Purdue University might be on to something.
While the state of Illinois has slumped to the depths of degradation over the past eight years, neighboring Indiana has prospered, thanks largely to the strong, innovative leadership of Gov. Mitch Daniels.
Daniels will soon leave office after two terms to assume the presidency of Purdue University, and the record shows he's taking his hands-on accountability style with him to the world of academia.
Purdue's former president, France Cordova, was paid $555,000 in total annual compensation. The president of the University of Indiana is paid $625,000.
The five-year, five-month contract Daniels negotiated calls for a base salary of $420,000 a year and no deferred compensation. He can receive an additional $126,000 in bonuses if he meets specific goals on issues like graduation rates, affordability, faculty hiring and fundraising. Even if Daniels receives all possible bonuses, his total compensation of $546,000 would put him near the bottom of the Big Ten.
The point here is not to suggest that Daniels is entering some form of indentured servitude. He'll be very well paid.
What's significant is that Daniels and Purdue are initiating pay for performance, something that is virtually unheard of in the world of academia.
Purdue board Chairman Keith Krach said that "as far as we know, there is no other university out there that has that level of incentives and that compensation at risk."
Krach said Purdue wants "to lead by example" by ensuring that its new president's interests are "aligned with the interests of the students and faculty."
That sort of thing is easier said than done. But this experiment in accountability is a refreshingly far cry from hiring university administrators while lavishing them with pay, perks and promises of soft landings on the faculty in the event of dismissal.