Regents wrap up summer

The board finalized appointments, changes to leave policies and technology updates.

Emma Nelson

In its final regular meeting of the summer, the University of Minnesota’s Board of Regents finalized several anticipated decisions, including administrative leave policies, new administrators and major technology updates.

Following former President Bob Bruininks’s controversial approval of more than $2 million in administrative leave packages, an ad hoc committee formed earlier this year to restructure the University’s policy on the issue. It presented its recommendations to the board last month.

 The new policies require approval by the board’s chair and vice chair for compensation beyond what is allotted in the annual budget. The president manages normal pay increases included in the budget.

In addition, administrators won’t be eligible for administrative leave packages but will be able to take sabbaticals with up to six months’ pay instead.

The changes will bring greater transparency and accountability, according to board chair Linda Cohen, who said she was “very proud” of the work done on the issue.

New administrators

A number of recent administrative appointments were finalized, including Pam Wheelock as vice president for University Services, Fred Wood as chancellor of the Crookston campus and Brian Steeves as the board’s executive director and corporate secretary.

Steeves served as acting executive director following Ann Cieslak’s retirement after nearly 13 years in the position. Cohen officially invited him to fill the role.

Several regents expressed their support for the appointment.

“The thing that has struck me most about Mr. Steeves … is his ability to anticipate — anticipate what’s around the corner and communicate that to the board,” Regent Dean Johnson said.

Increased scholarship funds

Following President Eric Kaler’s first year in office, the board proposed to give him a 3 percent salary increase. The raise would demonstrate “the confidence the board has in his leadership,” Cohen said.

Kaler expressed appreciation for the proposal but refused the increase. Instead, he said he wanted the funds to be directed toward undergraduate scholarships, an announcement that drew applause from board members.

“That is certainly a wonderful gesture,” Cohen said.

The board then passed a motion to contribute the amount to a general University fund for undergraduate scholarships in the upcoming academic year.

Bruininks also refused salary increases offered to him by the board.

Beginning in 2002, Bruininks began donating all of his raises to the University and its affiliates. According to a previous Minnesota Daily article, he said the total exceeded 10 percent of his salary. Among his largest donations were gifts to the Weisman Art Museum and Guthrie Theater.

Looking to the future

The board also approved an $83 million technology upgrade project presented to the Finance and Operations Committee.

The project would provide a comprehensive upgrade to the University’s Enterprise Financial System and is meant to increase efficiency and reduce costs. The system serves a variety of functions in areas including admissions, registration, financial aid, payroll and the University’s overall budget.

Committee members agreed the need for the project is urgent — the University’s current operating system will no longer be supported as of December 2012. The University has negotiated support through 2014, after which it would lose the ability to administer federal financial aid and receive updates using the current system.

“To remain an effective, state-of-the-art university we must invest in our technology infrastructure,” Kaler said.