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Regents approve pay increase for Gabel, discuss naming policy

The board also approved the contract of the new chief auditor.
Image by Liam Armstrong
The Board of Regents convene for their September meeting at the McNamara Alumni Center on Thursday, Sept. 9, 2021.

The University of Minnesota Board of Regents approved a compensation increase for President Joan Gabel and incoming chief auditor Quinn Gaalswyk’s employment agreement at their meeting Friday.

The board voted 9-2 to approve the changes to Gabel’s employment agreement, with Regents Darrin Rosha and James Farnsworth voting against the contract and expressing concern over the increase. Additionally, regents discussed amendments to the University’s naming policy for buildings and other named entities, like fellowships or professorships.

Gabel’s compensation increase
Announced earlier this week, the contract increases Gabel’s pay by about $10,000 and 3% to 5% until the end of the contract term. Including bonuses and retirement contributions, Gabel’s total compensation could reach over $1 million by 2026.

Board chair Kendall Powell expressed his support for increasing her salary and gratitude for Gabel’s leadership during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

This increase brings Gabel’s compensation closer to the midpoint for other Big Ten university presidents.

“When it comes to a strong performing president who’s advanced this great University across a wide range of initiatives, I am more than comfortable bringing her salary up to midpoint,” Powell said at the meeting.

Rosha, who voted against the employment agreement, expressed his concern that University students would bear the cost of the compensation increase.

“Compensation for the president isn’t a question of a few thousand dollars … it’s a matter of tens of millions,” Rosha said at the meeting. “This money must come from somewhere … the burden will be borne by students.”

Rosha also said he was not notified about the possibility of a new contract agreement until two weeks prior to the meeting.

“The public has a right to expect transparency in decision making and we are a public board and we conduct our business in public,” Rosha said. “I was not consulted, I learned about this new contract proposal just a couple of weeks ago for the first time.”

Farnsworth also stated his concerns over the timing of this decision.

“As has been affirmed and commented on by the incoming stakeholder feedback, bringing this in front of the board with limited engagement during final exam season for our University community and amidst the continued challenges many are facing due to the COVID-19 pandemic has produced challenging dynamics I believe were avoidable,” Farnsworth said at the meeting.

New University chief auditor
The board unanimously approved incoming chief auditor Gaalswyk’s employment agreement without further discussion.

Gaalswyk was selected to be the next chief auditor at a special meeting last month. Gaalswyk will take over the role from Gail Klatt, who retired earlier this year after serving as chief auditor at the University for almost 30 years.

The base salary for this position will be $193,000. Gaalswyk starts Jan. 3, 2022, pending his approval of the contract.

Naming policy
The board also discussed amending the University’s naming policy, which governs how buildings, professorships and other named entities at the University are named and renamed.

The board has discussed amending the policy since 2019, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the murder of George Floyd, the amendment process was put on the back burner.

The amended policy would create a term of 75 years for a naming after which the name could be evaluated. Many of the aspects of the amendments are still in active discussion.

Regents expressed concerns over the inflexibility of namings done under philanthropic gift contracts, which are subject to different rules than other namings at the University.

Regents also questioned what the potential process would look like. It has not been decided whether a renaming review would have to be requested after 75 years or if it would be an automatic discussion.

Action on the amendments will be taken at a future board meeting that is yet to be announced.

The next board meeting is currently scheduled for Feb. 10-11.

Maia Irvin contributed to this report.

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