CUNY Is Paying David Petraeus $200,000 to Work Three Hours a Week

A first-time adjunct professor teaching a full course load at the City University of New York can expect to pull in around $25,000 per year. If you recently resigned as C.I.A. director over a long-time affair with your biographer, however, you can expect to be paid eight times as much for a fraction of the work.

In April, CUNY announced that David Petraeus would do a stint as a visiting professor of public policy at Macaulay Honors College, leading a seminar on “developments that could position the United States...to lead the world out of the current global economic slowdown.” According to documents Gawker obtained from CUNY via a Freedom of Information Law request, the fallen war architect will net a whopping $200,000 a year for the course, which will total about three hours of work, aided by a group of graduate students to take care of “course research, administration, and grading.” (He will also throw in two lectures.)

[That salary has now been reduced to $150,000; see update below.]

That works out to approximately $2,250 per hour. CUNY adjuncts usually earn less than $3,000 per course.

Beyond the staggering salary, the documents, which include email correspondence between Petraeus and CUNY administrators, show that CUNY is trying to tap an independent donor to subsidize Petraeus’s salary. On February 22, outgoing chancellor Matthew Goldstein wrote to Petraeus:

We are prepared to offer you a salary of $200,000 per annum, supplemented by funds from a private gift. While I do not yet have a commitment for such a gift, Sid Goodfriend and I agreed that, working together, we can make it a reality. ... We could offer you graduate student support to assist you with grading papers, administering exams, conducting research, etc. We could also provide limited additional funds for travel to professional meetings as a representative of CUNY.

Why so much? It turns out Petraeus became a coveted commodity among America’s most prestigious schools soon after F.B.I. agents uncovered his Gmail-aided affair with Paula Broadwell. (Indeed, he’s also teaching at USC.) But it seems like he’s far less coveted among wealthy donors. When asked if the “private gift” sought to fund Petraeus’s salary had been nailed down — less than a month before Petraeus begins teaching — the school’s Director of Communications emailed back: “The University is in the process of fundraising for this position.”

Despite CUNY’s premium offer, Petraeus, a product of West Point and Princeton, needed to be persuaded about associating with a less-than-Ivy-caliber school like CUNY. In one email, he brags to CUNY dean Ann Kirschner:

The truth is that I could have had gotten more money or more prestigious places (you won’t believe what USC will pay per week) but Matt and you convinced me that this was the principal place to teach.

Unfortunately, Petraeus does not reveal what USC is paying him. (Do you know?) But he does reveal that he landed a fellowship at Harvard's Kennedy School. Which is noteworthy for the fact that HKS is where Petraeus met his biographer and future mistress in 2006. Maybe that’s why Harvard has yet to announce his appointment.

CUNY Is Paying David Petraeus $200,000 to Work Three Hours a WeekIn the official offer letter presented to Petraeus, dated March 6, Chancellor Goldstein reiterates that the “private gift” meant to “supplement” Petraeus’s exorbitant salary has not yet been “secured.” If such a gift doesn't appear—and really, who would knowingly pay so much for so little?—does it come out of CUNY’s regular budget? That would be a fun development at a school continually besieged by contentious labor discussions over the compensation of overworked adjunct faculty.

Petraeus did not respond to our request for comment.

The full emails are embedded below.

Update: It appears that somewhere along the way, Petraeus took a $50,000-a-year pay cut. CUNY spokesman Michael Arena tells Gawker via email that the letter originally released to us under the FOIL was “inaccurate,” and has provided the email below—dated today—from Kirschner to Petraeus stating that his annual salary will be a measly $150,000, and that Petraeus has pledged to donate some of it to “veterans’ organizations.”

It’s not clear from Arena’s email when the reduction in salary occurred, or what motivated it. Arena has not responded to phone messages seeking clarification.


From: Ann Kirschner
Sent: Monday, July 01, 2013 1:15 PM
To: Dave Petraeus
Subject: CUNY commitment letter

As Bob Barnett has requested, I am memorializing our discussions over the past few months regarding your appointment as Visiting Professor at Macaulay Honors College at $150,000.

Knowing that you have been sought after by other institutions, some of them offering higher salaries, I am particularly grateful that you have agreed to a lower compensation than we originally offered. Chancellor Matthew Goldstein has provided private funding for your position, which will be paid through the CUNY Research Foundation. I am also deeply touched by your decision to donate some of this funding to veterans' organizations.

It was a pleasure to be in the audience at your Charlie Rose/92Y event last week. Your enthusiastic shout-outs for Macaulay and CUNY in that forum of influential New Yorkers was yet another demonstration of your commitment to public service, now in the form of serving our country's most talented students, many from immigrant families, and fostering dialogue on the key challenges facing our country.

With warm regards,
/ak

Ann Kirschner
University Dean
Macaulay Honors College
The City University of New York
35 West 67th Street
New York, NY 10023


[Photo via AP]