University of Kentucky chief says he'll return $50K bonus offered with raise

lblackford@herald-leader.comSeptember 10, 2013 

The University of Kentucky Board of Trustees voted Tuesday to extend President Eli Capilouto's contract by two years and to give him a 5 percent raise and a $50,000 performance bonus.

Capilouto said he would give the bonus back to UK, but he wasn't sure yet how UK would use the money. He also said he needed to discuss the potential contract extension with his family.

"There's no better place to invest than in the University of Kentucky," he said. "I am grateful and proud to contribute to the University of Kentucky."

The vote was based on a largely positive evaluation that Capilouto received last month.

"We think this man is leading us in the right direction; he's the right person," board chairman Britt Brockman said. "Were the budgetary situation better, we believe he should receive even more incentive."

Last year, the board didn't offer Capilouto a raise or bonus because of the uncertain fiscal climate. This year, faculty and staff received a 5 percent merit-pool raise.

Capilouto previously received a base salary of $500,00 a year, which increases to $525,000 for the current fiscal year.

Capilouto's evaluation was based on 34 surveys of faculty, staff, students, board members, alumni and community members conducted by consultant David Hardesty, a former president of West Virginia University. Of those, 28 people were interviewed in person.

Among Capilouto's accomplishments, Hardesty included administrative hires, including a new provost; enhancements to the undergraduate experience; a major building campaign of residence halls and academic buildings; and an 8 percent increase in fundraising over the previous year.

Hardesty's report raised two concerns from the survey respondents: the need for a new strategic planning effort and the need for better communication with various campus constituencies.

Communication has been an issue throughout Capilouto's two years on the job, partly because of the rapid changes on campus, the report said.

"Some interviewees saw a need for frequent updates as to the status of change and frequent reiterations of the rationale for changes proposed and underway," the report said.

Some respondents also are worried about how graduate education will fare with Capilouto's new push to improve the undergraduate experience.

Trustees are not among the worried. Nearly every member of the board publicly praised Capilouto at the full meeting in effusive terms.

"I would hope you could continue to accelerate your performance every two years into infinity," said trustee Jim Stuckert. "You've rejuvenated the campus."

"I've never seen a more exciting time on campus," said trustee Frank Shoop.

"The university is in better shape than it has ever been," said trustee Mark Bryant.

Lee Blonder, chairwoman of the University Senate Council, said most everyone on campus seems happy with ongoing and planned construction projects, such as new residence halls, an expansion of the business school and a new science building.

However, a separate survey of about 800 faculty suggested that many are worried that a renewed emphasis on undergraduate education will hurt graduate studies and research.

"The faculty view is that morale is not as high as this review would suggest," Blonder said. "But a good graduate program supports undergraduate education. We are the flagship school — graduate education and research sets us apart."

Linda Blackford: (859) 231-1359. Twitter: @lbblackford.

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