Photo by Carissa Woytach

Berkman now lives at The 9 on East Ninth Street, but is going to move back into a house so he has more room to entertain.


February 29, 2016

CSU Foundation to buy President Berkman
new house for entertaining large groups

The CSU Foundation will be buying President Ronald Berkman a new house, following his appeal to the board that his current apartment is too small to entertain.

After living in his more than $3,000 a month apartment in The 9, 2017 East Ninth St. for just over a year — moving there after selling his Shaker Heights home in 2014 — President Berkman has found the space too small to comfortably and privately engage with large groups in the open-floor-plan suite.

Rob Spademan, chief marketing officer, and William Dube, director of communications and media relations, explained the decision and factors that the CSU Foundation took into account before taking to the real estate market.

“[If] you follow what was going on in the city at the time there was a lot of nice apartments coming into the market, so the thought was that he would be in the city, that [it] would be good to be part of the city and be able to entertain and so forth, and there’d be some nice synergy there,” Spademan said. “What has happened, after working with it awhile, is that the apartment is really too small — it’s great for a group of six, but if you go beyond that it starts to create issues and problems.”

“Over time, particularly with the fund-raising campaign starting up, [the apartment] has proven to be no longer logistically feasible for the types of entertaining that are required for the president of a large university such as Cleveland State,” Dube explained. “[So,] the decision was made to look at other facilities both for this president and for future presidents of Cleveland State as an asset to the university.”

According to Spademan, after a residence has been found, the CSU Foundation will pay the mortgage on the new house and then lease it back to the university. While no budget has been set, he projected that it would be similar in cost to the Shaker Heights home without renovations.

Both Spademan and Dube also stressed that the money going into the new house was not coming out of tax dollars or tuition.

“It’s nobody’s tuition money — the foundation is a separate non-profit corporation in the university,” Spademan said. “It’s the foundation that’s going to take out a mortgage when we find a home and then lease that back to the university. So the university will still pay rent, like they’re paying for the apartment the president has…[and] then they’ll pay back the mortgage and be kind of a neutral thing.”

The move from the Shaker Heights house to the apartment saved an estimated $92,000 a year, money that was not spent another way, according to Spademan. While the president’s cost of living decreased with the 2014 move, the budget was not adjusted. According to Spademan, the new house will not cost the university any more money than it had previously budgeted for the fiscal year.

The hope, according to Dube, is that this house will become a valuable holding for the university, long after President Berkman’s tenure has ceased.

“The plan is that this will be a long-term asset for the university, the additional presidents will use on top of President Berkman,” Dube said.

“It’s a long-term investment for the university and not just something for the current president,” he continued.
Living accommodations are part of Berkman’s contract with Cleveland State, a standard practice among many universities.

Other public Ohio universities including Kent State and Bowling Green, spent between $600,000 to over $900,000 on homes for their presidents.

Sixty percent of four-year public universities providing housing, with the rest offering a housing allowance, according to The Council of Independent Colleges.

For Berkman, other contract items — beyond his $450,000 yearly salary — include a $1,000/month automobile allowance, six weeks of paid vacation per fiscal year and annual performance bonuses.

There is no deadline for the president’s relocation, taking into account fluctuations in the housing market and the president’s entertaining needs will take time to find a suitable house.

“Right now the process [includes] investigating different options based on the market and based on the type of home [that] will meet our needs,” Dube said.

“The hope is to stay as close to campus as possible, preferably in the city of Cleveland, but that will be based on the market and the opportunities that are available,” he continued.

Emily Halasah, Student Government Association president and student representative for the CSU Foundation, relates many of the frustrations that other students and Cleveland residents have been venting online in conjunction with the news and opinion articles.

“This issue is complex,” she wrote in a statement to The Cleveland Stater. “Essentially, this is being paid out of the foundation board’s budget, which is privately raised money. It is important to note that these are not student dollars. However, I do think finding a new house for President Berkman can be done more conservatively and tactfully.”


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