Thumbs up to…

Bret Belden

On Feb. 19, the Union Leader published an editorial about UNH President Mark Huddleston after a student asked about his “bonus” during the UNH Open Forum. Huddleston answered, “Let me try it once more, and I’ll do it slowly. I did not receive a bonus,” and in the next line, the Union Leader editorial stated “yes, he did,” and no, he didn’t.

The editorial then went on to explain the six-figure payment of $107,800 that Huddleston received in addition to his $405,000 salary. This incentive, set by the University System of New Hampshire Board of Trustees, is a performance-based reward which Huddleston only receives if these certain performance standards are met. This is not a free bonus where Huddleston can just sit around all day and make a little over $500,000.

Since April 2007, when President Huddleston was appointed to the position, there have been numerous improvements to the university, regardless of the massive cuts in state support and a national recession. To name a few, the Peter T. Paul School of Business and Economics was built, the Carsey School of Public Policy opened, UNH Manchester largely expanded and the UNH School of Law in Concord was established. Since I first became a student in 2013, a brand new gym and outdoor pool were put in, the main dining hall was renovated, we finally have a D1 worthy stadium, a career and professional success initiative was set, Hamilton Smith is on its last stretch of a major renovation, the launch of the UNH School of Marine Science and Ocean Engineering was established and even more small projects and other smaller renovations that have benefited the UNH community were put in place. And, if I might add, Huddleston was the winner of the 2016  Business Excellence award for the nonprofit category of a large organization by the NH Business Review.

With the massive fundraising efforts from the UNH Celebrate 150 campaign, UNH’s largest-ever fundraising campaign, that Huddleston started, UNH is now able to provide 285 students with a tuition-free plan. Seventy-nine percent of UNH grads in the last six years are working full time, while the national average is 65 percent. UNH graduates are also 60 percent more likely to be thriving in all five areas of well-being (financial, physical, community, purpose and social) compared to the national average of other large public universities. While all of these statistics and improvements are the efforts of so many incredible individuals at the university, we cannot discredit all of the improvements and positive statistics because of personal disagreements on how money has been spent.

Huddleston has a doctoral degree, has published several articles on consensus building in higher education, books on the American civil service and was the 15th president of Ohio Weslyan University. He was also a faculty member of the University of Delaware for 24 years including the position of Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. The list goes on, and certainly qualifies Huddleston for the position of president of a university. UNH often compares our land-grant public state institution to University of Delaware, another land-grant public state institution where the university president makes an $800,000 salary.

There are lots of improvements that the University of New Hampshire can make to better the students, but a new president isn’t one of them. Huddleston could have addressed the student asking the question in a more polite way, but that doesn’t take enough away from the fact that his efforts and progress have been immensely beneficial to the University. So thanks, President Huddleston, for working hard year-round to make our school a better place. Thumbs up to Huddleston.

Allison Bellucci