Thursday, February 19, 2009

UT Board votes $1/2 million for President they forced to resign

The headline in this morning's Tennessean announced “Embattled UT president resigns.” According to the report, University of Tennessee John Petersen announced his resignation as the UT Board of Trustees was preparing to complete an unfavorable five year review. With Petersen announcing his resignation a Board spokesman said there was no need to continue the review.

According the Tennessean, “He will continue on paid administrative leave for four months, through June 30, and then receive a $410,177 severance on top of that, equal to one-year salary.”

What? The man does a lousy job. He is going to get an unsatisfactory review and yet they are going to give him a half million dollars severance package! Not only was his salary $401, 177, he lived in University provided housing and had an expense account, a car, and other perks. Maybe that is what it takes to get a university president. I am not going to second guess the pay package. But, I do question giving the man a bonus as you kick him out the door.

With UT facing a $90 million budget short fall this year I do not see how they can justify giving this man who did a poor job a half million dollar going away present. He was not even under contract, his contract having expired last June. In defending the severance package UT Board of Trustees Vice Chairman Jim Murphy said the package was in line with typical deals for departing presidents. If it is in line with typical deals, then we should not be typical

Maybe ½ million dollars could have made tuition increases less. Maybe with an extra half million some classes that will not be offered could be offered. Maybe half a million dollars would fund a few scholarships. I don’t know what a half million dollars would have meant to the University but with a $90 budget shortfall, I am sure the money could have been put to good use.

Board members are appointed by the Governor, who also serves as chair of the Board of Trustees. Governor Bredesen should be ashamed of himself for allowing this outrage to occur. Where was his leadership?

The next Governor should ask for the resignation of every board member who voted for this severance package and should appoint people who will take their responsibility seriously. Maybe it is time to have some people of modest income on the board who think that half a million dollars is real money. Maybe it is time to let the non-voting student board member have a vote. If I was on the Board, I would not hesitate to vote against a severance package for a departing president we are kicking out the door.

In the next few days, I will be at meetings where I will get to hear from Republican candidates for Governor, Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam and Congressman Zach Wamp. I intend to ask each of them what they think about this. I want to know what kind of people they would put on the Board. The candidate that shares my outrage about this event and promises to appoint different type of people to the Board will go a long way toward winning my support.

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1 comment:

  1. This should not be surprising! As with all golden parachutes, severance is the #1 issue. Good or bad job is rewarded. Maybe the next contract will be much harder to negotiate.