UM elim­i­nates chan­cel­lor bonuses

Univer­sity sys­tem was crit­i­cized for in­cen­tive awarded to Robert Caret

Baltimore Sun - - NEWS - By Pamela Wood pwood@balt­sun.com twit­ter.com/pwoodreporter

The state univer­sity sys­tem will no longer award bonuses to the sys­tem chan­cel­lor or cam­pus pres­i­dents, a pol­icy change an­nounced Thurs­day fol­low­ing crit­i­cism of a $75,000 bonus awarded this year to Chan­cel­lor Robert Caret.

Caret, who took over lead­er­ship of the 12-cam­pus Univer­sity Sys­tem of Mary­land last summer, was granted the bonus and a $30,000 raise dur­ing a closed-door meet­ing of the Board of Re­gents in Cam­bridge in June. The raise and bonus were added to his base salary of $600,000.

James Brady, the board’s chair­man, told state law­mak­ers dur­ing a Thurs­day hear­ing in An­napo­lis that Caret’s con­tract would be re­struc­tured to com­ply with the new pol­icy. None of the con­tracts for the cam­pus pres­i­dents in­clude bonuses. Brady said it was pos­si­ble the chan­cel­lor’s base salary would be in­creased to make up for the lost bonus money.

Caret said he un­der­stands some of the ques­tions about his com­pen­sa­tion but also said he has earned it.

“Do I feel af­ter 21 years as a cam­pus or sys­tem head that I de­serve that? Yes,” Caret said in an in­ter­view. “Do I think I de­liver wher­ever I’ve been? Yes. So I don’t apol­o­gize for it.”

A pair of Gen­eral As­sem­bly bud­get sub­com­mit­tees held the hear­ing in re­sponse to Caret’s bonus and raise. Law­mak­ers ques­tioned how the univer­sity sys­tem could grant such gen­er­ous in­creases to its top leader while stu­dents face grow­ing tu­ition bills. The sys­tem raised in-state tu­ition 2 per­cent this year.

“It is re­ally hard to jus­tify this to the stu­dents,” said state Sen. Nancy King, a Mont­gomery County Demo­crat.

Del. Marc Kor­man, also a Mont­gomery County Demo­crat, ques­tioned whether the op­tional bonuses and au­to­matic an­nual 5 per­cent raises in Caret’s con­tract were a way to avoid “sticker shock” over his to­tal com­pen­sa­tion.

While Brady said Caret wasn’t guar­an­teed to get the bonuses — he was el­i­gi­ble for 15 per­cent and got 12.5 per­cent — Kor­man ques­tioned whether the re­gents planned to grant the bonuses all along, mak­ing that money “re­ally a part of the base pay.”

Brady said Caret re­ceived the bonus for a strong first year on the job. He said the chan­cel­lor went on a bus tour spon­sored by the State Em­ploy­ees Credit Union that stopped at state univer­sity cam­puses to raise the sys­tem’s pro­file, fa­cil­i­tated the tran­si­tion of three new cam­pus pres­i­dents and helped ne­go­ti­ate an en­hanced part- ner­ship be­tween the Univer­sity of Mary­land, Col­lege Park and Univer­sity of Mary­land, Bal­ti­more dur­ing the leg­isla­tive ses­sion.

“We as re­gents be­lieve he did an ex­cel­lent job,” Brady said.

Del. Adri­enne Jones pointed out, how­ever, that Caret missed a pair of bud­get hear­ings dur­ing this year’s Gen­eral As­sem­bly ses­sion. Caret in­stead at­tended a meet­ing for the Univer­sity Sys­tem of Mary­land’s pri­vate foun­da­tion in West Palm Beach, Fla. Caret said the foun­da­tion meet­ing had been sched­uled be­fore the bud­get hear­ings.

Jones, a Bal­ti­more County Demo­crat, said Caret’s ab­sence from the hear­ings was “un­set­tling,” and she elicited from him a prom­ise to at­tend all of the sys­tem’s bud­get hear­ings next year.

In ad­di­tion to his salary, raises and bonuses, he re­ceives a car with a driver, a man­sion in Pikesville and $53,000 in an­nual con­tri­bu­tions to an in­surance an­nu­ity for re­tire­ment.

Caret said run­ning the univer­sity sys­tem in­volves com­plex le­gal and fi­nan­cial de­ci­sions.

“I’m not pat­ting my­self on the back, but I have to make de­ci­sions in a day that some­one, if they didn’t know what they are do­ing, could take a year to fig­ure out what to do,” Caret said. “I’ve been around a long time with a lot of big cam­puses and a lot of big sys­tems. So it is what it is.”

Af­ter be­ing ques­tioned by com­mit­tee mem­bers, Caret dis­missed a ru­mor that he asked cam­pus pres­i­dents to buy him golf club mem­ber­ships. “That un­equiv­o­cally did not oc­cur,” Caret told law­mak­ers.

Caret has a mem­ber­ship at the pri­vate Cen­ter Club in Bal­ti­more, a perk that pre­vi­ous chan­cel­lors also en­joyed. The mem­ber­ship is paid for by the univer­sity sys­tem’s foun­da­tion.

Be­fore tak­ing over as chan­cel­lor of the Univer­sity Sys­tem of Mary­land, Caret was pres­i­dent of the Univer­sity of Mas­sachusetts Sys­tem from 2011 to 2015. Prior to that, he was Tow­son Univer­sity’s pres­i­dent.

In ad­di­tion to elim­i­nat­ing bonuses, the Board of Re­gents said it will pub­licly an­nounce fu­ture de­ci­sions made about con­tracts for the chan­cel­lor and cam­pus pres­i­dents. Pre­vi­ously, the re­gents only di­vulged that in­for­ma­tion upon re­quest.

House Speaker Michael E. Busch, who was a vo­cal critic of Caret’s bonus and raise, said in a state­ment that he sup­ports get­ting rid of bonuses for the chan­cel­lor and cam­pus pres­i­dents.

“With so many Mary­lan­ders strug­gling to pay tu­ition and liv­ing pay­check-topay­check, lead­ers across state gov­ern­ment should re­mem­ber the chal­lenges of av­er­age Mary­lan­ders and make de­ci­sions ac­cord­ingly,” said Busch, an Anne Arun­del County Demo­crat.

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