Wednesday, February 8, 2012

A Question of Priorities 

Part II

In response to a question from a reporter about criticism from state legislators about the compensation for the special assistant position created for Joel Maturi for one year President Kaler declared:

"His principal job next year is going to be fundraising.  He will raise for the institution far more money than we're paying him in this salary.  The salary is a big number.  I get that."
See the February 8, 2012 report in the
Pioneer Press
on Kaler on Maturi's Term 

Either the President does not "get it" or he is intentionally turning a blind eye to the real issues.

The University of Minnesota Foundation is the source the President is tapping for funds to pay for the new position he has created.  Those funds were solicited for the general purposes of education, research, and public service.  See the University of Minnesota Foundation.  The administration may be able to lawfully raid the Foundation to use non-restricted funds for this purpose.  But donors may see this action as an abuse of trust for using funds for a purpose for which none of them intended their contributions to be used.  See the sample comments in A Question of Priorities.

This action has also outraged a number of state legislators.  They see the administration making up a new job in which the former athletic director will collect $468,000 in total compensation.  So they question whether they can trust the administration to use the hundreds of millions of dollars in annual state appropriations for the right priorities and whether the University really needs the amount of state appropriations it seeks.  See the February 4, 2012 report in the Star Tribune on Maturi's pay does not play well at Capitol

So with one action the President has put at risk the continuing goodwill and financial assistance of both donors and state legislators.  This may cost the University far more than the former athletic director might raise in his one year as special assistant.

Why should the University incur this risk?  Most of the soon to be former athletic director's relationships are with sports boosters, so it is likely that most of the funds he would raise would be for the athletic department.  This is the responsibility of the new athletic director (with a likely base salary at or approaching $400,000) and his director of development with a staff of 10 persons dedicated to raising funds for athletics.  For general fund raising the University has the president of the University of Minnesota Foundation (with a base salary of $521,415) together with scores of staff members.   See the Development Directory

If the President does not act to remove this risk and to restore the trust of donors and state legislators, then the Board of Regents should do so.

Michael W. McNabb

University of Minnesota B.A. 1971; J.D. 1974
University of Minnesota Alumni Association life member

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