Archive for Thursday, April 26, 2018

KU community reacts to news that ex-chancellor still earning full salary as ‘special advisor;’ details on job remain few, far between

In this file photo from March 9, 2016, former University of Kansas Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little speaks to the KU Student Senate at the Kansas Union.

In this file photo from March 9, 2016, former University of Kansas Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little speaks to the KU Student Senate at the Kansas Union.

April 26, 2018


A day after news broke that former Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little is being paid more than $500,000 to serve as a special adviser at KU, it was still unclear what her employment terms are with the university.

The Journal-World has filed a Kansas Open Records request for a document listing the terms of Gray-Little’s employment with the University of Kansas. But on Thursday, the Kansas Board of Regents had not yet fulfilled the records request.

A Board of Regents spokesman, though, did confirm that former Chancellor Robert Hemenway also received his full chancellor’s salary for an extended period of time after leaving the chancellor position. A review of the Journal-World's 2009 coverage of that issue showed a significant difference between how the two ex-chancellors were treated: Hemenway received two years of his full salary post-retirement, totaling a little more than $680,000. Gray-Little is receiving one year of salary totaling $510,041.

The review also found that public funds were used to pay 35 percent of Hemenway’s post-chancellor salary. In the case of Gray-Little, public funds are paying 55 percent of her post-chancellor salary. That’s a marked difference from what has occurred with many other parts of the university’s budget, where public funding has been shrinking.

A spokesman for the Kansas Board of Regents provided a few new details regarding Gray-Little's post-chancellor deal on Thursday.

“Chancellor Gray-Little had served KU for years, done important work during that time and had a wealth of knowledge about the institution,” Board of Regents spokesman Matt Keith wrote in an email. “The Board determined that it wanted to retain her services and expertise during Fiscal Year 2018 at her existing salary so that she could help ensure a smooth transition of leadership, with as little lost institutional knowledge as possible.”

Dale Seuferling, KU Endowment president, said KU Endowment agreed to bankroll Gray-Little’s post-chancellor salary after being approached by the Board of Regents. Seuferling said it was the Regents’ suggestion that Gray-Little be paid her full salary, and, given her “tenure of nine years as chancellor, that seemed appropriate."

“Certainly KU Endowment recognizes that there is no more important role at the university than chancellor, and certainly individuals who have extended tenure and service as Bernadette Gray-Little had,” said Seuferling, who added that KU Endowment had “relied upon the Board of Regents’ decision making” in agreeing to the salary.

Seuferling said part of Gray-Little’s new position is donor outreach. That includes correspondence with major donors, serving on KU Endowment’s volunteer and advisory groups and attending events, he said.

Gray-Little herself has not spoken about her role post-chancellor, referring all questions to the university or the Regents when contacted by a Journal-World reporter Wednesday.

In Gray-Little’s final interview with the Journal-World as chancellor — in May 2017, a few days before Girod’s hiring was announced — she said she did not yet have “concrete plans” that she could share about what she would do after vacating the chancellor’s office.

Gray-Little emphasized that she was not retiring.

“I’m leaving this position,” she said.

Gray-Little said she would continue to have some affiliation with KU and would remain a KU employee “for several months,” but did not elaborate. She said she also would continue her work on several national higher education boards and initiatives.

“I will have no role in running the university,” she said.

Gray-Little said at that time that she did not have a retirement compensation package or any contract buyout compensation coming.

Keith, the Board of Regents spokesman, confirmed Thursday that Gray-Little is “not retired from state service, and, as such, cannot yet draw a pension.”

Joe Harrington, a current faculty senator at KU, said he found the arrangement “problematic” for several reasons. Chief among these are transparency and the “widening economic gap on campus,” he said.

Harrington, a professor of English, said some staff members rely on “food stamps to get by,” while the number of administrators making six-figure salaries continues to grow.

Susan Twombly, chair of KU’s department of educational leadership and policy studies, had “no idea” that Gray-Little had been retained as a special adviser. Though she personally likes and admires the former chancellor, Twombly said, she laments how Wednesday’s revelation might impact KU’s state funding requests.

“The optics and the symbolism are particularly concerning given the Legislature, tuition and the lack of raises for faculty and staff,” she said.

Lev Comolli, president of the student group KU Against Rising Tuition, said he doesn’t take issue with Gray-Little staying on as a consultant, despite his lukewarm enthusiasm for her as chancellor. However, he said he had problems with how much she was being paid in her new role.

“That being said, the fact that we are paying half a million dollars, up on the same par as Girod’s salary — not only is it irresponsible, it’s unsustainable,” Comolli said. “We’re in a situation where we need every penny we can get.”

Comolli said he finds it “completely ridiculous” that Gray-Little continues to be paid her full salary, including $280,523 in public funds, when the public seems to have been largely unaware of her presence on campus.

“We need to see more accountability. We need to see the administration listening to their constituency,” Comolli said. “… I think we need to review and reinforce what these administrative positions are, what their responsibilities are, what they do.”

Ron Barrett-Gonzalez, the faculty adviser of KU Against Rising Tuition, called for an even more dramatic change.

“The only solution is to clean up the people who are supposed to keep an eye on these costs, and that’s the Kansas Board of Regents and the highest levels of KU management,” said Barrett-Gonzales, an aerospace engineering professor and officer of KU’s American Association of University Professors chapter. “They’re the ones that are supposed to be responsible stewards, and I would argue that they have not been.”

— Journal-World reporter Sara Shepherd contributed to this report.


Dan Eyler 3 weeks, 3 days ago

Just a half a million dollar minor detail not disclosed to the public. I will forever vote no on funding these government schools with more of my taxes. Our tax dollars are nothing more than a slush fund in the hands of a monopoly called public education. This must change.

Bob Smith 3 weeks, 3 days ago

"...Harrington, a professor of English, said some staff members rely on “food stamps to get by,” while the number of administrators making six-figure salaries continues to grow..." I'm throwing a BS flag on this until one of those theoretical staff members on food stamps identifies themselves.

Mike Benson 3 weeks, 2 days ago

According to the Kansas OpenGov database, Mr. Harrington only collected $83,097 last year. I'm sure he's one using food stamps to get by...

David Frayer 3 weeks, 2 days ago

How much money does the ex-Chancellor need? A few years ago, when the faculty and staff got no (or very little) raise, she took a $60K bonus to an already inflated salary. A greedy, insensitive move, given that she was still getting figures from her time at NC. And while her office said she would donate it, who knows if she did or what happened to the $60K. Now she still pulls more money for her clearly big retirement package. I just wish she would go away and live on her existing pension in North Carolina.

Harlan Hobbs 3 weeks, 2 days ago

Oh, hell, it's just another "sweetheart" deal - - their version of a "golden parachute" paid mostly by the taxpayers. What could possibly be wrong about that?

Also, I agree with Mr. Smith about the "food stamps" issue. When people resort to this kind of hyperbole, I am always suspicious.

Calvin Anders 3 weeks, 2 days ago

Well, Bob and Harlan, I would agree with you that most if not all hired as KU professors are making enough to be disqualified from public assistance programs, but are you sure you know what research assistants are making? What about graduate students? The compensation for many of these positions is well below poverty level. Combine research assistant in many fields with a family to take care of and food stamps are just part of the equation. It's not hyperbole at all.

Thomas Bryce Jr. 3 weeks, 2 days ago

One group you left out are adjuncts. People with the credentials to be full professors but get paid as contract employees, class by class, contractually renewable semester by semester. Some have been doing this for 20+ years and they tend to make a 1/3rd of what a full time tenured professor teaching the same curriculum makes. This makes it easier to pay associate vice what have yous a 6 figure salary for holding down a desk and going to meetings to "make decisions". KU has become a Bureaucracy first and foremost and an Institution of Higher Learning second. A Diploma Mill comes to mind.

Clara Westphal 3 weeks, 2 days ago

TA's ,might be on food stamps. It seems improbable that professors would be.

BradandSarah Richardson 3 weeks, 2 days ago

So let me get this straight. We are paying over a million dollars to a dynamic duo that has completely destroyed our football program. One gave our hapless AD an extension and raise in her last 30 days of official tenure. The other, Girod, seems totally oblivious to the ineptitude of Zenger and Beaty. As a property owner/tax payer I feel really discouraged by the leadership of the "Harvard on the Kaw". The Board of Regents should be ashamed of themselves.

Calvin Anders 3 weeks, 2 days ago

BradandSarah, you are going to lose the argument about wasteful spending if you lead with mismanagement of the football situation as the primary concern about paying administrators obscenely high salaries. KU football is a poster child program for badly spent money and a program that dominates university and facilities priorities while managing a nearly perfect record of not winning. But it's not the losing that's the problem. It's the fact that football takes such an important role in the university community at all. Part of the reason KU pays top administrators so much is the stupid emphasis on a couple of money pit sports.

Steve Jacob 3 weeks, 2 days ago

Where are the students who protested the plane? You think this is better?

Bob Summers 3 weeks, 2 days ago

Amusing these emotionally hypersensitive students no?

Thank the heavens these types are frightened of fire sticks.

Paul Jones 3 weeks, 1 day ago

Student protests have never amounted to much unless it was to protect their back ends like the boomers who were able to leave fighting the war to the poor so they could get an education and then use their skills to undermine the education of future generations by making sure they also didn't pay the taxes their parents did. As soon as the draft ended it was party time and they have been ever since.

Chris Condren 3 weeks, 2 days ago

Only in a university setting does working as a high salaried administrator given huge payments after leaving the position. Whether is comes from the taxpayers or donors the money is all green and spends the same. Clearly KU has a lot more money than it needs to full it’s mission. I am done with donating to KU. There are much deserving institutions and organizations to give money to. Giving away hundreds of thousands of dollars to an individual who was paid many millions while actually working for the university Is offensive to those who have supported KU.

Paul Jones 3 weeks, 2 days ago

Chris you need to get out more. The chancellor was redefined as the CEO by Hemenway and has operated like a corporation since. This is because the State has stopped funding the university which let the cat out of the bag. These sweetheart deals are actually what corporations do and if you go back to when the State provided proper funding, back in the 80s let's say, you didn't see this kind of nonsense. Trying to portray this as the socialist left running wild at the universities is nonsense, this is corporate baby!

The money isn't coming from the taxpayers but from tuition and fat cat donors who skip out on paying their taxes so they can reward those who do favors for them.

Chris Condren 3 weeks, 1 day ago

Paul I understand how the game is played. College CEOs give money like this to get theirs when they retire. Whatever the source of the money, all of it comes from KU. Only universities give away this kind of public money to the institutional elite. The only way to instill fiscal integrity at a university is to starve it of money to teach its leaders the value of money.

Paul Jones 3 weeks, 1 day ago

Chris that is the libertarian game, starve them which forces them to enter the game of operating like a corporation and anything goes. We didn't have this problem before they started starving the universities. The very actions you recommend only make the problem worse as we see more and more shenanigans, especially in the athletics world.

The real game is by people like the Koch's who want to end any public sector involvement in essential services only the State can provide at the most reasonable cost. Tell me the names of private schools the size of KU doing the level of research that are cheaper than what KU is now. KU only gets a small percentage of its budget from the State now so please don't turn this into people being irresponsible with taxpayer funds. If the university was getting more from the State there would be more expectations of accountability but as it is the administration can say they "earned" those funds to do what they please with them.

Chris Condren 3 weeks, 1 day ago

The ten million paid to old unethical Lou Perkins did KU no good at all. His department went into the tank before he left with a truck full of money. KU will get nothing for the 500k paid to a retired chancellor. By the way did the working folks at KU get any kind of raise this year?

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