Adelphi chief packs his bags

March 7, 1997

A POWER struggle at Adelphi University in the United States has ended with the summary firing of Peter Diamandopoulos, accused of exploiting the presidency of a modest-sized private college to fund a luxurious lifestyle.

Mr Diamandopoulos was hired 12 years ago on a salary of $95,000 a year to run Adelphi, in Garden City New Jersey. By 1995 his annual income reached more than $500,000, after a succession of pay leaps.

His removal was a triumph for staff and alumni who banded together two years ago as the Committee to Save Adelphi and led an in-house revolt against Mr Diamandopoulos's leadership.

They accused the university's trustees of approving wild pay rises for him over a period when student enrolment had halved and academic programmes were cut to a point where the university's future seemed in doubt.

His salary was topped with lavish perks including a $1-million Manhattan apartment and an $82,000 Mercedes car.

The news of Mr Diamando-poulos's firing was met with "relief and huzzahs" across the university, the Long Island Newsday newspaper reported, and some faculty members wore victory ties.

Biology professor Gayle Insler, co-chair of the Committee to Save Adelphi, said: "The windows and doors are open on campus and the wind of hope is blowing."

The unanswered question was whether Mr Diamandopoulos could still walk away from Adelphi with a small fortune.

His contract, which grew increasingly generous through the years, promised him a giant golden parachute of $3 million in retirement benefits and deferred pay. He also was granted the option of buying the Manhattan apartment from the university at a bargain price.

In the prelude to his sacking, 16 out of 17 Adelphi trustees were replaced by the New York State Board of Regents for failing properly to oversee his compensation. Two trustees, the board found, had benefited personally from dealings with the university.

In a last stand the old trustees won a judge's order blocking their removal, which was then reversed.

When the new board met, Mr Diamandopoulos's departure was the first issue of the day.

He was subsequently handed a three-sentence letter saying the board had "decided unanimously that a change in leadership is in the best interests of the university. Therefore, your presidency of the university will end today".

Mr Diamandopoulos claimed the apartment was justified as Adelphi's "New York base". But while he took expenses-paid trips to Switzerland and Greece to recruit students, from 1985 to 1995 the number of full-time undergraduates fell from 4,600 to 2,600.

He had acquired, the board's report said, a "compensation package unparalleled in the face of plummeting student enrolments, rising tuition fees, and shrinking student services".

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