Government Relations

Testimony on Pending Legislation: Assembly Bill 439

Before Assembly Colleges and Universities Committee
May 31, 2005
Testimony of Margaret Lewis
Associate Vice President for State Relations
University of Wisconsin System

Good morning. I am Margaret Lewis, representing the UW System testifying on the issue of holding a public hearing on university executive benefit packages.

The Board of Regents is already required by law to hold public meetings, and by Board policy 94-4, to adopt salary ranges in public, at a regularly scheduled and noticed meeting, by vote of the full Board. The public can speak on any agenda item by contacting the Board Secretary.

Benefits such as retirement and health insurance are established by state law and are similar to those provided all state employees.

Other aspects related to the compensation package of a Chancellor have been delegated to the President to negotiate with candidates in a timely manner during the hiring process. Candidate appointment letters are made public after negotiations are complete and are provided regularly to the public and media upon request.

The hearing process required by AB 439 could unduly hamper the negotiation process should a hearing be required prior to the hiring of each Chancellor. This would prevent the UW System from acting expeditiously to secure the best candidates. This is especially important now, as we have two Chancellor searches in progress at Extension/Colleges and UW-Eau Claire. Often candidates are in multiple searches at the same time and it is crucial that the UW System President react quickly in the negotiating process. Generally negotiations are conducted within 24-48 hours of the Regent Search Committee making a recommendation on the final candidate. Given the short timeframes, it is impractical to schedule a public hearing in the midst of these negotiations.

The current process that requires action on salary ranges by the Board, and allows for public input on these ranges, a vote by the full Board on final salary (which is then made public), allows the flexibility necessary to negotiate a salary and benefit package in a timely manner.

The Board of Regents is committed to providing competitive compensation packages to its executive leadership in order to hire those that will provide a return on the states investment many times over in effective management and fundraising abilities. When he spoke before the Audit committee earlier this month, Regent Walsh suggested a public review of the total compensation packages of university executives this Fall. Attached is an article published each fall in the Chronicle of Higher Education which gives an idea of the competitive environment in which Chancellors are hired. Thank you.