The UNC-system Board of Governors approved a $95,000 bonus for UNC-system President Margaret Spellings March 23 and is defending the need to include incentives in the president’s contract.
Spellings is the first president to have the opportunity for incentive bonuses in her contract. Her contract guarantees her a salary of $775,000 without yearly raises, but she is eligible for a bonus up to $125,000 based on her performance during that year.
This is about 16 times the median income in North Carolina, which is about $48,000.
Although the president is entitled to a bonus, the exact amount depends on her performance. The board and the president meet each year to decide on goals for the upcoming year, and once that year is over, they meet again to evaluate the president’s progress on the goals.
One of the important goals this year was the implementation of the Strategic Plan for UNC-system, said chairperson Lou Bissette, who voted for Spellings’ bonus.
The five-year plan set goals in the areas of access to education, student success, affordability, economic impact and community engagement. Some specific goals of the plan were to increase enrollment among students from low-income and rural backgrounds, raising the graduation rate and expanding STEM educational opportunities.
One of the most notable successes from the Strategic Plan was the N.C. Promise Tuition Plan, which made undergraduate tuition $500 per semester for in-state students at three universities: Western Carolina University, Elizabeth City State University and UNC-Pembroke.
The UNC system also unveiled a new, more modern logo this year that was meant to unify all the different schools within the UNC system. Part of the reason for the reboot was to ease confusion between the UNC-system offices and UNC-Chapel Hill.
Spellings has also drawn criticism this year, particularly with the board’s handling of the controversy over Silent Sam. Many board members felt left out of negotiations with Gov. Roy Cooper over how to respond to protests and the fate of the confederate monument.
Bissette defended the amount given to Spellings, saying she is entitled to compensation in her contract.
“It’s not like we come out of the blue and say we’re going to give the president a bonus this year,” he said.
Three board members – Robert Rucho, Thom Goolsby and Thomas Fetzer – voted against Spellings’ bonus.
Goolsby said it is irresponsible of the board to approve such a large bonus for the president while the cost of college has risen.
“Our constitution requires education to be as free as possible,” he said. “I cannot, in good conscience, support the continuing growth of expenses.”
He said he would like to see taxes cut instead to make education more affordable.
Bissette defended the addition of the bonus to Spellings’ contract.
“We’re in a competitive situation here as probably the finest system of public higher education in the country, but we don't do it in a vacuum,” he said. “If you take a look at the compensation plan for people in President Spellings' situation across the country, you’d have to conclude that she is not even at the top.”
He believes the board will continue to include performance-based bonuses in the contracts of future presidents. He said the board wants someone who is not only paid for being there and holding the title, but someone who can actually accomplish the goals of the board.
Anna Pogarcic is the editor-in-chief of The Daily Tar Heel. She is a senior at UNC-Chapel Hill studying journalism and history major.
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