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

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

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.

Oh those wily consultants: Consulting company determines UConn Administrator’s pay okay

Faced with criticism about the high rate of compensation for UConn administrators, the University of Connecticut’s Board of Trustees hired Sibson Consulting to determine whether the rate UConn was paying its senior administrators was appropriate.

According to their public relations materials, Sibson Consulting reports to be leaders in, “executive compensation and corporate governance design for over 50 years. We act as independent, outside counsel to both compensation committees and their senior management. Our principals and senior consultants specialize in the development of comprehensive compensation programs tailored to the particular needs of each client.”

In this case, the UConn Board of Trustees’ new Compensation Committee needed an analysis of how UConn is doing when it comes to salary packages and policies for its senior executive management team.

The answer was recently reported to the Board via a memo from the Compensation Committee.  The memo read:

“With respect to current salaries for UConn’s senior administrators Sibson concluded that they are ‘generally consistent with the salaries for positions and comparable duties and responsibilities’ in the academic markets studied (i.e. Top 20 Public Research Institutions, Top 50 Public Research Institutions and Top 50 National Research Institutions).  When compared with not-for-profit and corporate organizations, UConn’s salaries are generally below market practices.  Sibson also concluded that UConn’s senior administrator salaries are “consistent with what Sibson would expect for an institution of UConn’s size and complexity.”  Lastly Sibson found that UConn lacks a coherent compensation philosophy for its senior administrator salaries to guide the determination of starting salaries and incumbent salary increases as well as to support the recruitment and retention of outstanding management professionals.”

So, all in all, a pretty good report.

Salaries are not overly excessive and UConn lacks any coherent compensation philosophy.

Kudos to Sibson Consulting for engaging in a successful consulting project.

And special compliments to UConn who successfully revealed, yet again, that given the right perspective, you can even make s**t smell like flowers.

The memo reporting on the consultant’s report can be found here: http://courantblogs.com/capitol-watch/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/UCONN-salaries.pdf

Corporate Welfare Boondoggle Alert: Moving UConn’s West Hartford Campus downtown

On November 8, two days after this year’s election, UConn President Susan Herbst released a statement announcing that the University of Connecticut’s Greater Hartford Campus will be moving from its West Hartford location to downtown Hartford within the year.

Beyond a claim that “this will be a win-win for UConn, our students and the City of Hartford,” UConn’s President failed to provide any details whatsoever, citing the need for secrecy since negotiations on the issue where on-going.

As the Associated Press put it, “UConn said it’s not ready to identify possible Hartford sites that would house the new campus.”  The only other fact that came to light was that the 58 acre West Hartford campus would be sold after the move.

Stepping back for a moment it becomes apparent that nothing about this development or the statement makes sense.

In fact, it is so devoid of logic that it begs the question, what is really going on behind the scenes with UConn’s West Hartford Campus?

First off, these types of announcements are never made by press release.  UConn moving into downtown Hartford is the type of announcement that this Governor (or any governor) would be part of.  Particularly since under Connecticut law, the Governor serves as the President of the UConn Board of Trustees.

Second, as a public entity, a move like this would require a transparent process (or at least that is what the law requires).

Instead, the AP reports that, “the move would cost about $125,000, but UConn says it would save about $25 million in a few years. It also intends to sell the 58-acre West Hartford campus, which includes five buildings.”

$125,000 to move the entire campus downtown?

Perhaps the biggest clue that things are not what they seem is that UConn’s President felt the need to skip over large segments of the truth when making the announcement in the first place.

According to UConn President Herbst, “An estimated $18.4 million would be required to bring the buildings to an acceptable state.  Furthermore, updates and repairs needed to be made to the technology infrastructure, the mechanical systems in the three main campus buildings need to be completely replaced.  Combined, nearly $25 million would be needed to keep the campus operational, in addition to the $7.2 million spent on continual repairs to the campus over the past four years.”

Yes, in fact UConn has spent a good deal of money to upgrade and renovate the West Hartford Campus in recent years.  Projects Include;

  • West Hartford Campus Renovations/Improvements – Electrical Switchgear Replacement: $1 million (2012)
  • West Hartford Campus Renovations/Improvements – Student Lounge $839,000 (2011)
  • West Hartford Campus Renovations/Improvements – 1800 Asylum Boiler Replacement:  $850,000 (2011)
  • West Hartford Campus Renovations/Improvements-Chemistry Lab $1.5 million: (2010)
  • West Hartford Campus Renovations/Improvements – Phase I $1.4 million: (2010)
  • West Hartford Campus Renovations/Improvements – Trecker Library Repairs $525,000 (2010)
  • West Hartford Campus Renovations/Improvements – Social Work Building $1 million (2009)
  • West Hartford Campus Renovations/Improvements – Parking Lot: $850,000 (2005)

And it wasn’t as if this money was spent without proper planning and consideration.

In 2004, the University of Connecticut spent millions for a Master Plan for the Storrs Campus and the regional campus.  In fact, a whole separate Greater Hartford Campus Master Plan was developed and published.

The document, based on the University’s academic plan identified that UConn needed to renovate and expand, in order to generate an additional 30,140 ASF of space by 2013.  The plan outlined the steps necessary to increase the amount of academic space by 21%, adding classrooms, labs, research space and other departmental spaces.  In addition, Academic Support Space would be increase of 41% for the library, community center and the physical plant facilities.

The next year, in 2005, when UConn went to the General Assembly for the second part of UConn 2000, called UConn 21st Century; it provided a list of $1.3 billion worth of construction for both the University and the UConn Health Center.

And in 2006, UConn’s new construction plan included spending $9.5 million on the West Hartford Campus in FY10, 10 million in FY 12 and 4 million in FY14.

Then, within a year, those funds disappeared as UConn’s administration decided that they’d rather use the money to build or renovate in Storrs.

In the end, only about $7 million was left and spent for improvements to the West Hartford Campus.

So call it more than a bit disingenuous for UConn’s President Herbst to claim that they need to move downtown because it would cost $25 million to fix up the West Hartford Campus.  UConn knew that, they had the money and plans to make those renovations as late as 2006, and for reasons Herbst doesn’t explain, they chose to shift the money.

Even more peculiar is the suggestion that it would only cost $125,000 to move the campus downtown.

Obviously, it would cost millions to lease and fit out an existing building.

Something big is afoot, and whatever it is, it can’t handle the light of transparency or UConn and the Malloy Administration would be doing it in the open.

As the Hartford Courant noted, “Three locations have emerged as leading contenders for the new campus: the former Travelers Education Center on Constitution Plaza; the two-towered Connecticut River Plaza; and One Talcott Plaza on Talcott Street. All three locations are within a block of a UConn graduate business program.

The vacant Traveler’s Education Center encompasses 135,000 square feet and has been for sale or lease for about a year. The building is outfitted with classrooms and meeting space.

The 575,000-square-foot Connecticut River Plaza on nearby Columbus Boulevard has been under consideration by the state as a leading location to consolidate state workers in other leased office space, according to real estate sources.

The smaller, 103,000-square-foot building on Talcott Street near the G. Fox Building has long been vacant.”

So perhaps it is all part of a corporate welfare deal to fill up some private developer’s empty building?

Of course, getting the West Hartford Branch off of a prime piece of property on Asylum Avenue has its advantages as well.

Regardless of who “wins” the one thing we can be sure of is that UConn’s students and Connecticut’s taxpayers will be the losers.

UConn has put more than $7 million into its West Hartford Campus and is now walking away from those improvements, and its own plan.

And just as incredible, UConn, with no feasibility study, no academic plan and no money is going to lease space and move downtown?

As the saying goes, “I wasn’t born yesterday.”

UConn and the Malloy Administration are engaged in a major ruse and it deserves more coverage than the reporting it has gotten to date.  There was a reason they dropped the media statement during election week.  It was to limit coverage and that is exactly what has happened.

For what substantive coverage there was, see the Hartford Courant’s article November 8, 2012:  http://articles.courant.com/2012-11-08/news/hc-uconn-moves-to-hartford-20121108_1_west-hartford-campus-uconn-plans-new-campus and here is the Ch. 8 version http://www.wtnh.com/dpp/news/hartford_cty/uconn-to-quit-west-hartford-for-move-to-hartford#.ULzlCIPXZrU

And here a link to UConn’s West Hartford Campus Master plan: http://www.masterplan.uconn.edu/hartford.html