Updated: Trustees say Easter's bonus is justified

URBANA — Amid talk of continued budget pressures and state financial problems, University of Illinois trustees said Thursday a $90,000 one-time performance bonus for President Bob Easter is more than justified.

Easter did not seek the additional compensation but earned it by achieving goals set by the board, keeping costs down and restoring faculty trust, trustees said.

And they said the board has to prepare for the point when Easter retires for good and they have to find a new president in a competitive market.

Easter said Thursday he is unlikely to serve beyond 2015, when his contract expires.

"There's a need for long-term leadership in this position. My horizon doesn't last for 10 years in this type of role," he said, following the board's meeting Thursday in Urbana.

Trustees approved the bonus as part of a new performance-based incentive program, moving the university away from retention bonuses that reward administrators for "sticking around," as Chairman Chris Kennedy put it.

"I think it's really important to bring integrity to the process of compensating public employees. In the past universities and other institutions have rewarded people simply for sticking around. This ties the president's compensation to performance for the first time."

Easter's base salary has been $450,000 since he was appointed in March 2012 to replace Michael Hogan, who earned $651,000 annually before resigning under fire. Easter insisted that his pay not be higher than that of Chancellor Phyllis Wise, who earned $500,000 at the time. trustees said. His salary was also the same as that of former UI President B. Joseph White, who stepped down in 2009, and interim President Stanley Ikenberry.

Easter received a 2.75 percent raise, the average raise for all employees on campus this academic year, bringing his base pay up to $462,375. The bonus raises his 2013-14 compensation to $552,375, which ranks in the bottom half of public Big Ten university presidents, behind Ohio State, Rutgers, Minnesota, Michigan and Penn State, said UI spokesman Tom Hardy.

The board set performance-based goals and targets for Easter in July, including a potential bonus of up to $100,000, and later rated his progress toward achieving those goals using a quantitative analysis and a subjective review, Kennedy said.

Trustees concluded that 90 percent of the goals were met, prompting them to award the president $90,000. The money is to be paid within 30 days.

"It means that there's great faith in Bob from the board, and really from the entire academic community," Kennedy said. "From Bob's point of view, I think it should be considered as a form of applause, but it's really grounded in performance and achievement."

Easter has been involved in pension discussions with Springfield legislators, called for an overview of administrative units, and is overseeing a review and possible restructuring of the university's $1.2 billion health enterprise.

Other goals included increasing university participation by businesses owned by minorities, females and people with disabilities, and building relationships with community colleges throughout the state.

"The reality is the university needs to continue to move forward on a number of different fronts," Kennedy said.

"We're confident that we've got the right leadership to do that. There are goals that are unfulfilled, but when you're creating new knowledge there always will be."

The board has drawn up a draft of Easter's goals for the coming year, which will be finalized in November, he said.

The combination of a salary and an "at-risk benefit" is good for the university and the individual because it includes tangible goals, said Trustee Ed McMillan, a former CEO who chairs the board's budget committee.

"Bob's been very adamant that he is happy with his compensation," he said, but the board it was appropriate to recognize Easter's accomplishments. He said Easter would be "at the top of the class" in any peer group of university presidents "for what he's done and the respect he has both here and throughout higher education."

He cited Easter's good relationship with faculty, who were often at odds with Hogan; his oversight of the many administrative reviews; and his impact on the UI's dealings in Springfield and Washington.

"He's been a great stabilizing factor. He works tremendously with people. We're lucky to have him," agreed Trustee Timothy Koritz.

Easter said he was comfortable with performance-based reviews, which were used during his faculty days.

Professor Roy Campbell, chair of the Urbana-Champaign Senate, said Easter is a humble leader and the bonus is "well-deserved."

"I think the board needed to show some recognition on behalf of the university that he's doing a great job," he said.

The board's goal is to bring his compensation up to a level that will be competitive for the next presidential search, officials said. The average salary for public university presidents in 2011-12 was about $440,000, with top earners above $1 million, according to a survey by the Chronicle of Higher Education.

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sweet caroline wrote on September 12, 2013 at 10:09 am

Poor Mr. Easter.  He sure needs that bonus of $90,000.  How could anyone be expected to live on a mere $462,375 per year?  His bonus alone is double the annual salary of civil service workers at UIUC, and they work as hard or harder than he does.  This is disgusting.

Lostinspace wrote on September 12, 2013 at 11:09 am

He deserves the reward if only because he hasn't done anything illegal or embarrassing.

Bulldogmojo wrote on September 12, 2013 at 11:09 am

Now he can tell us why Phyllis Wise's "Vision" doesn't include reconstituting all the civil service jobs that were lost through attrition. Seems like a fair request for the extra $90,000...

Seriously Mr. Easter, why are you not reconstituting jobs while taking a bonus?

tuscola2 wrote on September 12, 2013 at 12:09 pm

What a joke. I hope the legislature decreases the UI budget by at least $90K. Raises again? do these idiots know the taxpayers are broke???

sweet caroline wrote on September 12, 2013 at 3:09 pm

"From Bob's point of view it should be considered a form of applause. But it's really grounded in performance and achievement," Kennedy said.

Hmm....I'd consider $90,000 a whole lot more than applause.  I should correct my earlier statement that his bonus is double what civil service employees earn in a year.  It's actually TRIPLE what many earn in one year. 

If Illinois were overflowing with money, I could see it.  But in this day and age when hardworking middle class citizens can barely make ends meet, often working more than one job, this bonus for a public employee is a slap in the face to the rest of us.

ConcernedCUCitizen wrote on September 12, 2013 at 10:09 pm

I for one think Dr. Easter is more than deserving of this bonus.  What he has done for this University over the past year has made it stronger and certainly settled the rough waters left in the aftermath of President Hogan.  To state that Dr. Easter does not work as hard as a regular civil service employee is beyond preposerous...it is outright stupid and illogical.  You'd be hard pressed to find one civil service employee in the entire University that would be willing to work more the 8 hours a day (without overtime pay or a 15 minute break two times a day) and to be on-call 24/7 while dealing with the constant stress of running a billion dollar enterprise for the public good.  All this while navigating the colorful, to put it nicely, personalities of legislators, faculty, Board members, and parents.  Kudos to you President Easter and I wish we could convince you stay well beyond 2015.  Your dedication to this University is commendable.

Bulldogmojo wrote on September 13, 2013 at 10:09 am

Yup there it is, the vitriol against civil service that justifies our fight every single day. Right on cue!

I actually do know many who have worked through lunches and breaks and an entire department that was once required to work off the clock as a condition of employment, which is illegal by the way. That whole department is unionized now and labor laws are now adhered to. Yes we do expect to be paid overtime for working overtime. We are hourly employees it's the LAW!!

Your prevailing contemptuous attitude of civil service staff and insistence that we shouldn't have labor regulations respected by this university is something we have to fight every day.

Thank you ConcernedCUCitizen, for having the courage to put your ignorance in writing, further reinforcing my point that we need to fight for our basic legal rights in the work place against an indifferent University administration.

ConcernedCUCitizen wrote on September 13, 2013 at 10:09 pm

Bulldogmojo, I thank you for your "classy" post which shows you completely missed the actual point of mine.  I was not degrading civil service employees at all as you will see if you read it again without the fog of "everyone hates civil service" clouding your head.  My mother has been a dedicated civil service employee for the University for many years.  I was simply stating that you’d be hard pressed to find any employee, civil service or not, who would be willing to take on the job of University of Illinois President.  I know I wouldn’t, even with the salary!

Dr. Easter no doubt works very long hours, but the nature of his position and that of other administrators is that they must work until the job is done, period.  In the case of a position such as his, the job is never done.  There is no clocking out at five.  Dr. Easter certainly works harder and longer hours than any civil service or non-civil service employee at the University, simply because his job responsibilities dictate that he must.  The impression I got from sweet caroline's post was that Dr. Easter doesn’t work as hard as civil service employees and shouldn’t be paid well at his level of responsibilities, which is simply off-base and not predicated on common sense. 

Unfortunately, it is people like you that add to the divisive rhetoric and create this "us vs. them" mentality.  If you wonder why some people do think civil service employees are just a bunch on complainers and whiners, it is thanks to people like you.  A few bad apples ruin the whole barrel as they say.  To the majority of civil service employees who proudly go to work every day and appreciate the incredible benefits afforded to you by working for a State institution, you should be proud of your hard work and dedication and you will be rewarded.  For those of you like Bulldogmojo who simply troll the News-Gazette comments all day trying to find someone supposedly speaking ill of civil service employees so you can make asinine comments, why don’t you just quit if your job is so bad?  I’m sure there are about a thousand people ready to jump at the opportunity to get on board at the University.  

Bulldogmojo wrote on September 14, 2013 at 4:09 pm

So concerned...Which one of your ideologies are we supposed to assume is your actual view?

"You'd be hard pressed to find one civil service employee in the entire University that would be willing to work more the 8 hours a day (without overtime pay or a 15 minute break two times a day) and to be on-call 24/7 while dealing with the constant stress of running a billion dollar enterprise for the public good."

OR...

"My mother has been a dedicated civil service employee for the University for many years"

So I guess your mom is the only dedicated civil servant we would be so hard pressed to find. 

I suggest you read up on some labor laws in Illinois with particular emphasis on the distinction between hourly and salaried.

Orbiter wrote on September 13, 2013 at 1:09 pm

I've no doubt that Dr. Easter has been a hardworking, dedicated administrator. But let's have some perspective here, before we start saying he's overpaid.  The CEO of Busey Bank is paid around twice the amount the U of I paid Dr. Easter, and I'd suggest that the Busey CEO isn't contributing quite as much.  And Dr. Easter is being paid less than the previous (scandalous) President of the University, too.  Even including his bonus.  So I wouldn't argue that Easter is over paid. 

 

However, let's also realize that the civil service employees are scandalously underpaid.  If they didn't have families or other ties to the community, many of them would leave for greener pastures.  These people do work hard, and they deserve both respect and increased compensation.  And it's important to realize, before saying that Dr. Easter is doing overtime work for free, that his $90,000 "bonus" can be viewed as a $90/hr overtime rate if he's working an extra 20 hr per week.  I don't think any civil service employee would be as well compensated for overtime.

 

But even with his bonus, Dr. Easter is an asset to the University, and his efforts are appreciated by many of us.  Of course, he has the advantage of not needing to sell off old university equipment on ebay to pay for his operations!

tuscola2 wrote on September 19, 2013 at 8:09 pm

Another University scam, wake  the F up legislature