Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Hiring Pause,

Thinking Freeze

(Thanks to a friend for the title)

OurProvost recently sent out another one of his padding out the old resume pieces. Sometimes these are called dialogues or even conversations, but no one is fooled.

They are the kind of things to write if you are a university president or want such a position. People who are good at this sort of thing, say Mark Yudof or Drew Faust, can get their pieces into the Chronicle or the New York Times, but OurProvost has to settle for the U's website or the University News Service or, on a good day, the Daily.

An earlier post has appeared on one of OurProvost's efforts: "Inspiring Words at the University from OurProvost."

I haven't done this again because Margaret Soltan, aka Scathing Online Schoolmarm (SOS), owns the game. I've also noted before that OurProvost, although pleading otherwise, isn't really interested in a conversation with the community. Requests for public dialogue and discussion, instead of his monologues, have gone unanswered.

Spam production goes up in Minnesota during hard economic times, both in Austin and Minneapolis. Although the products are different there are similarities - both are canned and hard to digest. And neither one allows discussion with the customers about the contents. Or would that be stakeholders?

So resistance was futile. As Geraldine used to say: "The devil made me do it."

First came the teaser - actually, the Novocain. As the dentist says: "This might hurt a little."

Provost's Academic Update

There is no question but that the extraordinary economic challenges currently facing the University require our utmost dedication and focus. At the same time, we must relentlessly continue our commitment to academic excellence and to the essential work required by our University mission. We all are involved, as a University community, in important and vital academic work that we must continue to advance. We can, and will, strive to lead and to be innovative during these difficult financial times.
This paragraph would be a lot shorter if Orwell red-penned it. "There is no question but that" "extraordinary economic challenges currently facing" Sounds like McCain during his campaign suspension. "relentlessly continue" "essential work" And what exactly is our University mission, Tom? It seems to shift and to depend on the administrator currently talking. Is it ranking or stature today?

"important and vital" "We can, and will" "strive to lead and to be innovative" Seems almost poetic, but what exactly does it mean? The Gettysburg address didn't merely sound good.

Recently, the University developed a new copyright policy with important and exciting implications for our entire University Community. The new policy represents an opportunity for the University of Minnesota to take a leadership role among other leading universities nationally.

Continuing in the above vein: "important and exciting" "leadership role among other leading universities." Is the man being paid by the word? Who's teaching legal writing in the law school? Is the "University Community" like the "Gopher Nation"? And only nationally? Why I thought we were aiming higher than that, Tom. Wasn't there some slogan about the third greatest public research university in the world?

In this message, I will share some thoughts with you on recent initiatives regarding the stewardship of our intellectual resources. As many of you realize, we live in a knowledge-based economy in which our fundamental mission as a University must be deployed in service of the broader transnational learning process. For the full text of this message, please click here.
"share some thoughts" "recent initiatives" "stewardship of our intellectual resources" "knowledge-based economy" Sounds like the output of a computer program that strings together random adminspeak buzzwords. The phrases roll off the tongue like the patter of a State Fair turkey leg hawker.

"our fundamental mission as a University must be deployed in service of the broader transnational learning process" What the hell does that mean?

If you have a masochistic streak, I have activated the link above for further flagellation. You have been warned.

Mercifully, the message ends. but not without the coupe de grâce:

This message was approved by the Senior Vice President and Provost of the University of Minnesota and sent to all Twin Cities students, faculty, and staff.

If OurProvost wrote this doesn't it imply that he approves? Does this mean that OurProvost didn't actually write this stuff, but merely approved it? Is he running for office? Has he been watching too many campaign commercials?


Monday, November 24, 2008

University spokesman Daniel Wolter said that Bruininks does not comment on his compensation but said he was "quite surprised he ranked as high as he did." (Star Tribune, XI-21-08)

The University of Minnesota Appears to Be Number Three

(No, that would not be in the world...)

BigTen Executive Compensation

Reading the chicken entrails that are the salary/job descriptions of university executives is difficult. No doubt this is deliberate, and not done to protect the innocent. Those at the U can have a look at the numbers themselves via the ejournals function of the U of M library. Unfortunately the general public does not have ready access to the database. Therefore, I post this data as a public service.

Gee - Ohio State - $1,346,225 [sic(k)]

Coleman - Michigan - $760,196

Bruininks - Minnesota - $733,421

less 5% - 696,750
less 10% - 660,079
Spanier - Penn State - $611,367

Mason - Iowa - 583,000

Simon - Michigan State $572,000

- Purdue - 501,000

McRobbie - Indiana - 484,000

Herman - Illinois - $427,500

Riley - Wisconsin - $358,745

A couple of things stand out. Two institutions that are consistently ranked near the top of the BigTen, Illinois and Wisconsin, have the lowest executive compensation!

Gordon Gee is obviously overpaid. He has jacked up his salary by being a serial university president, starting at a very young age. One could argue that Mary Sue Coleman, the president of Michigan deserves the salary she gets, considering the academic ranking of that institution.

But the other salary that stands out, besides those of Gee, Herman, and Reilly, is that of OurLeader. He is apparently being paid considerably more than the Penn State president even though one could argue that Penn State cleans our clock in a number of areas important to a land grant institution, especially graduation rate.

A voluntary salary cut of five percent as previously suggested, would be a good way to demonstrate OurLeader's Gopher spirit. It would seem such a cut would do nothing to alter his salary ranking in the Big Ten. Even ten percent would not, as illustrated above.

Comparing OurLeader's salary to that of other chief executives of Big Ten schools, together with the relative ranking of the University, leads to the conclusion that he is currently being very well compensated.

Asking students, and their parents, to share the burden of increased tuition might be a little better received if there were some evidence that OurLeader was willing to make some real sacrifice himself. Asking the state legislature, with a straight face, for a ten percent increase in funding for the U is neither wise nor prudent. A salary freeze for someone who makes more than seven hundred thousand a year is a sacrifice? In... your... dreams.

Bob, how about it? Please start demonstrating some leadership instead of whistling in the dark and waiting for the axe to fall. This coming Thursday illustrates the results of such a strategy, at least for the bird.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Payback Time at the University of Minnesota, Bob ?

From today's NYT:

Presidents Give Back Some Pay

In the week since The Chronicle of Higher Education published its annual survey of university presidents’ pay — a week in which the nation’s economic troubles worsened — several of the highest-paid presidents said that they would give back part of their pay or forgo their raises.

Pat Callan, president of the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, said he had never heard of such a wave of givebacks.

“When you see a cluster like this,” he said, “it seems like sort of belated recognition that this presidential pay thing has gotten out of hand. People are getting tuition increases, some faculty are facing layoffs, it just doesn’t look too good for presidents, no matter how capable they are, to be getting so much money. Americans have had a touching faith in higher education; it’s losing its good image with the public.”

The chancellor of Washington University in St. Louis, Mark S. Wrighton, announced on Thursday that he would take a 5 percent cut from his base salary on Jan. 1 and another 5 percent reduction on July 1.

Mr. Wrighton, who announced his decision in an e-mail message to the university community, also pointed out that the university’s endowment had declined about 25 percent since July 1, that some capital projects were being delayed and that faculty salary increases would be lower than in past years.

“This was well under way before The Chronicle came out,” Mr. Wrighton said. “I’m generously compensated, I know that. We’re in very difficult financial times. I’m in a position that is not at risk, but the rest of the university community, especially in administration and support, must be wondering if their jobs are secure. I wanted to let the community know that I’m sensitive to the situation.”

The president of Washington State University, Elson S. Floyd, who made $600,000 in his first year at the university and received a $125,000 raise over the summer, said he would take a voluntary $100,000 pay cut in response to budget problems.

Friday, November 21, 2008

See, right there - $733,421

And I'm worth it!

OurLeader Makes the Front Page of The Strib
And It Is Not Because We are Number Three

As noted earlier on this blog, OurLeader's compensation has been in the news, both the Wall Street Journal and the Chronicle of Higher Education. Word has now trickled down to the local level and appears - on the front page - of the Strib.
U's president ranks 7th on list of university compensation

By JENNA ROSS, Star Tribune

November 21, 2008

University of Minnesota President Robert Bruininks is among the best-paid university presidents in the United States.

Salary and benefits of $733,421 landed him spot No. 7 on a list of public university presidents with the highest compensation released this week by the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Coming just days after Bruininks announced that he had frozen his and other U executives' pay, the ranking points out the tricky business of paying college officials well while tuition is rising.

Mark Nagel, the University of Minnesota's undergraduate student body president, said he appreciates Bruininks' freeze for 40 top employees, which in total will save $500,000 in its first year. "It's a good step," he said. "It's obviously a good show of faith."

William Gleason, a lab medicine and pathology professor, doesn't think a freeze is enough. On his blog, which often takes aim at the university administration, he stated, "If President Bruininks wants to demonstrate his concern about our financial situation, perhaps he should take a 5 percent pay cut?"

... [Patricia] Simmons [Chair, Board of Regents] said. "As a public university we care deeply about how we fit in with other public enterprises."

Bruininks came to the U in 1968 and has served as president for more than five years. University spokesman Daniel Wolter said that Bruininks does not comment on his compensation but said he was "quite surprised he ranked as high as he did."

[Another Wolterism to be added to the growing list. This brings to mind the recent performance of John McCain. I guess when you have a lot of money, you forget how much you make? You forget how many cars - or horses - you own? Mabye Bob should retire, but no - that would cost him a lot of money..]
According to Bruininks' contract -- which the Board of Regents signed in 2006 -- a portion of his supplemental retirement contributions in future years won't be paid unless he remains at the university until his contract expires on June 30, 2011. The university's total contribution is set at $175,000 for 2008-09; $200,000 for 2009-10 and $225,000 in 2011.

[So early retirement will cost Bob money. Think of the condo payments. Think of the horse boarding. Think of the children. I guess the Board of Regents is worried about him running off to Texas?]
Some students pointed to basketball coach Tubby Smith, who became the highest-paid employee in U of M history last year with a contract that started at $600,000 in annual base pay and includes more than $1 million in supplemental income. Other students didn't know who Robert Bruininks was. [hilarious] A few were shocked.

"It's kind of mind-boggling that the U of M president gets paid that much," said C-J Leonard, an 18-year-old, freshman who aspires to be a pediatrician. "Maybe this is just a bias, but for a public school, that's too much."

James McCormick, chancellor of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system, had total compensation of $394,700 for 2007-08. It included a $23,500 performance bonus.

And the comments were (predictably) not too good:

He clearly needs to make over twice what the President of the United States makes. He is clearly in the more important job.

$733,421.00 ?? This clown is ripping off the state. Think of this story the next time you hear the DFL talking about raising your taxes for "education
Unless you are a Regent just returning home from a reception with a buzz, you are living in a different world. Fortune 500 CEO's are not paid with our public money. If the UMN President is the 7th highest paid President in the country then I expect to AT LEAST preside over the 7th highest rated/most distinguished public university in the country. The U is not there.
Bruininks deserves much less than what he is making based on what he has and has not done at the U. The Regents would be well served to adopt a compensation schematic more in line with where the University ranks in the country. If the U is considered between the 30-40 best school in the country, then pay your President accordingly.

How do you suggest we structure executive pay then? Judge him by where he places the University. The scale may be subjective, but no scale places him at #7.
"A finite group of people with the background and skills. . . ." must mean that when one of them retires, a university will be forced to close. The reality is that Bruininks is just the head mandarin in a gigantic bureaucracy that exists only to perpetuate itself. Do you suppose if he left tomorrow that the U would shut down until a replacement was selected?
You get the idea. And it is only seven in the morning as I write. There will be plenty more where that came from... The U's budget proposal is road-kill at the state legislature this Spring. OurLeader may finally have to earn his money.

"We have no money, therefore we must think."

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

November 19, 2008

Taking One for the Team

From Margaret Soltan’s University Diaries comes the news that Robert H. Bruininks, president of the University of Minnesota, has imposed a pay freeze for the university’s top administrators, himself included. Of course, both Soltan and William Gleason, a blogger at The Periodic Table, Too, are quick to point out that Bruininks’s gesture, while welcome, is a rather small one considering that he’s among the highest-paid public-university presidents in the country (according to The Chronicle’s latest executive compensation survey, he earned $733,421 in 2007-8). In fact, Gleason suggests that a pay cut would be a better show of solidarity with university workers.

No doubt UD's post is the attention getter out on the electronic Rialto. But it is good to have a little national attention focussed on what is happening here at the Lake Wobegon University. Sunlight is the best disinfectant.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Ali-Baba Takes a Breather

From the Wall-Street Journal:

Lucrative Posts

Public University presidents with the highest compensations, including salary, bonuses, and various benefits, 2007-2008

1. E. Gordon Gee - Ohio State - $1,346,225
2. M. A. Emmert - U Washington - 887,870
3. J. T. Casteen – Virginia – 797,048
4. M. G. Yudof – Texas – 786,045
5. M. S. Coleman – Michigan – 760,1976
6. M. R. Wilson – Colorado - 740,415

7. R. H. Bruininks – Minnesota – 733, 421

8. J. B. Machen – Florida – 731,811
9. M. W. Crow – Arizona St. – 728, 750
10. C. V. Patton – Georgia St. – 727,487

Source: Chronicle of Higher Education

Minneapolis — The president of the University of Minnesota is freezing the salaries of executive level employees -- including his own -- as a-cost saving move.

Robert Bruininks says 40 executives at the U, including himself, will not get a raise in the 2010-2011 budget years.

Margaret Soltan, in her excellent blog University Diaries, has suggested that the salary freeze is damage control. If President Bruininks wants to demonstrate his concern about our financial situation, perhaps he should take a five percent pay cut?

Monday, November 17, 2008

It's The People ...

From the Daily:

Conflicted would be a good word to describe the decisions announced by University of Minnesota officials last week.

A “hiring pause” went into effect Tuesday, followed by a salary freeze announced Friday.

And despite these changes, the University is undergoing its largest increase in building and construction in two decades. In the next 10 years, the University will have spent at least $1 billion on facilities and renovation for projects including TCF Bank Stadium, the Bell Museum, the new biomedical complex, Northrop auditorium and others.

Other colleges and universities, such as Boston University, Cornell and Brown, have put selective hiring freezes into place. In addition, many colleges have announced they would suspend capital projects that hadn’t broken ground.

According to the New York Times, MIT has halted construction on the expansion for its Media Lab and Dartmouth postponed construction on two residence halls and two academic buildings.

Just a month ago, University president Bob Bruininks, whose own $700,000 salary is affected by the freeze, told the editorial board “recession is the time to invest in human capital.”

And yet, as demonstrated in just a week’s time, the University is willing to put its employees on hold while they continue to build.

But Bruininks and the Regents should take caution: If costs keep rising as they have been and salaries for non-“senior executives” stay as they have been, in 10 years, when the building boom is finished, there might not be enough students or faculty left to fill the halls of the shiny new buildings.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Fast Times at MoreU Park?

From the University of Minnesota Daily:

UMore Park

Charles Muscoplat, vice president for statewide strategic resource development, and the University’s General Counsel, Mark Rotenberg , presented the University’s latest plans for the development of UMore Park.

To develop the 7,600 acre property into a sustainable community, research center and long-term source of revenue for the University, Rotenberg recommended that the Regents create a single-owner limited liability company to administer the property.

The Regents would still own the property, but would delegate the administration of the property to a board of directors they would appoint. This structure would provide fast decision making to develop the property and avoid diverting the Regents’ attention from the core University mission, he said.

And if MoreU Park is not part of the core mission of the University why are we involved with this at all? The Regents should jolly well keep their eyes on this fiasco. As I understand it $5 million has already been spent on it. This was inappropriate in the first place and even more so under our current financial circumstances.

It is time to come clean on the money sink that is MoreU Park.

Creating the company would provide a flexible tax structure and help the University avoid double taxation on income from the property, he said.

This sounds suspicious...

The Regents will vote on this proposal at their meeting on Dec. 12.

According to OurLeader:

"Bruininks said he didn't know of a university in the United States that was doing something [MoreU Park aka Muscoplat's Folly] as 'courageous and innovative.'"(Daily - 6/13/08)

According to Regent Metzen:

"Regent David Metzen said he thought the future of the project is the most important decision to face the University in the last 15 years." (Daily - 6/13/08)

If this is true, gentlemen, then serious oversight from the Regents is going to be required especially since your optimism is not universally shared.

"To use this time to invest in some sort of cutting-edge conjecture [MoreU Park] about where residential communities might go strikes me as a stretch for a university,"
[State representative Alice] Hausman said, pointing out current economic and businesses struggles as other reasons to be wary. [Daily, July 2, 2008]

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Or, as Jay Gatsby noted, the rich are different.

From MPR

U of M wants to sell beer at football games, if you can afford it

by Tim Post, Minnesota Public Radio

November 13, 2008

The University of Minnesota Board of Regents this week takes up a proposal to sell alcohol at the new TCF Bank stadium, set to open on campus next September.

The change in policy would also affect Williams and Mariucci Arenas at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities. The University of Minnesota wants to serve beer and wine during games, but only to patrons who pay for expensive seats and private suites.

St. Paul, Minn. — University of Minnesota President Roberts Bruininks is asking the board of regents to let the school apply for a state liquor license in order to serve beer and wine at the University's new football stadium.

But on game day beer, or glass of wine, would only be available to those willing to pay for expensive seats.

That could be one of the hundreds of premium season pass club seats ranging in price from $1,800 to $3,000 a year, or the 50-plus four person semi-private boxes that go for $10,000 a season. And for a drink in real style, there's always the 37 private suites being built into the stadium. They'll hold 19 people and cost $45,000 a year.

But under the plan, alcohol would not be available for fans in the rest of the 50,000 seat stadium.

University spokesman Dan Wolter says one reason is because of the thousands of underage students who attend the games. Making sure only those 21 and older were served would be impossible.

"This is a decision that's being made for the good of the campus. We think it's very important to monitor and control the consumption [of alcohol]. It is just too difficult to monitor in a broad open setting like that," said Wolter.

But Wolter says another reason the University wants to offer alcohol in the premium seats is because people expect it.

"It's a very important part of the business strategy, as well, because the suites and those other facilities, we're working very aggressively to make sure those are all sold out and that there are the kind of amenities and features that people are requiring," said Wolter.

Wolter says the University will make money from the sale of alcohol at games, but says it won't be "a huge profit."

The NCAA doesn't allow alcohol in stadiums during its championship events, but the policy for regular season events are left up to individual institutions.

Currently, anyone of drinking age attending a Gopher football game can buy a drink. That's because the games are being played off campus at the Metrodome.

"If it's going to be a dry environment, it should be a dry environment for everyone," said Missy Gettel, a junior at the University of Minnesota.

"If the people in the premium boxes can, you know why not us," asked Gettel.

The University of Minnesota proposal would not only allow beer in the expensive seats at the new TCF Bank stadium, but also some pricey spots in Williams Arena, Mariucci Arena and during special events at the University of Minnesota Arboretum,


So let's run this by again. Right now anyone of age can order alcohol at the Metrodome but at TCF Stadium somehow this wouldn't be possible?

Is this another one of Victoria's Secrets, Mr. Wolter?

As it says on the masthead:
"Raise that tuition, dig that gravel, buy that Coke, push that credit card, sell that soul..."

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Comment on Forbes Ranking of the
University of Minnesota (#524)

(A friend has called this to my attention.)

Per the University of Minnesota
...as our college CEHD slid into deep debt, the dean was busy hiring Life-Coaches for herself and her staff, buying custom chocolate bars with their logo and names as well as Frisbees and notepads.

They then had the gall to send out an email with the "buzz words" (think branding) we were to use in our communications.

I am surprised with this sort of behavior that the U of M wasn't ranked lower than this.

Leaders, not cheer-leaders!
More to come on the red ink in CEHD.