Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Bruininks - The Gift That Keeps on Giving

To Himself

Before retiring last summer as president of the University of Minnesota, Robert Bruininks repeatedly steered money to a tiny leadership center within the Humphrey School of Public Affairs where he will spend the next phase of his U career.
Records obtained by the Star Tribune show that Bruininks, who will earn a $341,000 salary in his new faculty role there, directed at least an additional $355,000 in university funds to the Center for Integrative Leadership since 2009.
Bruininks said he made some of the investments to help show the university's commitment to the program at a time when he was asking Marilyn Carlson Nelson of the Carlson Family Foundation for a major donation -- $1 million for the center over five years.
"You put it all together in a weird way and it may look like I'm feathering a nest, and that's simply not the case," Bruininks said in an interview.
The university drew criticism this week at the Legislature over Bruininks' approval of pay packages worth more than $2.3 million for nine high-ranking administrators who have stepped down in the past two years.
State Rep. Mike Benson, R-Rochester, said on Wednesday that he will ask the chair of the House higher education committee to examine the Bruininks deal in greater detail.
"It lends itself to a good-old-boy network," Benson said.
Office staff comes, too
In his transition to the center, Bruininks received a perk not spelled out in the employment contract that he signed with the Board of Regents in 2006.
He will bring with him a two-person research and writing team, along with his executive assistant of more than 35 years. Their four salaries of more than $500,000 exceed the center's current annual expenditures.
The 2006 contract makes no mention of Bruininks' retaining staff members, but his final university budget as president included compensation for Sharon Olson, his longtime senior administrative director, and Jim Thorp, his communications officer, to work for Bruininks in his role as professor until he retires.
Bruininks, 70, said he foresees working at the U another six years, more or less, including some years at less than full time.
He said in an e-mail that there was "the expectation" that the university would provide him with staff. Funding will come from tuition dollars and state appropriations as approved in the normal budget process for fiscal 2012, he said.
He said it's not uncommon for universities to provide administrative support to senior officers who return to academic life. Asked to cite a precedent at the U where a former president received money for staffing as a returning faculty member, Bruininks said other presidents in his 44 years there left the institution after stepping down.

The brief section of Bruininks' employment contract dealing with the aftermath of his presidency says that if he chooses to return to the faculty, he is entitled to a 12-month leave, paid at 100 percent of his executive salary of $455,000. The leave is "for the purpose of assisting him on his return to the faculty."
'Just kind of fell into place'
The Center for Integrative Leadership is a joint project of the Humphrey School and the Carlson School of Management, launched in 2007.

Bloomberg, the center's executive director, has known Bruininks for more than 30 years, once worked for him at the U's education school and earned her Ph.D. with him as a co-adviser. She said that the center wouldn't exist without his support and that he'll bring a wealth of experience in teaching and leadership besides "a substantial amount of cachet."
Jodi Sandfort, the academic co-director of the leadership center, was a special assistant to Bruininks starting in 2008, working with him and the Bush Foundation on a separate initiative. Bush Foundation grants to the center have totaled $320,000 since August 2010.
Bruininks said the center aligns his interests and experience in leadership and public policy. "While it was not my original intent to resume my academic career in the Humphrey School, it is neither surprising nor inappropriate that I should conclude my career here," he said.

 Simply pathetic

From the comments:
(selected, there are now more than 170)

The education racket at its finest....this one is just on a larger scale. The lack of conscience is absolutely disgusting.

I think of the students who have been dealing with a steady diet of tuition increases. The whole thing makes me sick!

My nomination for StarTrib quote of the year: "You put it all together in a weird way and it may look like I'm feathering a nest, and that's simply not the case," Bruininks said in an interview. AWESOME!

This is absolutely pathetic. The gall of this man is almost beyond belief. His "What me worry" attitude about tuition increases while president of the U was pathetic. This latest news is actually not that surprising to those of us who have watched him in action while president. There is only one word for this kind of behavior - greedy. William B. Gleason, U of M alum and faculty member

This is MY school.....I am ashamed. This is the type of microscope that should be placed on the U. Keep it up RED STAR

Bruininks will go down in history as the worst President of of U of M for both his performance and his professional integrity.

AFTER READING THIS, you want to puke.

What a scam! These people put their own greed ahead of educating the future of our country at a reasonable cost. Disgusting. The mortgage industry was inundated with greed (giving loans to people who could not possibly afford it) and crashed the housing industry. These me me me losers are doing the same to do the education system.

Yeah, Prez. Bruininks, I'm sorry to say, it looks a LOT like feathering a nest to me, too. And if it walks like a duck, talks like a duck, and quacks like a duck......

What value does a "retired" 70 year person have to the U? This shouldn't be more than a volunteered position. Apparently the Education system has plenty of money why do they need ours?

"You put it all together in a weird way and it may look like I'm feathering a nest, and that's simply not the case," Bruininks said in an interview." Look at it in a very basic, straightforward way, and that's EXACTLY what it looks like.

None of this is unusual around there. The former president and provost, both of whom have now departed for new positions, also featherbedded the departure of a disastrous CEHD dean who only lasted a year. She made a generous six figures as dean and about the same six figures in the social work department for another year after she got ousted.

I will guarantee you, 100% - we could find a SCHOLAR to do the job- for regular professor money. We'd be so so far ahead.

This is really simple. All the state needs to do is cut the next budget for the U of M by $300,000 a year and tell the U they know one very easy place to make up the difference.

As an alum, this is embarrassing. My 10th and 9th grade kids are interested in the U of MN but I am teaching fiscal responsibility at home and I don't like what I see at the U. Bob, don't you have enough retirement from your many years of work? Why do you need 300k plus for the next 6 years? Retire and volunteer . . . that is leading by example.

This is pretty much unacceptable.

Stories like this point out both the corruption in higher education and the outrageously inflated salaries. It's bad enough that the regents allowed Bruininks to concoct this feather-nesting early-retirement scheme, but there is absolutely no excuse to pay six-figure salaries to the cronies Bruininks brought along for the ride.

"You put it all together in a weird way and it may look like I'm feathering a nest, and that's simply not the case," Bruininks said in an interview. BALLFOUR: Perception, however, is everything

I had thought this man was a devoted, harmless empty suit who put the interests of the U of M community first. It turns out his suit wasn't empty - he was lining his department's pockets with slush fund monies. Is every Regent and senior administrator at the U of M either tone deaf or asleep at the wheel?

The so-called leadership of the University of Minnesota needs to be ivestigated. It would be interesting to see how much money has been "funneled" throughout the years. This is pretty pathetic given the fact that year in and year out Bruininks has been at the capital lobbying for money for the "broke" university.

Why doesn't this headline read 'Bruininks fired for directing $300,000 to his new job'?

Donors, direct your money to a local community or technical college scholarship fund. You'll feel a lot better and the money will make its way to the classroom.

 Got ethics?

It's obscene. Cronyism will likely keep the regents from doing anything about this.

Bruinink's conduct is unsavory and if the Regents had any decency whatsoever, they would dismiss him. He embodies the worst qualities of the U -- over-priced mediocrity.

"Bruininks Gate" is exactly why it took years and years at the once "GREAT" UMN to enact any type of personal conflict-of-interest policy; and by the way, the one they did is a complete joke. It has been just one embarrassing scam after another over there. We have had a steady diet of rouge doctors putting their undisclosed ties with Pharma ahead of any benefit to the University and worse yet their patients. The old saying never goes away..."power corrupts...and absolute power corrupts absolutely" Bruininks has had way too much power and obviously doesn't remotely possess the ethics to handle it while in office. Our state has been duped by one scandal after another over there and the chosen path always by the UMN was deny...deny...deny...or cover-up; and we are still dealing with Swiggum and all his crap. Disgusting. Embarrassing. When is enough...enough.

Thank you Star Tribune, for doing the work necessary to expose this fraud. I hope pressure can now be brought to end this kind of corruption, because it hurts us all. Bruininks should be ashamed of himself, he is no better than a crook using the law to enrich himself at our expense.

Bobby Bru takes good care of Bobby Bru---and Laura, Sharon, Ben, Jim and Jodi too apparently. Bobby desperately needs a 12-month leave of absence @ $455,000 to transition from Prez to faculty member... Is he just days away from announcing the publication of his slam dunk Nobel Prize worthy "Guide to Employee Reward and Retention" research or days away from announcing that he has secretly and successfully negotiated a cease-fire and creation of a secular democratic government in Syria? The financial packages that Bobby Bru approved for some university system administrators and other employees before leaving the presidency are outrageous. U of M President Eric Kaler pledges that he will not engage in this kind of monetary distribution, and the Board of Regents must craft and enforce written policy protocols ensuring that no U president ever engages in this kind of excessive and unjustified generosity again.

It's greed at the expense of the students!

Absolutely despicable.

Bruninks should resign right away and sneak out of the state.

Unreal... and he believes he did nothing wrong. Tuition just keeps going up and then you get guys like this basically stealing from the University.
Incredible arrogance for useless administrators at a middling public college. There's no justifications for any leave much less a year at the executive salary. The whole place stinks.

This story has nothing to do with anything other than an immoral autocrat designing his own golden parachute. We should all be disgusted, but let's direct the responsibility where it belongs . . .

He needs to be forced to retire from the university and made to remove his sticky fingers from the public trough. He is an elitist who sacrificed a perfectly good affordable midwestern university that did a great job of educating middle class and poor Minnesota students and turned it into a bank account for him and his cronies. Was no one watching this guy there? Every single year of his leadership he raised tuition higher and higher. He is so out of touch he is actually proud of his theft of public money.

EXACTLY what is the "center of integrative leadership"??? It sure sounds like a made up highly intellectual title, but how does it really function and what benefit is it to students???

I am amazed that Bruininks pulled this off. His incompetence as president was widely known as he let the Athletic Department lead him around by the nose. But all the while he was setting up a retirement fund for himself and Susan so they could continue the good life. The Regents should be ashamed that they let him get away with this with no oversight at all. Who is watching the store? Who is protecting the taxpayers?

Now it becomes clear why other employees at the U have been continuously told to cut expenses and have not received raises for over three years...

And these people hold themselves up as paragons of virtue, teaching young minds, researching to save the world. Yet when they have access to the money they are no better than the mortgage companies and day traders.

With those two full time assistants to help with his writing and research, he should soon be publishing three times as much as the other Humphrey faculty. Awesome.

And this is why tuition is so high. College administrators and faculty are so incredibly over-compensated that it is obscene. There is nothing wrong with paying a good salary and good benefits, but $350,000??? To direct a "Leadership Center"?????

I am a U of M grad and this is precisely the reason I am not in any alumni association or a financial contributor to the school. "Don't tell me we don't have any money".

I work at the U, and I cant believe this. I (or we) have not had a pay increase for more than 3 years now. And this guy does this??? I find it completely appalling that this goes on. It's interesting that since all the cuts in funding and cost going up, they can still renovate, rebuild new buildings, etc....hmmm I guess those salary freezes worked out. But I can see that he still got his raise...totally disgusted.

It takes a full year at full pay ($455000) for this guy to transition to a lesser position? Are you kidding me? What kind of world do these academics live in? How could they possibly prepare young people to prepare for life beyond college when they aren't even close to experiencing what the majority face when entering the real workplace?

I really appreciate the Strib digging into this at the U. These kinds of stories need to be told and shouldn't be swept under the rug. The U needs to transform from the current stodgy, good old boys club into an effective learning institution for STUDENTS!

I'm sure he redirected the money for the good of the students and not himself..

IMO- I read and agree with the commentary, but the real story is what happens now? Will there be any accountability at the U of M? I sincerely doubt it.

You made a mistake here in the way you established this Center and opened the door for this public relations nightmare. Please fix it.

"Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain, I am the great and wonderful Wizard of Oz"

Great. He "steers" $355,000 to the center, which will pay him $341,000. That leaves them net $14,000 while he walks away with lion's share. This is disgusting.

Conflict of Interest, party of one.

I've always wondered where I could get a job in which I set my own salary at over $400k/year, and have it paid out of taxpayer dollars. Oh, and along with my salary (and great benefits) I'd like 4 staff members to write for me, keep my calendar, organize my files, do my typing, and speak for me, all with a combined salary of $500k. No big deal, there's lots of other people's money to go around. Now I know where to go - the U of M.

 So now we all have a new understanding of what 'golden' Gophers means for school administrators. It is time for a look under the hood of this institution and demand accountability -- it is supposed to be an asset for every Minnesotan, not just for those who run it.

Does the self-help at the University never end!! These people are utterly tone deaf.

It is more clear than ever that top administrators at the U are out of touch. Poor judgment.

You have to be careful about who is classified as a "professor." I have several in my family, and not one has ever gotten close to a six-figure income. And yes, I'm counting full professors (there is a system of rank) with tenure, in the U of M system. The people you would think of as professors, who teach classes, supervise their T.A.'s, and work with actual students; they don't make nearly that kind of money. A very close relative topped out around $55,000 after a couple of decades, and was forced to retire at 70. Without, I might add, the $350,000/yr. sinecure at the end. In the "Golden Age" of academe, there weren't any of these professional executives running colleges. They were big then, too. Actual professors who taught actual classes rotated in and out of Dean positions, never staying there very long because they hated administrating and wanted to teach. Once the corporate culture took root and turned the universities into finance industry cash cows, the Music Men showed up. They explain to everyone how complicated it all is and how colleges need to have full-time specialized Executives to run everything because it's so complicated. And what do you know. The golden-parachutes, the layers of administration, the skyrocketing costs, the lavish buildings for alumni and sports, the corporate sponsorship; all of of it followed immediately.
Note to U of M: yes I'm a graduate, but please don't bother asking me to donate any more. No way. Not unless you get your house in order, big time.

Not to detract from the point. Which is that Bruininks (whom my relative detests as an opportunistic fund-raiser rather than an academic) has made a deal for himself which might be within the law and the ethics of his profession. But it still stinks of the sort of privilege a man like Bruininks should be more careful about.

The wealthy do have an entitlement mentality. Disgusting.

How odious. The picture with the article says it all. Students graduate with tens or sometimes (graduate school) hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt. These people line their pockets and pay off their cronies to do nothing. we are told to swallow it all in order that the U remains "competitive". If these are the people we are competing to recruit and retain, I'll gladly pass. The Board of Regents, and to the extent that the law allows, the legislature, need to assign an independent investigative body to find out the true extent of this. As an alumnus, you can be certain that I will never fork over one nickel to the U.

I hope when I retire from my clerical job at the U (have been here close to fifteen years) in, say, several years, that I can make Bruinicks' seemingly non-ironic claim that my/his "twenty plus years" of service is deserving of a year's sabbatical (to "transition into" a faculty position... at over $400,000 for the process of transitioning) and to bring along three, highly paid staffers to help me in my new, semi-retired, part-time, no-specific-duties-or-responsibilities position.

It is WAY past time to separate the 'Golden' from the institution. WE are being played as gophers.

Where is the oversight? Easy answer..there was NONE!

I am very proud to see how many people have stepped up and panned this action by Bruininks. This does smack very loudly of "Good Old Boys" networking. If this type of transfer of funds is so common why did Bruininks not bring it to the public attention as he was doing it. Why do actions such as this always seem to come up after the fact? I agree with writer freedubay. What exactly does the U need in a "retired ex president"? If there is more Bruininks felt he needed to accomplish, he should have stayed in the position of president and seen things through. Truly feel sorry for the students with the never ending tuition increases that have to cover this kind of opportunistic behavior. Shameful stuff Bruininks.

There has been zero management or oversight at the U for too many years. There are huge amounts of money sloshing around in unproductive momentum funding. Both the Regents and administration are at fault. It's crony capitalism as well as elitest and entitlement mentality at it finest (worst).

These people are all about personal gain. They are in their own world and have no care or concern for the harm they are doing.

$341,000 for Bruinink's new faculty position is WAY too much. You could hire around five talented young professors (people who would bring energy to the classroom and to new research) for the amount he is getting paid. It is fine if he wants to go back to teaching, but he should get paid at a rate comparable to other professors.

Dear Mr. Bruininks, your rationalization are an embarrassment during a period where tuition continues to rise annually. Isn't it time you came to the conclusion, As Mr. Sviggum so recently has, that "upon reflection, there is the appearance of a conflict of interest". As we tell errant children (including those entering their second childhood), just because everyone is doing it, that doesn't make it the right thing to do.

The face of the 1% in America.


[If you have a strong stomach and want to see some of the fine work of former President Bruininks, here's a link to the Periodic Table.]

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