Local View: University needs to tell the whole story

BY JACK GOULD
Sunday, Nov 30, 2008 - 12:46:32 am CST

 


The University of Nebraska administrators have been given a salary increase provided by the tax-exempt University of Nebraska Foundation.

This was advertised as a savings for the taxpayer and a new approach to saving money for the university. In reporting this new concept, the Board of Regents failed to disclose the long list of valuable perks already provided by the NU Foundation.

Because the university administrators are public employees, they must file a Statement of Financial Interest form with the Accountability and Disclosure Commission each year. The administrators list the Foundation as a “source of income over $1,000.” The administrators are not required to report how much over a thousand dollars.

Below are listed some of the Foundation perks identified in university contracts but not included in the regent’s salary figures:

1. Deferred compensation (up to $150,000 over 7 years)

2. Housing allowances ($500 — $1,500/mo.)

3. Annual expense accounts ($5,000)

4. Automobiles (Cadillacs, Chyslers, Buicks) All expenses for fuel, maintenance and insurance paid by the university

5. Travel for spouses

6. Country club memberships (Lincoln CC, Happy Hollow CC, Kearney CC)

7. Supplemental retirement allowances ($1,500/quarter)

8. Lawn care

9. Snow removal

10. Services of a housekeeper

The foundation perks are not made public when the administrators ask for a salary increase. The regents only compare their publicly funded salaries with schools of a similar size.

The regents have a responsibility to be honest with the public and disclose the full value of each contract. It is easy to ignore the foundation perks and say, “the other universities do the same thing.” If that is true, higher education in general needs to move to a higher standard of ethics.

Another serious question is how independent are public institutions when private foundations are able to direct funds to the administrative staff.

Does the public, through their regents, direct university policy or do special interests influence, university policy by running tax-deductible dollars through the foundation? The NU Foundation is a private entity, but once its dollars reach the doors of the university, they should be clearly visible and fully accountable.

In these times of economic stress and corporate irresponsibility, the University of Nebraska needs to tell the whole story.

Jack Gould is issues chair of Common Cause Nebraska.

Date: 11/30/2008 12:00:00 AM