“We want to do this all together and we share the governors confidence that with all of us working together we can establish a compensation policy that will help keep us competitive,” said Holly Braithwaite, director of communications for Higher Ed Utah. “We understand concerns expressed by the governor and others and that’s why we made the step.”
In a September 26 letter, Herbert outlined those concerns, asking the boards chairman, David Jordan to be sensitive to the current economic climate and state budgetary constraints and table the raises.
“The governor simply wanted the board of regents to allow the state sufficient time to get the compensation study completed so that the decision could be made with all the information they need to ensure the state is competitive and that the salaries are commensurate with the market and the needs of the state,” said Ally Isom, the governors Deputy Chief of Staff.
Millner, who had been promised a more than $18,000 raise, had intended to donate it to the WSU Foundation — a trust that supports the educational mission of the university by providing scholarships, fellowships and other financial backing for educational opportunities.
“The compensation hadn’t been changed yet and I think it became clear shortly after the discussion that the board of regents was being asked to reevaluate the decision they made,” said John Kowalewski, WSU’s director of media relations. “I don’t think it had gotten much beyond the fact that she was planning to make this donation when she received the raise.”
Millner received a letter from Herbert’s office last week indicating his desire for the board to rescind the pay increases, said John Kowalewski, WSU’s director of media relations. Although preliminary research by the board indicates the salaries of presidents at public universities in Utah are not competitive with peer universities in other states, Herbert asked the board to complete a more comprehensive study before deciding whether to raise salaries.
The board’s original decision to raise pay was made largely in an effort to attract a new president to the University of Utah, who lost Michael K. Young to the University of Washington over the summer.
Even so, Kowalewski said the timing of the decision to raise pay was awkward.
“I would imagine that any attention being directed on (Millner’s) compensation or on her as an individual is somewhat uncomfortable, especially given the economic realities of society right now and of the state,” Kowalewski said.
At 9.5 percent, Millner’s raise would have been the greatest percentage increase after the 12.5 percent increase for the Dixie State College president. After the increase, Millner would have made $210,000 annually. After the rescinded pay raise, Millner’s salary will remain 30 percent less than her peers at similar institutions, said Alan Hall, chair of the WSU Board of Trustees.
“My hunch would be is that she is supportive of the board of regents decision this morning,” Kowalewski said.
Pending the results of the study, which could be completed by April or May of next year, the Board could decide to reinstate or modify the pay raises.
“We definitely want to make our presidential salaries more in line with the rest of the country and of course remain competitive and be able to attract and retain good leaders and talent,” Braithwaite said Monday. “We look forward to going through the process in order to find out how we can realign all of our institution salaries along with their peer institutions across the nation. Utah has never unfortunately been at the top of the pay scale.”