Yudof to use private donations for faculty

Erin Ghere

University President Mark Yudof announced Thursday plans to raise $275 million in private donations to increase faculty and staff salaries.
At the $1.3 billion fund-raising campaign celebration in front to Coffman Union, Yudof described his goals — initiatives veering away from past strategies relying on the Legislature for increased funding.
Dubbed “Campaign Minnesota,” University officials hope to establish more endowed chairs and professorships in a variety of departments. The endowments will increase professor salaries, improve laboratories and technology and add to travel expenses and the number of graduate assistants.
Yudof pointed to grim University faculty statistics to illustrate the need for increases in private donations.
During the next 10 years, half of the faculty will reach retirement age. Fewer than 10 percent currently receive support from endowed chairs or professorships.
And the average salary for a full University professor is $81,000 — $13,500 below the average for top research universities.
“If we were really to be competitive, tomorrow morning we would need a 15 percent increase in overall faculty salaries, net inflation,” Yudof said.
The University stands ninth in faculty and staff compensation among public research universities, and 20th among research universities overall. When comparing full-time professor salaries, the University ranks 26th.
In the past decade, the state Legislature has only provided the University with enough funding to raise faculty and staff salaries 3 percent every two years.
The top five research universities include the University of California-Berkeley, Stanford University, Cornell University, University of Michigan and Harvard University.
For this fiscal year, Yudof requested a 5 percent increase in faculty and staff pay. However, the Legislature only approved a 3 percent hike.
The Legislature has not been responsive to Yudof’s concerns for faculty salaries, said Gerald Fischer, head of the University Foundation. The foundation is heading up the fund-raising campaign.
Even with “Campaign Minnesota” in full swing, the University will continue to look to the Legislature for its base-faculty compensation, Fischer said.
Increasing pay is the only way to keep and hire professors who are outstanding, Yudof said at a June Board of Regents meeting.
“Once you have the faculty, all becomes possible,” Yudof said.
Private universities, however, have resources to lure faculty members away with larger salaries and better benefits.
“The biggest problem is the gap between private and public universities,” Yudof said. “The private universities frankly charge very high tuition, and that’s not the Minnesota way. We’re not going to do that.”
Yudof said most of the donations will be used to add endowed chairs or professorships. He also pointed to a need for about $40 million in discretionary funds to dissuade stellar professors from leaving campus.
A perfect example, Yudof said, is Dr. Kathryn Farnoir, a professor and researcher in the Medical School. Farnoir is developing a treatment that might cure some forms of leukemia. She is also working on innovations in bone-marrow transplants.
The University of Chicago offered the professor a higher-paying position, but Yudof secured discretionary funds, persuading her to stay.
Yudof said the University matched the offer and then “took the cheap shot and sent her a dozen roses.”
“Our major goal is to recruit and develop and retain the most outstanding faculty we can,” Yudof said. “A strong talented faculty means a strong University.”
The University’s fund-raising campaign will run until 2003. It is the largest private donation drive ever attempted by a public university in the country.
In 1988, the University garnered $365 million in private donations during a three-year period — the largest capital campaign to date.

Erin Ghere covers faculty and welcomes comments at [email protected]