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Regents approve raises for university managers

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Pay raises totaling $1 million for nearly 200 University of Hawaii executives will take effect retroactive to July 1 following a unanimous vote Thursday by the university’s Board of Regents.

The raises cover 182 of the university’s 221 nonunionized employees in executive and managerial positions that include system vice presidents, campus chancellors and vice chancellors, deans and program directors. Eighty-one of the resulting salaries will exceed $150,000, the threshold requiring regents’ approval.

UH President David Lassner, who proposed the increases in a July 30 memo, said the last pay raise for these positions took effect in mid-2008, while other university employees and faculty have seen increases tied to collective bargaining agreements in recent years.

The executive raises range from less than 1 percent to just over 20 percent, with a median increase of 3.5 percent, according to a Honolulu Star-Advertiser analysis of salary data. The increases include a mix of lump-sum increases based on years of service, performance-based percentage raises, equity adjustments and combinations of the three. In the performance category, Lassner, who sought no increase in his $375,000 salary, said 156 of UH’s executives received superior or outstanding ratings.

The regents discussed the raises in executive session because it involved personnel matters. Before doing so, two regents supported the raises, calling them justified and in line with the university’s legislative appropriation.

During the recession, when pay for most state employees was reduced, the regents imposed temporary salary reductions for executives and managers of 7 to 10 percent from September 2009 through June 2011. The board extended the reductions for another two years before restoring the salaries to 2009 levels in July 2013.

Over the same period, faculty members represented by the University of Hawaii Professional Assembly received 11 percent raises in 2008, followed by pay cuts that were repaid in later years, annual 3 percent raises in 2013 and 2014, and a 4 percent raise this year.

“If they had been getting the normal raises that the faculty got during the same period of time, they would have had today a much higher salary than they’re ending up with here,” Regent Michael McEnerney said during the meeting.

State Rep. Isaac Choy, chairman of the Higher Education Committee, submitted written testimony opposing the executive raises.

“We’re not talking about the rank-and-file employees. We’re talking about people making decisions, who are in command and control,” Choy (D, Manoa) said in an interview after Thursday’s vote. “How in the world can they justify an increase? Because they haven’t had one in seven years? I don’t believe they deserve raises.”

Choy instead called on the regents to decrease executive pay at UH. “Increases in executive and managerial compensation must be tied to not only reaching performance goals and objectives of very high rigor, but also for achieving distinction among peer groups,” he wrote. “The University of Hawaii is in the bottom quartile of almost every ranking, leading to the conclusion that the management of the institution is deficient.”

He has requested copies of the employment contracts and performance reviews for the executives receiving raises. Some are already among the highest-paid state employees.

Dr. Jerris Hedges, dean of the John A. Burns School of Medicine, is the second-highest-paid employee at the university, after Manoa head football Coach Norm Chow, whose contract pays him a $550,000 base salary. Hedges will receive a 3.4 percent raise that will bring his annual salary to $522,384.

Avi Soifer, dean of the William S. Richardson School of Law, was approved for a $3,000 boost, or a 0.7 percent increase, to $406,128. But Soifer told the Star-Advertiser on Thursday that he would donate his increase, as he has in the past, toward scholarships and a social justice award given by the law school. Over the years, he and his wife have contributed more than $200,000, including the equivalent of raises and personal funds, through the UH Foundation.

Soifer said although he loves his job, he has tried to forgo raises in the past but has been told “repeatedly … that this is not possible as a practical matter.”

Rounding out the top five highest-paid executives, V. Vance Roley, dean of the Shidler College of Business, will receive an annual salary increase of 2.2 percent to $384,120, and College of Engineering Dean Peter Crouch is getting a 2.4 percent boost to $331,032.

Other employees receiving raises include chancellors of all the campuses, the Manoa librarian and three associate athletic directors.

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