OSHKOSH–The University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents on Friday (Oct. 10) rescinded action it took last month to increase executive leadership salary ranges and referred the issue to its Business and Finance committee for further study.

The board voted 12-4 to forward the issue so it could gather information about the salaries of other state government employees and investigate whether the system could employ innovative options to increase compensation.

“Our job is to provide the highest quality leadership and the highest quality education possible,” said Regent President Toby Marcovich of Superior. “Without really talented captains, our ship will run aground.”

Marcovich said that given the vote, UW System President Katharine C. Lyall would not grant any pay raises without approval after the matter returns to the full board.

In reconsidering its earlier action, the board heard from Bill Funk, a leading recruiter for colleges and universities. Funk described national trends in compensation and recruitment of university presidents and chancellors.

Funk told the board via teleconference that searches for executive leadership are becoming increasingly competitive, and that successful searches should leave “no stone unturned” in seeking the very best individuals. At the same time, candidates are finding themselves in better bargaining positions and are asking for increased compensation, Funk said.

“Expectations are much higher than they’ve ever been,” Funk said.

While some universities are taking steps to remain prudent when offering pay for university leaders, others are offering dramatically higher compensation in reaction to market trends, he said.

In response to a question from Regent Danae Davis of Milwaukee, Funk said current compensation offers continue to rise, and some public universities are supplementing state dollars with funding from foundations or other options, such as deferred compensation.

Funk also said some candidates are attracted to new positions because of strong affiliations with a city or university, and that these personal ties can make salary offers almost irrelevant.

Wisconsin has been in a unique recruiting position because it has attracted quality leaders on the merits of the UW’s reputation and stature, despite national recognition that the state has always lagged in compensation, Funk added.

Without competitive salaries, UW may still be able to recruit quality leaders, but the searches may take more time and effort, Funk said.

Regent Nino Amato of Madison asked the board to consider freezing the salary ranges and looking for internal candidates, instead of referring the issue to committee.

“I believe we’ve got great talent in this room, and I believe we’ve got great talent within the UW System,” Amato said. “This is not a question of politics; this is fiscal responsibility.”

Regent Gregory Gracz of Milwaukee agreed, saying that the board should seek to repair relationships with the Legislature and the public.

“We have to be concerned with what our constituents think,” Gracz said.

Regent Roger Axtell of Janesville noted that the board faces a classic dilemma: by increasing salary ranges it would risk upsetting legislators, and by freezing salaries it would risk not fully meeting the duties with which it is charged.

“I think we owe it to our staff to pay them accordingly,” Axtell said.

Regent Peggy Rosenzweig of Wauwatosa said referring the issue to committee will allow the board to fully understand its options.

“This is a key part of setting the course for the UW’s future,” she said.

Regent Fred Mohs of Madison added that he hoped the Business and Finance Committee would return salary ranges that are appropriate to the market, and not based on political popularity. He said the board had received enough information to support increasing the ranges.

Regent Vice President David Walsh of Madison said referring the matter to the committee would allow the board to know that it was treating all university employees fairly.

Marcovich said the board will be able to continue discussing the issue during future considerations by the Business and Finance Committee and during reports to the full board, likely in November.

The board also passed a resolution that requires the board to conduct roll call votes on business dealing with executive leadership salaries during open, full board meetings.

Lyall said the board’s decision was an important part of the blueprint for how to move the system forward and thanked members for being thoughtful and deliberative in reconsidering the issue.

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Regents forward pay plan recommendation to state

The full Board of Regents approved a resolution Friday calling for up to a four-percent pay increase each year of the upcoming biennium for UW System faculty and academic staff.

The board’s recommendation asks the state to provide up to the four-percent increase to the full extent of what is available in the state’s compensation fund.

The increase is warranted based on salary data and economic indicators indicating UW System faculty are four percent behind their peers, board members said. At the same time, board members acknowledged that the state’s compensation reserve may not be able to fund four-percent salary increases in each of the next two years.

The board is required to recommend the faculty and academic staff pay plan to the Director of the State Office of Employment Relations based on a study of market factors. The director then makes an independent recommendation to the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Employment Relations.

Regent Mark Bradley of Wausau said the board was fulfilling its statutory obligation, which is to inform the Legislature about what levels are necessary to reach salary goals.

“We recognize that there may not be the money in the compensation funs to pay these employees,” Bradley said. “As I understand it, no one can tell us today what’s in the fund.”

Student Regent Beth Richlen of Madison voted against the recommendation based on input from students, who she said indicated they wanted the board to support pay increases for faculty and staff as strongly as it did for executive leadership.

Regent Vice President Walsh said the board was using the same analysis it used to consider salary ranges for executive leadership.

“The factors are the same, and you’ve got to be consistent there,” Walsh said.

President’s Report

Searches for chancellor candidates at UW-Milwaukee and UW-Stevens Point are underway, UW System President Katharine C. Lyall reported to the board on Friday.

Lyall said the campus and community search committees have been briefed on their responsibilities, as have Special Regent Committee chairs Jose Olivieri and Roger Axtell.

In other business, Lyall also updated the board that the UW System may be affected by a budget repair bill in coming months, and thanked regents and staff in advance for remaining vigilant.

“This is a continuing saga of eroding resources, and we need all the brainpower we can get,” Lyall said.

In a lighter moment, Lyall also noted that a 1979 graduate of UW-Superior was recently elected to a high post in the state of California – Gov. Elect Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Schwarzenegger earned a bachelor’s degree in international marketing and business administration from UW-Superior – skills he can now use to solve California’s budget problems, Lyall said.

“We’re going to watch what he does there to see what we can do here,” she said.

“Charting A New Course” update

Regent Guy Gottschalk of Wisconsin Rapids reported to the board on Friday about the progress of working groups for the board’s study of the future, titled “Charting a New Course for the UW System.”

Gottschalk updated the board as to the topics working groups discussed in Thursday’s sessions.

The Revenue Authority working group discussed issues related to risk management, federal relations and differential tuition, while the Achieving Operational Efficiency working group discussed concrete ideas for efficiency components and heard a report on management flexibilities, Gottschalk said.

The working group studying the UW’s Partnership with the State learned about the legal structure of the UW System, how it provides services to students, and how it measures and tracks accountability, Gottschalk said. The Educational Quality working group heard a reading of a draft revised mission statement that would focus the UW System’s commitments to quality and access, also learned about accountability measures, and met with a group of students representing several UW campuses, he said.

Finally, Gottschalk reported that the Research and Public Service working group learned about research and public service at the system level and about similar efforts at UW comprehensive campuses. He noted that legislators would be invited to the group’s November meeting in the state Capitol.

Other Business

The board on Friday unanimously passed resolutions that:

  • Commended UW-Oshkosh for its efforts in engaging the campus and community and thanked the campus for hosting the board’s October meeting.
  • Authorized an M.S. in Physician Assistant Studies at UW-La Crosse. The committee noted that the program is impressive and meets a compelling state need in the health care arena.
  • Approved a resolution to revise Faculty Personnel Rules regarding the renewal of probationary faculty appointments at UW-Stevens Point. The rule change brings Stevens Point into conformance with Wisconsin Open Meeting Law.
  • Approved a contract for exclusive soft drink pouring rights and sponsorship agreement for UW-Madison Division of Intercollegiate Athletics;
  • Approved an agreement with Triad Management Services, Inc., in support of UW-Madison’s Space Science and Engineering Center at the South Pole, known as the “Ice Cube” project.
  • Authorized the purchase of equipment for the UW-Extension WHA-TV Equipment Replacement project;
  • Authorized construction of the Residence Life Community Center Addition at UW-Green Bay;
  • Granted authority for MG&E Construct LLC to build a new greenhouse at the West Madison Agricultural Station;
  • Approved the construction of a Walnut Street Greenhouse Replacement project at UW-Madison;
  • Granted the University of Wisconsin Medical School, Department of Family Medicine authority to enter into a lease of clinic space at Chippewa Valley Technical College;
  • Authorized construction of a Student Union Fireside Lounge & Kitchen Renovation project at UW-Milwaukee; and
  • Authorized entry into a Joint Ownership Agreement with MGE Power, LLC which is a technical adjustment in the arrangement for the West Campus Cogeneration Facility.


The Board of Regents will hold its November meeting Thursday and Friday, Nov. 6 and 7, in Van Hise Hall on the UW-Madison campus.