The University of Minnesota is getting ready to hire a new president.
Let’s see what folks think she’s worth.
Joan Gabel, who’s poised to become the first woman to lead the 167-year-old university, certainly won’t be offered a $3.55 million paycheck like Gophers coach P.J. Fleck. Overseeing a multibillion-dollar land grant university system is an important job, but it’s not football.
But maybe, just maybe, she’s worth more than half of what we paid the last guy.
University regents and state lawmakers saw an opportunity for a new style of leadership after President Eric Kaler announced he was stepping down. And by “new,” they meant “willing to work for cheap.”
“Can the University of Minnesota get a new president for a bargain?” a headline screamed this fall. Some in university leadership speculated that potential candidates might be so dazzled by the prestige of the job, they’d be willing to take the job for $300,000 or $400,000 — instead of trying to match or top the $625,250 they’re paying Kaler.
Board of Regents Chairman David J. McMillan said the early talk of pay cuts was just talk. The search for a new president was conducted — “after some considerable discussion” behind closed doors, he said — without salary restrictions.
“The fact that there were not restrictions on salary was important,” McMillan said, “while mindful of the concern that the public and legislators and the university community and everybody has about rising [administrative] salaries.”
As the Star Tribune reported this fall, some regents and state lawmakers suggested this fall that a salary cut would “send a strong message to families grappling with ever-costlier tuition and legislators wary of granting the U’s funding requests in full.”
Talented university administrators, they argued, would be so eager to seize the reins at a Big Ten school, they’d be willing to work for cheap. Cutting Kaler’s salary in half would save the taxpayers a solid $300,000 right off the bat.
Three hundred thousand dollars, interestingly, is the amount of the settlement the university paid out a few years ago to two women in Kaler’s office who were groped, hounded and harassed by former U athletic director Norwood Teague.
Gabel, who’s been on a whirlwind tour of the U’s five campuses around the state this week, will sit down with the Board of Regents on Friday and again next week. The taxpayers won’t know how much they’ll be proposing to pay her until the offer is made in public, probably next week.
“I’d be way ahead of my skis to be talking [salary] numbers or outcomes,” McMillan said. But the job market for university presidents is competitive, he said, “and we expect to pay in a marketplace environment.”
As for offering Gabel a $300,000 salary to Kaler’s $600,000, he said, “I don’t expect that outcome.”
Study after study has shown that women’s salaries continue to trail men’s, even when you adjust for other factors, like workers who stepped off the career track to start families. Higher education is no different. A 2017 study by the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources found that female college administrators earn 80 cents on the dollar compared to their male colleagues — just like the rest of the American workforce.
The U’s next president will have a big job at a great school.
There was a University of Minnesota before there was a Minnesota. The U gave the world open-heart surgery, puffed rice, pacemakers, Gore-Tex and a sports mascot with eyes that follow you around the stadium no matter where you try to sit.
The university’s next president inherits all the headaches that come with the job: fundraising, budget balancing, faculty senate meetings, mascot proximity, wrestling the Legislature for a cut of the state’s projected $1.5 billion surplus, and trying to ensure less groping goes on in the athletics department.
“We went looking for the most qualified, talented and capable leader of this institution,” McMillan said. “The fact that our finalist candidate is a woman is wonderful. It’s a bonus, and a wonderful bonus, but we didn’t set out with that outcome in mind.”