WILBERFORCE — Central State University’s new president has a year-one compensation package of more than $300,000.
According to his three-year contract — obtained by the Gazette through a public records request — Dr. Morakinyo A.O. Kuti will earn a base salary of $260,000 and will receive a $12,000 car allowance and a $54,000 housing allowance annually. The board of trustees will conduct an annual performance evaluation and Kuti could earn merit-based increases between 3-8 percent.
The contract, which commences July 1, also includes fringe benefits provided to other cabinet level university employees, but if it is more favorable to Kuti, CSU will provide 21 days of paid time off and 15 sick days per year. Business expenses will be reimbursed and when it’s beneficial for the university, Kuti’s wife, Bridge Archie-Kuti, will also be reimbursed for travel and expenses when she accompany’s the president.
Kuti was named the 10th CSU president on Feb. 9, replacing Dr. Jack Thomas, who served from 2020-23. Kuti previously served as vice president for research and economic development and director of land-grant programs.
After Kuti was introduced as the president, several sources contacted the Gazette with information about a 2023 State Personnel Board of Review case involving Kuti.
Subramania Sritharan, a long-time CSU employee, told the Gazette he had his contract non-renewed by Kuti in 2022, about a year and a half after Sritharan raised concerns about CSU using land grant funds to pay part of Kuti’s salary for his new position.
The personnel board ruled in favor of Sritharan last August, stating that Kuti’s decision to non-renew Sritharan was not proper. The board said Sritharan suffered “retaliatory discipline in the form of loss of employment” and that Kuti’s reasons for non-renewal were not “reliable or credible” because of a lack of evidence to corroborate his standalone testimony.
Sritharan was reinstated in November 2023, but a grievance from the American Association of University Professors was filed, stating that being a full faculty member was a requirement for his position and he was not, according to the union’s collective bargaining agreement.
Sritharan was removed as associate director of research in December 2023 after an arbitrator ruled on the grievance.
“They didn’t tell me or my lawyer that they were going to go to an arbitrator,” Sritharan told the Gazette on Monday.
The university’s legal team defended Kuti’s appointment as president.
“The Board of Trustees made an informed decision in the selection of Dr. Kuti and is confident that he is the right person for the job,” an email from Laura Wilson, general counsel. “Dr. Sritharan was removed from his position as Associate Director of Research in December, 2023 pursuant to an arbitration decision on a grievance filed by the American Association of University Professors, Central State University Chapter … .”
Prior to becoming president, Kuti has also served CSU as the associate provost for research and interim dean of the John W. Garland College of Engineering, Science, Technology, and Agriculture, securing more than $20 million in public and private funds that have enhanced Central State’s physical infrastructure, enabled faculty research and scholarly activities, and provided students with scholarships and experiential learning opportunities. He has administered $225 million in public and private funds since 2005.
“After completing a nation-wide search, it became clear that one candidate rose to the top,” said Jacqueline Y. Gamblin, board chair. “A strategic thinker, a creative leader, and someone with a proven record of facilitating positive outcomes. Over the course of his career at Central State, thousands of students have been positively impacted by his programs. And what makes this even sweeter, is that Dr. Kuti earned his bachelor of science degree right here at Central State University.”
The university has not yet responded to a public records request for the names of other finalists.
Kuti outlined three immediate items he wants to tackle: Improving the quality of student experience and academic outcomes; taking full advantage of the university’s land grant mission; and increasing the efficiency and standard of business at the university to improve customer service.
“This is your university,” he told the students in attendance. “You own it and act like it. You must hold us accountable when we don’t live up to our best possibilities. You paid to be here.”
Kuti said when a customer at McDonald’s orders a combo meal and an item is missing, they don’t “smile happily.”
“No, you complain,” Kuti said. “When a faculty member cancels class, don’t celebrate it. You paid for it. When the basketball coach doesn’t hold practice as he’s supposed to, don’t be happy. You already paid for it.”
But he quickly cautioned that accountability must be called for in a proper way.
“You must register your protest in a judicious manner,” Kuti said. “Facebook doesn’t solve the problem. You have to go through the channels to make sure the problem is resolved.”
Reach Scott Halasz at 937-502-4507.