“It's a disgrace,” said Joe Lucia in Harrisburg. “It's the only word to use. It's a disgrace.”
Lucia is a Penn State graduate, class of 1967, and a retired state worker. He was proudly sporting a Nittany Lions football hat on the steps of the Capitol Thursday.
He is not proud of the decision his university made to give its president a raise. Rodney Erickson got an $85,000 increase, bringing his salary to $600,000.
Lucia's voice rose with passion and vitriol.
“To take a raise that's almost double what the average Pennsylvanian makes in a year is wrong,” he said. “How can these people go to sleep at night?”
“Outrageous,” said Corky Goldstein with similar volume and anger in his voice. “Outrageous.”
Goldstein, an attorney from Harrisburg, was Penn State's class president in 1960, former president of the Dickinson School of Law and a distinguished alum.
“Rodney Erickson to get $85,000 dollars extra, which will go on to his pension and everything else, is the height of arrogance and greed,” Goldstein said.
Penn State's Board of Trustees defends the Erickson raise, calling it in line with what other university presidents make.
“Well that's like saying, 'we're doing what the other inmates in the asylum are doing,' ” said Charles Mitchell of the conservative Commonwealth Foundation, which has extensively studied the spending habits of American universities.
Mitchell says it is common for universities to pour huge dollars into administrative costs and buildings, and the Erickson raise is just one more example.
“Where is that money not going? It's not going into the classroom,” he said. “Why do we have universities? We have universities to educate kids. That's where the money ought to be going, into the classroom.”
Governor Corbett sits on the Board of Trustees but says he didn't get a heads-up about Erickson's salary bump.
“I was unaware of it until I saw it on the news,” Corbett said when asked about it at an unrelated news conference Thursday.
“You're a member of the board of trustees, right? How do you feel about that?” Corbett was asked.
“I was a little surprised,” he answered. “I think the timing is inappropriate.”
Erickson is leading Penn State through one of its darkest hours, but he has already announced that he'll be stepping down by June 2014. The search for his successor is currently underway.
Critics said it's not like he'd leave if he didn't get the extra $85,000, money that could've gone to student scholarships.