U Regents OK pay raise for President Gabel amid criticism

University of Minnesota President Joan Gabel is getting a pay rise that aligns her pay with that of other Big Ten college presidents, but has sparked objections from students, staff and faculty.

Gabel’s new contract immediately increases his base salary from $ 650,000 to $ 660,000, with another increase taking him to $ 706,000 by the start of next fiscal year, July 1. With increases in his supplemental pension contribution, a new annual performance bonus and other allowances, his compensation will total approximately $ 1 million next year.

The U board of regents voted 9-2 on Friday to approve Gabel’s contract extension, with Regents Darrin Rosha and James Farnsworth in opposition.

“In the best interests of this University of Minnesota, we cannot replace President Joan Gabel,” said Board Vice President Steve Sviggum, describing Gabel’s first two and a half years on the job as ” high performance, no doubt, justifying the remuneration “.

Sviggum said Gabel recently received higher paying offers from two colleges in the Southeastern United States.

“It is a sought-after commodity across the country,” he said.

At the end of his contract in fiscal 2026, Gabel’s base salary will be $ 771,000, with benefits bringing his total compensation to approximately $ 1.2 million. Nine other Big Ten presidents have base salaries of $ 750,000 or more.

Students, staff and faculty at U voiced opposition to Gabel’s pay hike before and during Friday’s meeting, noting that it comes shortly after employees were laid off, three Men’s sports programs were cut and tuition fees were increased by 1.5% during the pandemic.

They argued not that Gabel does not deserve the compensation, but that his increase is inappropriate and comes as other urgent needs remain to be addressed.

“If there are monetary resources available to further compensate the president, where are the monetary resources for students facing immense financial barriers?” Said Gurtaran Johal, a student representative on the board who called on the regents to reject the contract.

“Where are the funds to increase student salaries?” … Where are the funds to reduce tuition fees? “

The minimum wage for U students is $ 10.33 an hour, said Johal, lower than the minimum wage set by the city of Minneapolis.

Johal’s remarks drew heavy applause from students, union members and even some Republican lawmakers who attended the board meeting. U’s undergraduate government, the Minnesota Student Association, also urged the board to reject the contract in a letter Thusday.

The union representing some 1,200 U office workers, most of whom are paid around $ 45,000 a year, announced its opposition to the president’s pay hike earlier this week. The union’s demand for inflationary increases in each of the following two years was recently rejected by the university.

Professors in the chapter of the American Association of University Teachers at U have also spoken out against Gabel’s salary increase, issuing a statement that U professors’ salaries are 5% lower than those peer institutions.

Several regents on Friday defended the increase in Gabel’s wages and even accused the critics of sexist bias. Regent Kodi Verhalen said female employees more often have their pay increases challenged and their contracts taken off the agendas of meetings for further consideration.

“As recently as November, we approved an employment contract from the coach of our football team on the rave reviews of this board that he has done great things… that the longevity of this position is important to this university, ”said Verhalen, referring to PJ Fleck’s new seven-year, $ 35 million contract.

Regent Janie Mayeron shared Verhalen’s concerns and said Gabel well deserved the raise. She and other regents pointed out that under Gabel’s leadership, the university overcame the COVID-19 pandemic, achieved record four-year graduation rates, and landed its largest freshman class in decades.

“I personally think we are not paying enough. I think she should be paid more,” Mayeron said.

Rosha took issue with many of her colleagues’ arguments. He disagreed with the idea of ​​having to pay Gabel the market rate for the presidents of the Big Ten because this approach, he said, allowed universities across the country to play in permanently to “clearing jump” with each other.

“The president’s pay is not a matter of a few hundred thousand dollars,” Rosha said. “It is a question of tens of millions of dollars once the compensation adjustments in successive administrative levels are completed.”

On gender equality, Rosha said he also opposes salary increases for former U chairman Eric Kaler and compensation for Myron Frans, senior vice president of finance and operations. de U who was hired last year.

Rosha and Farnsworth challenged a provision in Gabel’s contract allowing board chairman Ken Powell to decide whether the chairman receives his full annual performance bonus of $ 100,000. Powell will need to consult with the presidential board performance review committee, which is made up of the regents he chooses, beforehand, and bonuses are based on agreed goals and metrics.

An amendment Rosha proposed to instead let the entire 12-member board determine Gabel’s performance bonuses failed 8-3, with Farnsworth and Verhalen joining him in favor of the motion.

Rosha warned her colleagues that Gabel’s salary increase could negatively affect the U’s relations with the Minnesotans and the legislature.

“When… people wonder why a public higher education system that was once accessible and affordable is now characterized by high administrative salaries and insurmountable tuition fees, please come forward and explain that when you have had the opportunity to make a difference… you refused to do it, ”Rosha said.

Comments are closed.