Kaler’s bloated administrative office

We face unprecedented economic struggles in our state and here at our university. Students struggle to make ends meet as tuition rises year after year. Last year, former President Bob Bruininks testified before the higher education committees and painted a dire picture for what would happen if the Legislature reduced the University of MinnesotaâÄôs funding. Pay freezes and layoffs continue to take their toll on middle class workers, who depend on University jobs to support their families.

So given the economic climate, one would hope President Eric Kaler would be sensitive to the economic climate and hardships going on around him. But instead of going with a lean operation in his administrative office, Kaler chose to explode the salaries and number of staff. When comparing the salaries of the presidentâÄôs top administrative staff (these numbers are public and were obtained thanks to a data practice request from local blogger Andy Post), Bruininks had just four administrative associates who made an average of $87,148. Kaler has brought in a chief of staff, a deputy chief of staff and four administrative associates that make an average of $117,274. So there are more administrative positions, and they make an average of $30,126 more than their underling predecessors. What kind of fiscal restraint is this? Who approved this explosion in administrative spending? The total increase (beyond the top administrative staff, including the entire Office of the President) is over $300,000. Why is Kaler not leading by example in a time when every department around the University is forced to deal with cuts to their staff and budgets? Could those administrative staff salaries perhaps be used to ease the tuition burden of the students who pay so much of the UniversityâÄôs budget? Could they perhaps be used to hire another full-time professor or two that could provide high-quality education to students rather than graduate student TAs.

It is this kind of arrogance that makes it incredibly difficult for the Minnesota Legislature to take seriously the lobbying efforts both by the president and by the Minnesota Student Association to prevent cuts to the University. Perhaps if a president came before the Legislature and was able to point out the cost savings and reductions he made in his office and the sacrifices he took before cutting other areas of the University budget, the government would not continue to decrease funding.

We need to re-examine our priorities here at the University. Should we be exploding administrative budgets and salaries or should we be reinvesting that money into instructional spending that will directly benefit students? This kind of waste and irresponsible spending will not earn us any sympathy at the Legislature next year, and Kaler will have no one to blame but himself.