Rowan University's trustees approved a new contract Wednesday for its president, Ali A. Houshmand, that will last for six years and eventually increase his pay to $600,000.
At its meeting Wednesday, the board also approved appointments to various university-related boards, a scaled-back proposal for renovating several campus buildings, the sale of Houshmand's previous university-owned home, and advanced a development project for athletic facilities on its "West Campus" land.
Notably absent at the meeting: Any mention of the university's announcement this month that it had found elevated lead levels in its water, prompting it to disconnect fountains, distribute bottled water, and pursue campuswide water quality tests.
Houshmand said after the meeting that he did not mention the lead-contamination situation because new information should come from the communications office "so that we don't, by mistake, send the wrong signal."
He said he is creating a permanent task force on environmental safety, with an immediate focus on water quality.
"I need to have a comprehensive and really inclusive safety committee," Houshmand said.
Membership on the committee will include faculty members, staff, students, and administrators, he said.
"We're going to provide them the resources and give them the charge to move forward to make sure that not only the issue of water is safe, done right now, but also moving forward every year we want to have a testing process to make sure our water and our air will remain safe moving forward."
Rowan this month announced it had found elevated lead levels in several buildings on its main Glassboro campus, after reports of discolored water caused by iron. Last week, the university announced preliminary results from informal campuswide testing, which found further lead contamination in buildings across campus.
"This is the safety and the well-being of the kids, the most precious asset of the parents who trust their kids with us. We cannot mess with their safety and security," Houshmand said Wednesday. "So really this plan … not only is it going to respond to today's thing, but the goal of it is to make sure that systematically moving forward this university has a structure that can respond to issues."
Under Houshmand's new contract, his salary of $550,000 — which has remained the same since September 2013 — will rise to $575,000 in 2018, then to $600,000 in 2020. The contract will end June 30, 2022.
Rowan will put an additional $115,000 into retirement funds for Houshmand.
Linda Rohrer, the chair of Rowan's board of trustees, said trustees hired a consultant to examine other college presidents' contracts.
"That was very, very crucial information for us to get, because his contract was five, six years old, so we were really outdated. So we needed to upgrade and update our contract with Ali," she said.
Houshmand joined Rowan as provost in 2006 and was named interim president in 2011. In 2012, he was named the university's seventh president, with a contract through June 2014. That was later extended to June 30, 2017.
Houshmand has set aggressive growth targets for the university, including expansion of Rowan's physical footprint, student enrollment, and funded research.
With the new contract, Rohrer said, Houshmand will have annual reviews to discuss performance and set targets, which he did not previously do in a formal way.
"It really gives us a strategic plan," she said. "Some people do have strategic plans on a five-year basis — here we can do this on an annual basis."
Houshmand plans to retire at the end of his contract.