiated between the board and the selected candidate," a MUN official wrote in a statement to CBC News.

Kachanoski received compensation of just under $470,000 in both 2017 and 2018, according to the university's online compensation disclosure document, making him one of the highest-paid employees of a public entity in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Administrative leave 'common,' says MUN

A clause in Kachanoski's contract makes him eligible for 2.4 months of administrative leave for every calendar year completed. The entitlement includes salary, pension accruals, allowances, travel privileges and benefits.

It's designed to help senior academic leaders with the transition back to "academic duties" after their contract expires. 

This will likely lead to a scenario in which the cash-strapped university is paying high-end compensation to both Kachanoski and his successor for an extended period.

Kachanoski became president and vice-chancellor at the university July 1, 2010, and will be given credit for 9½ years of service for the accumulation of administrative leave.

According to CBC calculations, based on the formula in MUN's pension plan, and a supplementary agreement to make Kachanoski "whole" for his non-transferrable years of service with the University of Alberta, Kachanoski could receive an annual pension of roughly $170,000 if he were to retire this year.

But Kachanoski is also a full professor in the departments of earth sciences and biology, and plans to return to his faculty position "and will likely take his administrative leave in segments between periods of teaching and research," a MUN statement reads.

Kachanoski announced in September 2018 that he will vacate the university's top administrative post earlier than expected, saying he wanted to make room for his successor to work through a new four-year budget cycle.

But Kachanoski made it clear during an interview in 2018 that he was frustrated with the university's fragile financial position, including funding cuts from the provincial government, and a long-standing tuition fee freeze for Newfoundland and Labrador students.

"We need to decide, and Newfoundland is going to have to decide, what kind of university does it want?" he said in May 2018.

"Is it going to have the infrastructure that it needs to run a 21st-century, national-class university with a comprehensive set of programs, or not?" he asked.

Meanwhile, the search for MUN's 13th president is ongoing. Iris Petten, chair of the board of regents and the presidential search committee, declined an interview request.

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Terry Roberts is a reporter with CBC Newfoundland and Labrador, and is based in St. John’s. He previously worked for The Telegram, The Compass and The Northern Pen newspapers during a career that began in 1991. He can be reached by email at: