New Panel Will Study Non-Faculty Salaries After Press Criticism
By SHAWN R. BEALS and JON LENDER
March 23, 2011
STORRS —— Tuition and fees at the University of Connecticut will rise by 2.5 percent this fall, the smallest one-year increase since 2000, the board of trustees decided Wednesday.
Last year's increase was 5.66 percent.
Also Wednesday, reacting to recent news disclosures and criticism over high UConn salaries, the trustees agreed to set up a compensation committee to review non-faculty pay. Citing recent news disclosures, board Chairman Lawrence D. McHugh said he believes that the school administration left the trustees out of the loop when it granted some large salary increases.
"We hear criticism, but I want to assure the public we are responsible stewards of tax dollars," McHugh said. "The board needs to take steps to monitor the salaries. Board members should not be in the dark regarding executive salaries."
The compensation committee will be led by trustee Francis Archambault and will focus on reviewing salaries, researching peer salaries from other universities and establishing guidelines for administrative salaries. The review will not cover salaries for UConn faculty or for physicians at the UConn Health Center.
"We want to lead the country in academics and athletics, but we want to be in the pack as far as salaries," McHugh said after the meeting. "We are asking bargaining groups to take some fairly substantial hits, and I think it would be remiss of us to not look at administrative salaries."
A March 13 Government Watch column in The Courant reported that UConn's two top police officials — Chief Robert Hudd and Major Ronald Blicher –— were paid $246,961 and $193,616 last year, respectively, much higher than the salaries of many of their counterparts in big-city police departments and at other universities.
For example, New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly was paid about $212,000 annually as of two years ago to command a force of 34,000 that protects 8 million residents and countless commuters and tourists.
Meanwhile, both Hudd and Blicher received pay raises at UConn of more than $28,000 from 2009 to 2010, The Courant reported. A strongly critical Courant editorial on March 18 said that UConn leaders have been "clueless" as salaries at the university have been "snowballing out of control" during a historic state budget crisis.
The trustees' decision to study administrators' pay was welcomed by Rep. Zeke Zalaski, D-Southington, co-chairman of the legislature's labor and public employees committee.
"It's about time," Zalaski said. "While many state employees have agreed to pay freezes and furlough days, these individuals reportedly got $28,000 pay raises last year. ... Those raises make no sense. ... Having UConn's president have the authority to set salary levels for nonunion employees needs to be revisited."
The trustees' vote on tuition and fees was nearly unanimous, with only one trustee, student Corey M. Schmitt, voting against it. He said he thought the increase should be 5 percent.
McHugh said the board tried to keep the increase to an inflation rate of 2.5 percent, the figure used by budget officials when the process of assembling a state budget began last fall.
He called the increase a balance between academic support and the increasing financial concerns of students and their families.
Thomas Haggerty, president of the Undergraduate Student Government, said he was confident that the 2.5 percent increase was sufficient for this year but worried about the future of student services such as transportation, the Student Union and library hours.
The university has an expected budget deficit of $45 million for the 2011-12 year, and the tuition increase is expected to eliminate about $9 million of that gap.
Peter J. Nicholls, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs, was asked about class sizes. He said the student-faculty ratio has increased in recent years. It is now 17-to-1, and school officials would like it to be 15-to-1, although that would not be possible this year, Nicholls said.
He said that class sizes have increased, but that any further increase in the coming school year would be small.
Trustee Peter Drotch said the remainder of the deficit would "be covered by other means, expenditure reduction and raised revenues."
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy had asked the school not to approve an increase beyond the inflation rate.
The national inflation rate for the 12-month period ending in February was 2.1 percent.
Graduate Student Senate President Rich Colon said that some of the core academics of the university are already being affected, such as decreased library hours and increases in the student-to-faculty ratio.
"My constituents believe the proposed 2.5 percent increase in tuition is not enough," Colon said. "The cuts we've seen [to programs and services] over the last few years are relatively small compared to what we're going to see in the future."
He said the Graduate Student Senate wanted a tuition hike of more than 7 percent.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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