University of Connecticut President Susan Herbst is defending raises that were recently awarded to two dozen top school administrators. The pay hikes, which range from $10,000 to more than $25,000, have raised eyebrows. They come at a time when the state is struggling to balance its budget.
Herbst said administrators’ salaries need to be competitive in a national labor market. "We have a study of what these different positions--deans, vice presidents--make around the country," she said on WNPR's Where We Live, "and I stay within that range to make sure our salaries are normative. But I will tell you that I will only hire great people."
Herbst was speaking in front of an audience of students and faculty during a live broadcast. She was responding to a question stemming from a Hartford Courant story about the raises. When asked whether the university needs so many highly-paid administrators, she said the positions are critical.
"If you look at any other great university--Penn State, Michigan, etc.--I’d say we have a much thinner administration than most of the places that are our aspirant peers," Herbst said. The Connecticut Mirror reported earlier this year that UConn ranks third among the nation’s research universities for spending on administration.
Herbst also defended the decision to move the Greater Hartford UConn campus into the old downtown Hartford Times building. She said the university decided on that location because of the developing Front Street entertainment district, and the nearby Wadsworth Atheneum museum. "We want to go where the action is," Herbst said. "There’s no secret about that. It doesn’t mean that we don’t care about other parts of the city. It’s the beginning."
Hartford officials previously criticized the university's decision. They were interested in seeing UConn develop a location that was not in central downtown, including at a vacant space near I-84, near the city's North End. She rejected the idea that UConn should take that on, saying, "We’re not going to build a frontier. We’re going to go to an area that is safe for our faculty and students, that is exciting to them. It has some risk to it, and we want to reduce it as much as possible." Herbst said that the university and city officials have since reached a consensus on developing the former Times building.