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Faculty want disclosure on college president bonuses at MSUM and M State

MSUM President Edna Szymanski received $6,000 bonus.1 / 2
M State President Ann Valentine received $6,000 bonus.2 / 2

MOORHEAD -- As bonuses are being doled out for Minnesota public college and university presidents, a faculty union wants disclosure on how the leaders are being evaluated.

Minnesota State University Moorhead President Edna Szymanski received a $9,000 bonus for the 2008-09 school year. She's giving two-thirds to MSUM.

Ann Valentine, president of the four Minnesota State Community and Technical College campuses, received a $6,000 bonus.

Presidents were eligible for bonuses of $3,000 to $15,000 for "overall performance and achievement of individualized goals," said Linda Kohl, a spokeswoman for the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system.

Members of the Inter Faculty Organization, the union that state university faculty belong to, want MnSCU officials to disclose the criteria used to evaluate the presidents, said Cindy Phillips, president of the MSUM chapter.

Without knowing what the presidents' goals are, it's difficult to know what is motivating them, Phillips said.

"Is somebody doing something for the bonus or because they think it's the right thing to do?" she asked.

MnSCU officials have denied The Forum's request for the presidents' goals, citing a statute of the Minnesota Data Practices Act that restricts access to personnel data.

Mark Anfinson, attorney for the Minnesota Newspaper Association, said he "quite firmly disagrees" with MnSCU's response.

Anfinson said the statute has language that supports public access to that information. Specifically, the law says "the basis for and the amount of any added remuneration" are public.

More than 90 percent of presidents in the system received performance incentives for 2008-09, Kohl said, though no one received the maximum. The largest amount was $12,000.

MnSCU leaders have defended the policy as a strong incentive for presidents to advance the system's strategic goals.

Leaders of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees also objected to the bonuses, which are being awarded at a time when campuses are trimming budgets and employees are taking pay freezes.

"What's the bonus for?" asked Dave Renecker, president of MSUM's AFSCME chapter. "They're already paid quite well for doing what they're supposed to do."

Phillips and Renecker emphasized that their objections are not with the presidents, but with the bonus policy.

"We think Edna did a phenomenal job last year," Phillips said.

Szymanski is donating $3,000 of her $9,000 bonus to academic scholarships for needy students and another $3,000 to MSUM's wellness center, said campus spokesman Doug Hamilton.

"I thought that was pretty decent of her," Renecker said.

Szymanski and Valentine did not return calls seeking comment.

Chancellor James McCormick received a $32,500 bonus on top of his $360,000 salary. He was eligible for $50,000.

MnSCU officials also have declined to disclose how McCormick was evaluated for that bonus.

Szymanski earns $225,000 a year. Valentine earns $169,708. Neither received a raise for 2009-10, but both will again be eligible for up to $15,000 in bonus pay.