Public University’s New Diversity Officer to Earn More than Governors, U.S. Congress Members

David Hookstead, College Fix, August 5, 2015

The recently tapped chief diversity officer at Northern Illinois University will make $205,000 a year–a $185,000 salary and $20,000 in allowances and expenses–collecting more than 99 percent of U.S. Congress members and all U.S. governors.

In an email to The College Fix, a spokesman for the public university confirmed Vernese Edghill-Walden’s compensation package of $205,000 annually, and defended the remuneration as a good use of taxpayer dollars.

Vernese Edghill-Walden

Vernese Edghill-Walden

“Northern Illinois University serves one of the most culturally and ethnically diverse regions in the country,” spokesman Joseph King said in an email to The College Fix. “. . . We believe that there is great value in that diversity. By creating this position we are trying to ensure that all of our students will reap the benefits of living and learning on a campus filled with many cultures and points of view.”

Edghill-Walden, whose full title is senior associate vice president for academic diversity and chief diversity officer, started her new job at NIU on Aug. 1, according to campus officials.

Edghill-Walden’s hefty salary comes at a time when Illinois is facing large budget problems, and state lawmakers are at an impasse. Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner, a Republican, has called for a 30 percent cut to higher education spending to help balance the budget. Rauner, who took office in January, has given up a $179,400 salary and only pays himself $1 a year.

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“In her new role at NIU, Edghill-Walden will be expected to provide vision, leadership, and counsel on matters of diversity and inclusion, and to collaborate with all campus units and with the surrounding community to create a welcoming and respectful environment that values diversity as a dimension of excellence,” campus officials stated in announcing the hire.

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