Powers’ salary tied to various goals, including a higher graduation rate

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As President William Powers Jr. pushes to increase four-year graduation rates — citing arguments ranging from minimizing student debt to changing the culture on campus — the single person who might stand to benefit the most is Powers himself. 

Powers, whose annual salary rate rose to $624,350 in September, will receive additional performance incentive awards based on his success in accomplishing a number of goals, according to documents obtained by The Daily Texan through The Public Information Act. These goals include increasing total research expenditures, raising funding through philanthropy and raising the four-year graduation rate.

The incentive award will be determined using a percentage of Powers’ base salary. The documents use a 10 percent performance incentive as a guideline, though the actual percentage awarded will be determined by the UT System Board of Regents at its meeting this summer.

In addition to quantitative goals, 25 percent of the incentive package will come from “qualitative assessments” including recruiting a vice president for development and a dean for the Dell Medical School, making progress on blended and online courses and programs including Massive Open Online Courses and increasing alumni participation in philanthropy. 

Tom Murphy, an Austin-based lawyer whose litigation experience includes contract disputes, said some measure of subjectivity in incentive pay clauses is not unusual.

“Reasonableness comes into play, even though that begs the question of what is reasonable,” Murphy said. “But there are always some sort of parameters set up.” 

UT System spokeswoman Jenny LaCoste-Caputo acknowledged that the nature of the qualitative assessment is subjective but said recent tensions between the board and Powers will not have an impact on its decision making process in determining Powers’ incentive rewards. 

“A qualitative assessment … is and has to be somewhat subjective,” LaCoste-Caputo said. “President Powers’ incentive pay will be determined just as all other institutions’ presidents‘ and UT System vice chancellors‘ and will be dependent on his performance on the agreed upon goals.”

The UT System adopted incentive-based compensation strategies this year as part of Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa’s 2011 Framework for Advancing Excellence.

Presidents were offered the opportunity to tailor the chancellor’s goals to their own individual institutions, but Powers, who negotiates his own contract each year, declined to make adjustments to the chancellor’s goals. 

Two of the metrics by which Powers will be assessed are the recruitment of a vice president for development and a dean for the newly established Dell Medical School. At the Faculty Council meeting last week, Powers said the search for a new provost would be smaller than usual and take place internally as a result of “instability on campus.” UT spokeswoman Tara Doolittle said Powers does not anticipate similar difficulties in recruiting people
for other positions.

“There is no doubt we’re going to have a more-than-qualified pool from which to draw,” Doolittle said. “These are
different kinds of positions. It’s a different sort of search.” 

Doolittle said search committees have been established for both positions, and that Powers hopes to have a dean for the Dell Medical School by the end of the summer.