By Raoul Biron

Staff Writer

Salary and health benefit renegotiations for UNH’s tenured and tenure-track faculty may have grinded to a halt this summer, but members of the UNH administration received almost $400,000 in bonuses in 2015.

President Mark Huddleston, who receives an annual base pay of $395,000, saw his aggregate salary rise to over $500,000 this year, after receiving the largest of what Erika Mantz, UNH’s director of media relations called “at risk compensation payments.” The additional $107,800 for Huddleston was listed as an incentive award.

“It is unfortunate that these payments are mislabeled as “bonus” in the USNH payroll report since the majority of them are not,” Mantz said.

According to Erika Mantz, these additional payment methods aren’t just consistent with industry practices and necessary for recruiting and retaining talent, but are part of a larger and more complex compensation package than just bonuses. The performance-based structure is designed to incentivize and reward outstanding work for administrators in an underfunded educational system.

“At risk compensation” payments like those delivered to President Huddleston, are described by Mantz as senior leaders deferring a portion of their compensation until specific performance goals are met.

Additional duty pay is compensation reserved for employees that have taken on temporary duties in addition to their normal position.

Merit increases are reserved for non-union employees when “financial circumstances allow.” These payments will often exceed the maximum salary for a position, with the overage being paid in the form of a bonus.

Most bonuses awarded to administrators published in USNH’s payroll report did not include explanations or justifications. The comments that were included for financial awards did little to help clarify the administration’s motives, defining President Huddleston’s bonus as a “Perfect Incentive Award,” or justifying an award of $7,600 as a “Recruitment Bonus.”

“What is a recruiting bonus? That you showed up for the interview?” asked Deanna Wood, president of the UNH chapter of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), which represents the roughly 600 members of UNH’s faculty currently in contract negotiations with the university administration.

UNH’s administration has proposed an annual average of 2.8 percent increase in salary and a restructuring of health benefit plans for tenured and tenure-track professors. The AAUP proposed a 3.5 percent annual increase when negotiations stalled. When USNH’s payroll report was published, Wood e-mailed the report to members of the faculty. 

“It isn’t that I am concerned about whether or not people deserved bonuses, but rather that these are public employees and these bonuses are aside from base salary. What are they for? That’s all. Since we are negotiating our new contract, unsuccessfully so far, I thought it might be useful for our faculty to know what our administrative employees are making,” Wood said.

While six-figure salaries for university leaders and administrators are not out of the norm, Wood raised concerns about changing priorities in higher education and tuition based revenue funding administrative systems that resemble businesses more than educational structures.

“Right now, the tenured, tenure-track faculty represents less than 20 percent of the actual cost of running this university and I think people have a right to know where the other 80 percent is going,” Wood said.

Wood also pointed to a broader issue in New Hampshire’s public universities’ administrative structures. UNH is the largest school in the USNH system, meaning that tuition based revenue generated in Durham will disproportionately fund growing bonuses and salaries at other public universities in the state.

“Personally, I find the funding of higher education both in NH and nationally a disgrace… It would appear to me that the university is more concerned with holding onto its administrators with the expedience of just passing out bonuses than they with are what I consider to be a critical problem in student debt,” Wood said.

New Hampshire routinely sits near the bottom of the list for debt per graduate, averaging $32,690 according to a 2012 study conducted by The Project on Student Debt. UNH’s administration has attributed consistently rising tuition costs to a lack of state funding as recently as during last year’s State of the University Address by President Huddleston.

“I look around at UNH and the students here and think ‘my god, what are you saddled with?’ It breaks my heart, it does. I think it’s terrible what we’re doing to our students. I look at the bonuses and I think if you took your bonuses and put them back into debt relief for your students and what would that accomplish? Maybe not a lot, but a little,” Wood said.