What some U regents said about executive compensation

I've been at the second of three meetings of the University of Minnesota's Board of Regents' special committee on executive compensation and administrative transitional leaves.

They're reviewing the U's policy on the subject, and how it compares to peer universities'. It comes after an uproar over news that former President Robert Bruininks' paid out $2.8 million to 10 top administrators in leave and other compensation.

A lot of it was nuts-and-bolts stuff. Chairman Richard Beeson said the board hopes to wrap things up by the end of next session, which is May 25.

He sees three areas they'll focus on:

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  • Eliminating the separate administrative leave policy. He said they'll consider rolling it into the faculty-sabbatical policy to make things easier.

  • Enforcing the requirement that administrators return to the U after their leave.

  • More detail and transparency on the hiring of administrators.

  • Initiation of an annual compensation report. The board would approve any significant changes.

Regents acknowledged the public outcry over the payouts. But they also said they didn't want to get unnecessarily bogged down in administrative detail that should be delegated. Beeson said they shouldn't be in the job interview business, but they need to find the right balance of accountability and delegation.

Regent John Frobenius told the committee:

"I don't want to tie the president's hands. But I also don't want to answer media requests with, 'I was not aware of that.' "

President Eric Kaler's chief of staff, Amy Phenix, said other public universities had common practices, but there didn't appear to be any standard policy.

Beeson said toward the end:

"It's ironic that in (in the area of executive compensation policy), we'll end up with more structure and clarity than our peer groups. It’s a little concerning."