BY WATCHING ADAMS STAFF – 1/17/17
THIS IS THE FOURTH IN A SERIES OF FOUR ARTICLES
A recent analysis of itemized salary data more fully documents the compensation of Adams State University (ASU) faculty, staff and administration. In some areas, the data suggests a pattern of intentional coursework overloads, additional compensation more than doubling the salaries of a few faculty, potential cronyism and nepotism, and questionable compensation packages for administrators. This article details some of the administrator salary issues raised by itemized compensation data. The other articles in this series are available at the links provided above.
This compensation data was acquired from ASU Human Resources, totaling 48 employees at a cost of $330 in “research and retrieval” fees. The relevant data has been posted here.
In addition to disproportionately high salaries according to peer group averages (see CUPA Data Reveals Longstanding Pay Inequities at Adams State), some ASU administrative compensation raised additional questions. Among them were continually increasing administrator salaries, “golden parachute” contracts for administrators returning to faculty, and vacation payouts for the outgoing president.
One faculty summarized their concerns with, “This is what I most despise about neo-liberal policies: they are used to justify low pay among the least stable work forces but they are conveniently forgotten when it comes to negotiating the compensation of those at the top of the system.”
BALLOONING ADMINISTRATIVE COMPENSATION
- One notable example of a significant administrative pay increase was for ASU Athletics Director Larry Mortensen, who went from $108,978 in 2014 to $125,448 in 2015. This represents a $16,470 increase, or about 15% additional salary, during a period of declining enrollment and an impending budget crunch across the institution (see ASU Athletics Struggles to Recruit with Fewer Scholarships and ASU Audits Reveal Deteriorating Financial Conditions). It was also during the departure of former ASU President David Svaldi.
- Damon Martin, Associate Athletics Director and Head Coach for Men/Women’s Cross Country and Track & Field, also saw a slight increase in base salary from $99,816 in 2013 to $102,832 by 2016. With additional compensation for coaching and related stipends, Martin has made as much as $125,016 in recent years, among the highest paid employees at the university and the highest above ASU’s peer group average at 173.8% of others with a similar position.
One faculty member said of Martin’s compensation, “Damon Martin, per the inconsistent argument that HR Director Tracy Rogers uses to justify salary inequities, is the most underpaid person on ASU’s campus. His success on the track makes up for ASU’s lack of a true marketing plan.”
- Other line item concerns within administration included the 2016 addition to the compensation of James Trujillo, Executive Assistant to the President. His $56,415 base salary was supplemented with $14,014 (25% increase) for “additional duties.” One observer noted, “actually, that is not nearly enough compensation to serve under President McClure.” Others have speculated as to what “additional duties” Trujillo performed given that President McClure was sued by the ACLU and reprimanded by the HLC president in the past year.
- Lori Laske, Director of Alumni/Donor Relations also saw a base salary increase from $52,537 in 2013 to $69,808 in 2016, a total of $17,271 (33%). Like at least 24 administrative positions at ASU, this position pays over 100% of what other universities in the peer group average make in this position, 124.6% in Laske’s case. “Are alumni/donor relations really up 33% since 2013?” one skeptical ASU observer asked.
- Karla Hardesty, formerly named as a Project Manager, made $48,860 in 2013 but saw a $19,319 (40%) increase to $68,179 by 2016 as the Director of Marketing and Enrollment Management. She also made an additional $7,374 in compensation from 7 line items in 2016, totaling $75,553.
As one ASU employee put it, “This whole focus on ‘hiring our own while we go through this transition’ seems like a not-so-clever excuse to move people in good keeping with the president into higher paying positions.”
Another faculty believes that these compensation trends have been closely-guarded for a reason, stating, “No wonder a larger percentage of full professors never wanted to talk about fighting for fair compensation on campus; they knew that if anyone dug deep enough, they would find these sheets. If the HLC wants to know where the problems begin, they should take a look at these sheets.”
ADDITIONAL PAID DUTIES, “GOLDEN PARACHUTE” CONTRACTS
- Former VP of Academic Affairs Frank Novotny received $6,180 in 2015 and $10,000 in 2016 for “Director of HLC Re-accrediting Process.” This in addition to his base compensation of $136,596 and $139,104 respectively.
Some questioned the additional duties and accompanying compensation of ASU’s Vice Presidents. One faculty asked, “Frank received up to $10,000 per year to lead the HLC re-accreditation process? Isn’t that a service activity? The other ‘chump’ HLC criterion chairs weren’t being compensated.”
Dr. Novotny also received $530 in 2014 for “VP Academic Affairs Writing Assessment” One ASU employee reviewed this information and stated, “In order for students to receive an Associate’s degree, they must complete a Writing Assessment. To date, it is unclear who’s responsible for that. Is it the English department? A student’s major department? Or the Office of the VPAA? Why was Novotny getting paid for the work that other faculty members on campus were actually doing?”
- During this time, the HLC had placed ASU on academic probation and Dr. Novotny stepped down from the VPAA position, citing health concerns, but remained a full time faculty member. Dr. Novotny returned to teaching while making $106,608 in 2016, which is $39,816 greater than the salary of his department chair.
- Similarly, Dr. Michael Mumper, former VP of Enrollment Management, was paid a $143,640 base salary in 2015 while teaching in Political Science and also the Business MBA program for a total compensation package of $159,780. Returning to full-time faculty status in 2016, Dr. Mumper’s base salary is $122,280 in 2016, about $45,492 greater than his own department chair’s base salary. However, Dr. Edward Crowther, the HAPPS department chair, further supplemented his total compensation to $157,969 in 2016.
Dr. Novotny was hired as a faculty member in Science/Math/Technology, then shifted into Associate Provost and later Interim Chief Academic Officer in 2006 before moving into the VP of Academic Affairs position, during which time the negotiation of his compensation package took place.
As a result of returning from administration with what some have called “golden parachute” contracts, Dr Novotny and Dr. Mumper have far higher base salaries than any of their departmental colleagues on campus, by over double the amount, but have the same duties as other full time faculty.
In response, the Faculty Senate wrote a letter in August 2016 calling for an immediate end to the practice of paying faculty around 90% of their previous administrative salary if they return to faculty status.
VACATION PAYOUT FOR THE OUTGOING PRESIDENT
- The compensation of the outgoing president was also a concern. ASU President Dr. David Svaldi retired in June 2015, but during the 2015-2016 fiscal year, ASU paid him $50,838 – from a $17,511 payout and $33,327 in accrued vacation. This was in addition to paying President Beverlee McClure $205,000 to perform the job of university president.
One faculty recalled Dr. Svaldi’s absence during the 2014-2015 academic year, claiming, “David Svaldi was always gone. He spent a large majority of his last semester with family out of state. Getting an appointment with him was impossible. I’d love to see how they justified paying him $33,327 for ‘accrued vacation.'”
Another ASU employee said, “Clearly, Dr. Svaldi did what was in his best interest, and his family’s best interest. And sadly, it appears that many others have done the same around here, but they’ve done so to the detriment of the rest of campus. If ASU falls, it will be because of the greed of these folks, most of whom were clearly blinded by their income and along the way lost sight of the institution’s actual mission.”
Reviewing the pattern of salary increases given to those around Dr. Svaldi during his departure, one current ASU employee said, “It appears that a few select individuals received healthy raises during Dr. Svaldi’s last year. I wish I had been his ‘friend,’ too.”
“THE TIP OF THE ICEBERG” IN HIGHER EDUCATION
Upon reviewing the salary data for this series, one former ASU faculty member stated, “I wish this were an isolated case but it is not. ASU is simply the tip of the iceberg. What we see here is reflective of an elitist culture that runs throughout higher education in the USA. Unless there are major reforms to education in the years to come, we may be witnessing the unraveling of higher education as we know it. If we continue down this road, within a generation, students will only be able to find quality education on private campuses where large endowments float the boat.”