Let Them Eat Cake’ Moment Shows Need for Transparency at UConn (Sarah Darer Littman)

The truth is that UConn needs a lot more than transparency – its needs a new President, new top administrators, a new Board of Trustees and a new Governor.

In a CT Newsjunkie column last week, education advocate Sarah Darer Littman highlighted the UConn management’s fiscally irresponsible, tone-deaf and elitist leadership style, an approach in which the President receives raises and bonuses and hands out large pay raises to her top staff, all while the state’s “flagship” university faces one record budget cut after another.

Perhaps more than any other area of state government, Governor Dannel Malloy’s disdain for doing the right thing has been on full display at Connecticut’s public institutions of higher education.

Claiming to be concerned about Connecticut’s economy, Malloy’s state budget policies have undercut college and career educational opportunities by dramatically reducing state support, which in turn, has led to much higher tuition and fees, all while reducing the level of programing at UConn and the state’s other colleges and universities.

Yet at the very same time, with Malloy serving as the statutory President of the University of Connecticut Board of Trustees, the Board and UConn President have increased the already outrageously high salaries of top administrators at the University.

It is, as Sarah Darer Littman wrote, a “let them eat cake” moment.

As Littman explains in her Let Them Eat Cake’ Moment Shows Need for Transparency at UConn commentary piece,

Connecticut’s political parties might be increasingly polarized, but there’s one issue upon which they finally reached unanimous agreement: UConn President Susan Herbst has had a “let them eat cake” moment and her Board of Trustees is utterly tone deaf.

Jump into the DeLorean, fire up the Flux Capacitor and set the date for February 24, 2015, when President Herbst testified about how cuts to the university’s block grant would have dire impacts on the quality of education at the university:

 “A reduction to the appropriation in that amount would without question have a devastating impact on every aspect of university operations, faculty teaching and research, and student success . . . The greatest consequences of this would be the effect it would have on our students, our academic programs, and the role UConn must play in the state’s future, economic and otherwise. It would be a giant step backward. To address the gap this would create, our cost savings and revenue options will include: strategic workforce reductions and, to the extent permitted by collective bargaining obligations, unpaid furlough days for all employees including management and unionized workers, reductions to student financial aid, closing academic departments and programs including in Storrs and the regional campuses and ending certain degree programs.”

As of February, 30 faculty members had been laid off, according to Michael Bailey, Executive Director of the UConn chapter of AAUP (American Association of University Professors). It’s happening across the country — tenured professor positions are being filled by less expensive adjuncts for whom the university isn’t required to pay benefits.

“Approximately 50 percent of the faculty is off the tenure track with adjuncts accounting for 25 percent of those. There has been about a 10 percent increase in adjunct faculty use in the Fall semesters since 2010,” according to Bailey.

Yet despite this, at a time of massive state budget deficits and statewide layoffs, President Herbst and the Board of Trustees have chosen — because let’s be clear, it’s a choice — to go forward with massive pay increases to a few non-union administrators on the basis that “everyone else is doing it.” One can’t help but think of that oft-heard parental reprimand, “If all your friends were jumping off a cliff, would you do that, too?”

“The university does not run itself,” President Herbst reminded Senate Majority Leader Martin Looney and state Sen. Dante Bartolomeo, Senate Chair of the Higher Education Committee, in a letter responding to their questions. “We strongly believe in hiring high quality employees in order to fulfill UConn’s potential and ensure that we are as good as we can be as an institution. There are undeniably costs to that including the pay for the four people that prompted your letter, out of a workforce of more than 9,000.”

“I believe a contract is a contract and people should abide by contracts,” Board of Trustees chair Larry McHugh told the Hartford Courant.

What’s interesting — and revealing — is Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s position. He was stridently adamant that labor unions reduce their contractual benefits in light of the new fiscal situation

Those who care about the state’s fiscal survival, let alone the future of the University of Connecticut, would do well to read Littman’s piece which can be found at:

http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/archives/entry/op-ed_herbsts_let_the_eat_cake_moment_shows_need_for_transparency_at_uconn/

The logical conclusion after reading it is that Connecticut AND UConn are in need of new leadership….

For more on UConn and its problems, read;

Malloy’s blindness and lack of leadership leads to chaos at UConn

Was UConn President channeling Donald Trump in interview with student reporter?  (Part I)

ALERT:  Malloy’s Budget Cuts lead to another 23% Tuition Increase at UConn plus 7%

Malloy Administration ushering in a “Wisconsin Moment” at UConn and CSU

UConn hires Gov. Chris Christie connected law firm to negotiate contract with faculty union

Malloy’s blindness and lack of leadership leads to chaos at UConn

Although Governor Dannel Malloy has consistently ducked his responsibility as the statutory President of the University of Connecticut Board of Trustees, the buck actually does stop on his desk…. Even while he pretends it doesn’t

Back in January 27, 2016, the UConn’s Board of Trustees voted to approve a new Collective Bargaining Agreement between the University of Connecticut and the University of Connecticut Professional Employees Association (UCPEA), the non-teaching professional staff at UConn.

No member of the UConn Board of Trustees voted against the contract.  All voted yes, except for one of the two alumni representatives, who abstained.

Then, as the concerns were raised about the contract by the Connecticut General Assembly, Governor Dannel Malloy suddenly become critical of the agreement – despite the fact that, by law, Malloy is the President of the UConn Board of Trustees, Malloy appoints the majority of the members of the Board and Malloy’s own personal representative on the Board had missed 12 of the last 15 monthly meetings, including the Trustee meeting in January when the contract was approved.

Malloy’s personal representative has missed every meeting since then, having now missed 15 of the last 18 UConn Trustee meetings.

Malloy pretended like it all occurred on someone else’s watch and demanded the contract be withdrawn or defeated.

Now, six months later, the CT Mirror is reporting a new and even more shocking controversy.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016 – A few top UConn officials get pay increases despite tough times (CT Mirror)

In a fiscally challenging year in which few non-union managers received pay increases – at UConn or elsewhere in state government – President Susan Herbst is sticking by promises she made in 2013 and 2014 to give multiyear increases to four senior staff.

In December 2014 – one month after the governor cut state funding for UConn by $3.7 million and warned more cuts would come before the fiscal year ended – Herbst gave three of her most senior staff members hefty pay increases over two or three fiscal years.

Those increases went to the university’s general counsel, chief architect and Herbst’s deputy chief of staff. In 2013 she awarded her chief of staff increases and bonuses over the next three fiscal years.

Thursday, June 23, 2016 –  Legislative leaders call UConn ‘tone deaf’ over raises for top staff (CT Mirror)

Legislative leaders Thursday blasted hefty pay increases University of Connecticut President Susan Herbst awarded to four senior staff members as the state and public university grapple with big budget cuts.

“UConn’s administration continues to be tone deaf to the economic realities facing our state. Handing out exorbitant raises to their highest-paid staffers while at the same time increasing tuition on hard-working families is the height of arrogance,” House Speaker J. Brendan Sharkey, D-Hamden, said in a statement sent to reporters Thursday afternoon. “As state employee layoffs approach the 1,000 mark, and virtually every state agency is dealing with severe budget cuts, the leadership in Storrs has shown once again they just don’t get it.”

Senate President Pro Tem Martin Looney, D-New Haven, in a statement shortly afterward, called on UConn to rescind the raises.

“Really?! You’ve got to be kidding me. One might have thought that the examples of the disastrous mistakes of Chancellor Gray and President Hogan would have left a more lasting impact on decisions regarding raises for administrators in higher education. At a time when painful reductions are being imposed throughout state government, UConn should not see itself as an isolated and privileged exception. I urge President Herbst to reconsider and rescind these untimely raises,” said Looney.

The Connecticut Mirror reported Wednesday that Herbst was sticking to promises she made in 2013 and 2014 to award multiple-year, double-digit percentage pay increases to the university’s general counsel, chief architect and Herbst’s chief of staff and deputy chief of staff.

All received pay increases in the 2015-16 fiscal year even though few other non-union managers did – at UConn or elsewhere in state government.

The school’s top lawyer received a $55,000 increase over two fiscal years, her chief of staff received a $50,000 increase over three fiscal years and her chief architect received a $45,000 increase over two fiscal years. The general counsel and chief of staff also received bonuses of $25,000 to $30,000 each year.

Bonuses and pay raises for a select few elites while state employees are being laid off, tuition is going up and programs are being cut.

The reverse Robin Hood Effect continues to move forward at full steam.

Now watch for Malloy to wake from his stupor and demand something… anything in order to look good in the face of this disturbing development.

But face it, the one thing that won’t happen is for Malloy to take responsibility for his utter lack of leadership on the Connecticut budget or his failure to do what is right for UConn’s students and the institution’s future.

Was UConn President channeling Donald Trump in interview with student reporter?  (Part I)

At the end of last month, UConn Daily Campus reporter Kyle Constable sat down with UConn President Susan Herbst for an interview.  Among the topics covered was the controversy surrounding the fate of the UConn Co-op, the institution that has been serving students, faculty and the greater UConn community for the past 41 years.

While President Herbst’s answers to the student reporter’s questions were telling, the session was notable, not so much for what UConn’s President said, but how she conducted herself when dealing with a member of the media.

Upon reading the recorded transcript of the interview, one possible conclusion is that when no one was looking, Donald Trump snuck into the President’s office and possessed Herbst’s mind.  Alternatively, Herbst has been studying Trump’s meteoric rise and decided to take a page out of The Donald’s abusive and insulting approach to reporters and the media.

In any case, the public servant who collected a salary and benefits in excess of $768,558 during the last fiscal year – a $50,000 raise from the year before – managed to turn a routine “end-of-the-year” interview into a situation that should be cause for concern for UConn’s students, faculty and alumni, as well as, the state’s taxpayers and policymakers.

As background, the corporatization of the University of Connecticut took another strong step forward last month with UConn’s announcement that Barnes & Noble had been selected to replace the historic UConn Co-op bookstores.  The UConn Co-op is closing and the national bookstore chain will step in with a promise to improve services and upgrade facilities.

Prices may (or may not) go up, depending on who is assessing the situation, but one of the benefits – according to reports produced by the University of Connecticut – is that UConn will receive “millions of dollars” in revenues from the sale of books and other items sold at the new Barnes & Noble stores.

The move to turn UConn’s non-profit bookstore over to a for-profit company has generated significant controversy.  See:  UConn Co-op Bookstore Could Be Replaced By National Corporation (Hartford Courant 12/8/15), UConn Co-op to be replaced by national corporation (Daily Campus 3/11/16), Barnes & Noble to Lead UConn’s Bookstore Operation (UConn Today 4/27/16)

However, as noted, the news of the moment is not about the bookstore but about the UConn President’s demeanor when sitting down with a reporter who was asking legitimate and important policy questions.

In a case like this, it is best to simply let the content speak for itself.

The Daily Campus headline read – One-on-one: Herbst talks UConn’s path forward in face of uncertainty

Then leaping to the subsection entitled: The Co-op, Barnes & Noble

Constable [The UConn Daily Campus reporter]: The Co-op has been an institution at the university for a very, very long time. There were questions about its ability fiscally sustainable in the long term for some time. Looking at the Storrs Center bookstore location – folks over at the Co-op would say they were forced into it despite the fact that they knew it would put them in a position to make the fiscally unsustainable. Did the university make a decision that ultimately resulted in the Co-op not being able to remain its bookstore?

President Herbst: No, and we have communicated a lot on this subject, yeah, we’re done. (Looking at deputy chief of staff Michael Kirk) You have anything to add?

President Herbst’s Deputy chief of Staff Kirk: About the Co-op?

President Herbst: Yeah.

Kirk: No, I mean, it’s important to keep in mind this change wasn’t just about whether or not the Co-op was profitable. Whether it’s profitable or not, the concern on their part was they didn’t they could make it for the long term. They didn’t have a way out, other than a university bailout. At the same time, there was mounting complaints from students, and faculty and fans and others saying this is not the bookstore that we want, not the bookstore we need. So those things combined led the university to say, “We should look at what our alternatives are.” It’s wasn’t just, “Oh, the Co-op’s not profitable, therefore—” It was, “We’re not getting the kind of service out of this that we need as big university in the 21st century.”

Constable: So talk a little bit about what Barnes & Noble brings to the table for the future of the university.

President Herbst: Yeah, we had— have you read all our material about this?

Constable: Of course.

President Herbst: Yeah, so, have you been to Barnes & Noble recently? Like the Yale Co-op?

Constable: Yes, earlier this week.

President Herbst: That’s what you’re going to get, getting great programming. We’ll have guarantees on how many community programs and authors, but we’ll have our own events there, too. You will have a guarantee about textbook prices and a matching program, which we don’t have right now. There will be more and diverse gear. I mean, I think you see the difference between the Yale bookstore and what we’ve had. So, there it was, right in front of you.

So there you are – it is right in front of you!

Or as Saturday Night Live’s Weekend Edition put it –“JANE, YOU IGNORANT SLUT.”

Yale bookstore good

UConn Co-op bad

Yale bookstore is for winners

UConn Co-op is for losers

 Barnes & Nobile is the kind of store UConn needs to be, “a big university in the 21st century.”

And PS, anyone who doesn’t get it is just stupid

Or as Trump put it,

 “We’re not going to lose. We’re going to start winning again and we’re going to win big-ly.” – Donald Trump 5/3/16

 

To fully appreciate President Herbst’s entire approach, check out the full Daily Campus article at: http://dailycampus.com/stories/2016/5/6/one-on-one-herbst-talks-uconns-path-forward-in-face-of-uncertainty

Breaking News: State employee layoffs coming to UConn

Updated with statement from UConn spokesperson (see end of blog post)

According to high-ranking UConn administrators, who asked to remain anonymous due to concerns about retaliation, a series of layoff notices will be going out soon to state employees at the University of Connecticut, including unionized employees.

Despite a 6.5 percent increase in tuition and fees that have already been approved for next year, inadequate state support will mean that a significant number of UConn employees will be receiving layoff notices, the first time there have been a substantive number of layoffs at the University in at least 20 years.

The UConn administrators report that the initial round of layoffs will be hitting the School of Law, the School of Social Work and at other major programs at UConn.

Governor Malloy’s record cuts to Connecticut’s public institutions of higher education have already been taking a tremendous toll.  As the State of Connecticut reduces its state budget support for UConn, the Connecticut State Universities and Community Colleges, students and their parents are being told they must pay more and get less.

In a related move to cut spending, the Connecticut Board of Regents is blindly rushing to approve a “Transform CSCU 2020” plan that will dramatically diminish the Connecticut State University and Community College System.

The disturbing news of impending layoffs comes on the heels of the decision by Governor Malloy’s political appointees on the UConn Board of Trustees to dramatically increase UConn President Susan Herbst’s salary and compensation package.

Voting at a special board meeting on December 29, 2014, the UConn Trustees approved a new compensation package that will push President Herbst’s  salary to $831,000 by 2019.  Herbst’s new contract increases her salary by 5 percent each year and provides that the UConn Board of Trustees or a committee shall review her salary annually and may increase, but not decrease her compensation package.  In addition, Herbst will receive an $80,000-a-year “deferred compensation” payment, along with a $38,000 “supplemental retirement benefit.”  The new contract also promises her a $40,000 performance bonus each year and guarantees her two “retention bonuses” totaling $200,000, one in 2016 and one in 2019.

But when the Trustees met at the specially called meeting to approve the UConn President’s new compensation package, they failed to reveal that a plan to layoff state employees at the University of Connecticut was already taking shape.

The news that UConn is facing a massive budget crisis is not news, but the use of layoffs is in stark contrast to Governor Malloy’s campaign message, which was that if re-elected, he would not raise taxes or cut vital services and would not need to engage the State’s public employee unions in any negotiations about concessions.

The state employee unions used that commitment to support a massive political effort that helped Malloy beat his Republican opponent by about 40,000 votes.

Despite Malloy’s rhetoric, state employees, including those at UConn, will be feeling the devastating impact of the projected $1.4 billion budget deficit in next year’s state budget.

As the CT Mirror reported last March, “The University of Connecticut is facing a $46.2 million budget deficit for the fiscal year that begins July 1 — a 4 percent shortfall in the funding needed to continue existing programs.”

The CT Mirror added, “Further tuition increases, cuts to research funding, scaling back financial aid and stalling faculty hiring have not been ruled out to close the gap, a university spokeswoman said.”

According to reports produced by the University of Connecticut, State funding for UConn has decreased by more than $55.3 million a year since Malloy took office.

The Malloy budget cuts take the University of Connecticut back to 1995 when a New York Times article entitled, “UConn Plans Tuition Rise And Layoffs,” reported that, “Tuition at the University of Connecticut will rise 10 percent in 1994-95 and some part-time faculty members will lose their jobs this fall, the school’s trustees have decided.”

The New York Times added, “This is the sixth consecutive year that the university has called for a double-digit tuition increase. Over five years, tuition has doubled and the university has trimmed about one-fifth of its faculty and staff.”

In 1995, the State of Connecticut provided a block grant to the University of Connecticut that covered 32 percent of the University’s total operating budget.

Thanks to Malloy’s on-going cuts, the State of Connecticut’s operating grant now only provides 18.7 percent of UConn’s total operating costs.

It has been twenty years since those disastrous cuts, yet the on-going lack of state support for the University of Connecticut is jeopardizing the quality of the University and putting a UConn education more and more out of reach for Connecticut families.

As noted previous, the result of these constant budget reductions has resulted in a tremendous shift onto the backs of students and their parents.  The cost of tuition, room and board for an in-state student has at UConn has gone from $9,784 in 1995 to $23,496 this year.

And now UConn students are being told that although they will need to cough up 6.5 percent more to go to the University of Connecticut next fall, they can expect fewer staff and reduced programs.

In response to a request for a comment, UConn spokesperson Stephanie Reitz issued the following statement, it provides an interesting spin on how the University is going to explain the upcoming cuts.

“At this time, any workforce reductions at the university are very limited in number, affecting very few employees, and are due to reorganizations within a particular office, department, or school, not because of financial need or any reduction in state support.”

It’s the Season of Giving as political appointees rake in raises

Last week it was Governor Malloy’s top aides who were doing the money dance with their raises of up 12 percent.

This week, it is UConn President Susan Herbst who is doing the celebrating.

When Governor Rell and Governor-Elect Malloy announced Susan Herbst’s appointment as UConn’s President on December 20, 2010, she was provided with an initial compensation package of $575, 000.

That salary was 50 percent higher than UConn’s president made ten years earlier (2000).  With her new raise, Herbst’s annual compensation will reach at least $831,000 by 2019, an increase of nearly 45 percent over where she started.

As the CT Mirror and other outlets reported this week, Herbst’s, new contract increases her salary by 5 percent each year and provides that the UConn Board of Trustees or a committee shall review her salary annually and may increase, but not decrease her compensation package.

In addition, Herbst will receive an $80,000-a-year “deferred compensation” payment that she can invest in a tax-deferred account for her retirement, along with a $38,000 “supplemental retirement benefit”.

The new contract also promises her a $40,000 performance bonus each year, should she keep the Board of Trustees in her good graces.

The contract also guarantees her two “retention bonuses” totaling $200,000, one in 2016 and one in 2019.

As part of the contract, Herbst agrees to live in the Storrs presidential mansion, but will also take up residence at the 7,000 square-foot “Hartford Property,” which is located just down from the Governor’s Mansion on Scarborough Street in Hartford

The contract also provides that the University will continue to provide staff to maintain the two homes and “assist with university related entertaining.”

Of course, the University will continue to provide the President with a state car and driver.

In addition, the University of Connecticut’s Foundation will continue to provide what has been a long-standing practice of providing the President with a leased car, of which the University is responsible for all necessary repairs, insurance and maintenance.  If President Herbst does not want the extra car, the Foundation will provide her with an annual check for $15,000.

As one would expect, in full political spin mode, at the same time that Governor Malloy’s political appointees announced Herbst’s new contract, the university released “a comparison of Herbst’s compensation with that of similar institutions.”

The University also stressed that fact that while the UConn Foundation has been providing UConn with $175,000-a-year to help pay for Herbst’s salary, that amount will increase to $300,000 a year starting in 2015.

According to the CT Mirror,

“This is Herbst’s second pay increase since she became UConn’s leader. UConn’s spokesman said that in 2012, “Chairman McHugh, after consulting other board members,” signed an amended contract giving her a $30,000 salary increase and a $100,000 increase in the retention/deferred compensation bonus she will receive in 2016.

State law reads, “the board of trustees shall fix the compensation” of the president and similar officials. But, the UConn spokesman said, “There was no formal vote taken, because it was a single amendment to an existing contract.”

As the Hartford Courant noted, “Earlier this year, UConn officials said that cuts in state funding for the university system would require them to increase student tuition by 6.5 percent to help close a potential $42.6 million deficit.”

In fact, since 2000, the State of Connecticut has been consistently reducing public support

Over the past fifteen years, the cuts in state funding have had a significant impact on UConn, the Connecticut State Universities and Community Colleges.

As the state entered the 21st Century, Connecticut State Government provided UConn with an operating subsidy that accounted for about 48 percent of the University’s total costs.

Following Governor Malloy’s record cuts to Connecticut’s public institutions of higher education, state support for UConn has dropped to the point that the State accounts for only 28 percent of UConn’s total cost.

The reduction in support has transferred the burden onto the backs of Connecticut’s students and their families.  The total cost of attending UConn has risen 112% since 2000, and that was before the decision to raise tuition another 6.5% this year.