Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Joe Peek: I Guess You Can Take It with You After All -- On the University of Kentucky Trustees Great Giveaway to Outgoing President Lee Todd

Note to readers: Joe is unable to email faculty at this time. He attended his first official (ro)BOT meeting last week and has since been huddled in the corner in the fetal (near-fatal) position. He has been diagnosed as suffering from PTSD (Preposterous Trustee Statements and Delusions). Consequently, I have taken over as communications officer.

Sincerely (sort of),
(Joe’s evil twin)

I Guess You Can Take It with You After All

It’s said the quitters never prosper. Wrong again! At the recent (ro)BOT meeting, the trustees voted 17-2 in favor of a salary “reclassification” for outgoing UK President Todd. (The lone dissenters were me and Sheila Brothers, the staff trustee.) Even though I pointed out (more than once) that this reclassification had real implications for the UK budget, it had no impact on the “discussion.” For the record: Base salary, but not bonus, carries with it a 15% retirement contribution by UK, and the change is retroactive to this past year as well. (I know, only the chosen few at the top get UK to make their 5% contribution for them.) Second, President Todd’s retention incentive bonus that will be paid on his last day at UK is equal to his base, not total, compensation. So the cost to UK is at least several hundred thousand dollars. And, silly me, I thought UK was in a budget crisis and could not afford raises at this time. The fact that some of Todd’s “reclassification” was done in arrears is at least consistent with the way UK has been treating faculty and staff (who have been getting it in arrears for a long time).

The good news is that faculty and staff had a say in President Todd’s evaluation. Specifically, our 2000+ faculty had the opportunity to collectively provide a grand total of 1/22 of the input, the same as any one of the 20 individual trustees (and similarly for the staff).

But, just so you know, I am not going to just sit here quietly and take it. Actually, I would take it if it were offered, but, in any case, at the next (ro)BOT meeting, I am going to propose a motion that I receive a substantial raise because that will make it easier to hire my replacement when I resign or retire.

UK 63 Florida 17!

Congratulations to Joker Phillips for finally breaking 20+ years of domination by UF on the football field! Wait a minute, those numbers look familiar; and the Florida game isn’t until this weekend. I get it now: these are the USN&WR rankings for Public Universities. But I guess it is still the same story, continuous academic domination by Florida. . .and Georgia. . .and Alabama. . .and, God help us all, even Auburn.

“Who are you going to believe, me or your own two eyes?”

Is President Todd channeling the Marx Brothers? He has made it clear that he views the USN&WR rankings as being inappropriate for UK. Yet when the Martin School of Public Policy and the College of Law were named in USN&WR’s America’s Best Graduate Schools a few years ago, President Todd was quoted in a press release as saying: “To have these programs listed by U.S. News is certainly an honor, and it comes at a time when we, as a university, have been actively striving for excellence. It shows that we are doing our part.”

Feeling a little dazed and disoriented by President Todd’s statements, I headed over to the hospital to see about getting my meds adjusted, but I ran smack into the humongous banners on UK Hospital buildings touting our USN&WR rankings in America’s Best Hospitals. So I am very confused about the value of the USN&WR rankings, but guess I’m not alone.

President Todd did admit in his State of the University speech that we could do better in the rankings. The Herald-Leader reported that President Todd said “the school could recruit larger numbers of students with high ACT scores from states such as California and Texas and refuse to serve Kentucky students who score lower on the ACT, but that is not UK's mission.” I have always been cursed with a blinding sense of the obvious, so what I am missing here? Can somebody explain to me how accepting high ACT students paying out-of-state tuition hinders us in our unfunded (and probably hopeless) pursuit of Top 20 status? We desperately need revenue, and out-of-state students pay substantially higher tuition. And we have been trying to grow the size and quality of our student body at UK, so wouldn’t additional high ACT students contribute to that mission?
In another puzzling news item, the Courier-Journal reported that following his speech, President Todd said that “he was aware some people were unhappy, but that he has not personally received any feedback from faculty or staff.” I guess he has been too busy to get around to reading my email inbox.

Better Times Ahead?

The NBER Business Cycle Dating Committee just announced the end of the recession. I wonder if they have any idea about when our depression will end? While the war on student attrition is going well, so is the war of faculty attrition. But keep in mind that it could be worse. You could be a student. Yes, they do get annual raises. . . in tuition expense. As for me, I have been offered a golden parachute; well, not exactly golden, but it did contain a lot of metal (perhaps because I am a faculty lead-er?). But I told them that when I was ready to jump I would like to pack my own chute. And they said “Fine, go pack yourself.”

Joe Peek
Professor of Finance
Gatton Endowed Chair in International Banking and Financial Economics
School of Management

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