University of Minnesota President Bob Bruininks plans to give all of his salary increases during his time as president back to the University — an action he says will total more than the 10 percent cut some are asking him and other administrators to take.
To date, Bruininks and his wife Susan Hagstrum have donated $231,000 to the University, according to the University of Minnesota Foundation. Bruininks’ salary has increased $160,000 since January of 2002.
“The Regents believe — and I think they’re right — that the president of the University ought to be compensated competitively and fairly,” Bruininks said.
Bruininks and his wife decided to adopt this approach in 2002, with plans to give the money to the University or organizations with strong academic partnerships with the University.
“I can assure you that that is much more than the suggested 10 percent of my salary over the next two years and I can assure you that that commitment is more than double the increase in my salary compensation in the seven years or, I would say, even in the possible nine years that I will serve as president,” Bruininks said.
A 10 percent cut to Bruininks’ base salary of $455,000 would mean $45,500. He earns about $750,000 with benefits.
Some of Bruininks’ largest gifts have gone to student scholarships and arts programs like the Weisman Art Museum and the Guthrie Theater. Between November 2006 and June 2009, Bruininks donated between $15,000 and $35,000 to the Weisman Art Museum, according to Board of Regents documents.
The couple also donated significantly to the University’s Multiple Sclerosis Center, a disease Bruininks said Hagstrum’s mother suffered from.
Bruininks said he has not made these donations public until now because he said he and his wife wanted to be modest about their financial contributions.
“I really think one’s charitable contributions should be done for the best of reasons, not to draw attention to yourself,” he said. “But since people have made a real issue of it and suggested that I may be insensitive to the needs of people in this very challenging economy, I thought I ought to at least reveal the commitment we made more than seven years ago.”
Bruininks is the 7th highest paid public university president in the United States, according to a study by The Chronicle of Higher Education in November 2008.
His pay has not increased since November, when he announced a salary freeze for the University’s 40 top paid employees, an initiative that he said would save the University $500,000 in its first year.
The AFSCME Local 3800 union has said the freeze is not enough and is asking the 254 University employees paid over $200,000 to take a 5 percent pay cut.
“The fact that he gives money is all well and good, but he makes $750,000 year,” Chief Steward of AFSCME Local 3800 Cherrene Horazuk said. “It just doesn’t wash for me.”
Horazuk said, “Many employees from all employee groups give money, make charitable donations to a variety of causes that is entirely different than the issue of salary.”
Athletics Director Joel Maturi — the 10th highest paid administrator at the University as of September 2008 — said he understands the critical eyes on the University’s top paid administrators.
“When people are making significant dollars, … I understand that people wonder if we should be making as much as we do, it’s a very valid question,” Maturi said.
However, Maturi said he feels that University administrators are paid market, or competitive, wages.
Maturi, who has donated between $35,000 and $70,000 to scholarships, TCF Bank Stadium and the Department of Intercollegiate Athletics between 2006 and 2008, according to Board of Regents documents, said he is generous because he can afford to be.
“In 1968 when I began this journey [in my career] I made $6,300 bucks and I probably didn’t give much away,” he said, adding that charitable giving should be private and considered separate from an employee’s salary.
Roby Thompson, associate dean of the University’s Medical School and one of the top 25 paid administrators at the University, moved to Minnesota from Virginia more than 35 years ago, but said he wouldn’t have made the move if the wages weren’t competitive.
“If you don’t have competitive wages you won’t have access to the best and brightest top administration to manage an organization of this size,” he said.
Thompson, who according to Board of Regents documents has donated between $25,000 and $60,000 combined to the Weisman Art Museum, the Duncan MacMillan Memorial Fund and Minnesota Medical Foundation programs between 2006 and 2008, also feels that giving is private and should be considered separate from compensation for jobs.
At Ohio State University, senior administration, including President Gordon Gee, is declining bonuses and raises this year, said university spokeswoman Shelly Hoffman.
As of September 2008, the combined salaries of the top 25 paid employees at Ohio State totaled $9,872,331, over $1 million more than the University of Minnesota’s top 25 salaries.
At the University of Wisconsin , every employee will take a 3 percent pay cut at the behest of the state. The cut will come in the form of a furlough, or an eight-day mandatory unpaid leave for both 2009 and 2010, Terry Devitt, spokesman for the university said.
The current Chancellor of the University of Wisconsin is Biddy Martin whose salary of $437,000 will be cut 3 percent, amounting to about $13,000.
The cuts will impact all Wisconsin state employees, including Madison’s top administrators.
—Elizabeth Sias contributed to this report