By Jan Worth-Nelson
The University of Michigan – Flint’s top executive, Chancellor Debasish Dutta, received a 15% pay raise for the 2022-23 fiscal year, bringing his yearly salary to $469,000, according to publicly available sources.
On average, the rest of the Flint university faculty and staff received raises of about 3-5%. The overall University of Michigan pay raise for 2022-23, was 4.1%.
Asked for a response from UMF administration about Dutta’s salary increase, Robb King, UM – Flint director of marketing and communications, confirmed the amount is correct.
He said the increase was related to Dutta’s action to eliminate one of the UM – Flint’s executive positions, vice chancellor for business and finance, in Fall, 2021, as Dutta described in a December interview with EVM.
King noted Dutta “personally took on responsibility for the related units, increasing his own direct reports from seven (7) to 15 and reducing payroll by more than $275,000 per year.
“He did this new and expanded job for a year without additional compensation,” King said.
“Now in the second year, his fall 2022 salary includes the 4%-5% annual raise (for administrators) and an adjustment for the substantial increase in his workload.”
Dutta’s pay compares to UM – Dearborn Chancellor Domenico Grasso, who is receiving $468,400 for 2022-23. UM President Santa Ono was hired last year at a base pay of $975,000.
What UM – Flint employees get paid is one of many factors under scrutiny as the downtown campus studies itself in a major effort underway since September, 2022, aimed at addressing a series of serious challenges, a process the university is calling “Strategic Transformation.”
As detailed in earlier EVM stories, those challenges include a 30 percent drop in enrollment since 2014, an “unacceptable” six-year graduation rate of 35 percent, a deficit of $7.3 million in the last fiscal year, and losses or declines in demand for programs in liberals arts.
The campus is a major downtown employer.
According to data from the UMF’s Officer of Institutional Analysis and the UM Human Resources Information System, as of Nov, 1, 2022, UM – Flint employs 1,013 people, with 717 (71 percent) full time and 296 part time (29 percent).
Of those 494 are Faculty, in the following categories:
- 195 Tenured/Tenure Track Faculty (which includes 23 Academic/Administrators who are tenured faculty members and 1 Emeritus Faculty who is actively working)
- 228 Lecturers
- 8 LEO-GLAM (Librarians, Curators and Archivists)
- 63 Clinical and Adjunct Clinical Faculty”
In addition, there are 445 Staff, who “includes all non-bargained-for and bargained-for staff, and supplemental, 74 Graduate Student Research Assistants.”
In the 2022-23 UM – Flint annual operating budget of $116.5 million approved last June, salary, wages, and benefits account for almost half, at $56 million. That operating budget total is down from $154 million in 2021-2022.
The revenue picture for the campus includes $25 million from state appropriations for 2022-2023, up about $784K from last year.
Who gets paid what varies widely.
The average UM – Flint full-time salary, according to 2021-2022 numbers from umsalary.info, was $69,8K, with Dutta exceeding the next-closest employee, Provost and Vice Chancellor Sonja Feist-Price by more than $100K; 13 others had pay of $200K or more in 2021-2022.
Among that group are two former chancellors, Ruth Person and Sue Borrego, who stayed at UM – Flint after their departures from the chancellor’s suite. They took “retreat rights” as would have been negotiated in their original hiring terms, into their professional departments — Person as professor of management, and Borrego as professor of education.
In an update on request from EVM, a university official clarified Jan. 27 that both Borrego and Person were faculty members in 2021-2022. Borrego’s salary that year was $274,308. Borrego left the University in summer 2022 and thus was not on the 2022-23 salary list. He said Person is still a faculty member, with a current salary of $236, 085.
Close to 100 more UM – Flint employees are pulling in between $100K and $200K, as of 2021.
The lowest full-time UM-Flint pay recorded for 2021-2022 was $31,200.
The salary distributions — even among faculty and among the UMF’s six colleges, are radically diverse, with some non-tenure-track faculty getting $100,000, while some full professors in liberal arts arenas make thousands less.
The amounts paid have created an economic class structure, some in-house commentators say, and also point to competitive hiring demands, where faculty in management, health sciences, and technology get paid much more than those in the liberal arts.
For some segments of the staff and non-tenure-track faculty, salaries are negotiated by their respective unions. In the case of the non-tenure-track faculty, for example, the Lecturers Employee Union (LEO) struck a deal in the last contract for 3 percent yearly pay increases starting from a full-time minimum base of $18,000.
Proposal to cap administrative pay ignored so far
One group concerned with economic equity, among other issues at UM, is One University (1U); it has participants from all three campuses.
Participants in that group presented a proposal in December, 2021, to the Regents for capping all administrative salaries at UM at $150,000. They received no response, and resubmitted it a year later as what they called “a transformational idea.” So far the Regents appear to have ignored it, 1U participants report.
The 1U proposal states,
“In the last few years, the Regents and Central Administration have not provided sufficient resources to UM-Flint and UM-Dearborn to stem the tide of cuts, layoffs, and program reductions. UMF recently put the Africana Studies program on moratorium. Dearborn has slashed Applied Music.
“This proposal seeks to remedy the financial distress causing these cuts by setting a $150,000 cap on administrative salaries and saving UMF $1.29M per year and UMD $1.66M. These funds can be repurposed toward the central educational mission of these campuses.”
“On the Flint campus, roughly 14 administrators earn more than $150,000. We estimate their total salaries, excluding benefits, to be $3.5M. The marginal earnings above $150,000 is roughly 1M. The fringe benefits, calculated at 20% of salary, was determined only on the marginal income above $150,000, resulting in roughly $1.3M in savings per year.”
Asked about the silence from the Regents, 1U participants jointly responded, with requests for anonymity, “This isn’t exactly news but [we] think it’s relevant…that it genuinely spoke to the culture on our campus. [We’re] guessing that the proposal could come across as snarky but [we] don’t think that was the intention. Many of us truly believe that we need mission-driven leadership and that seems like one of the things lacking at our institution.”
Process moving toward final recommendations?
In a Jan. 18 update on the Strategic Transformation website, Dutta stated that the Strategic Transformation consultants and university planners will “move toward our goal of completing the academic program phase by the end of the first quarter of this year. Soon, we will also begin work on the broad range of academic and student support services that will be necessary to ensure student success and a vibrant academic environment at UM-Flint.”
“Based on the feedback received at the Dec. 9 town hall and from ITAC, the Huron Group is engaged in conversations with additional members of the Flint community and school district superintendents. They are providing us with valuable insights about how they interact and would like to work with the university now and in the future,” Dutta stated.
Coordination of the Strategic Transformation process has been in the hands of the Huron Group, a national consulting firm hired by UM last year which has been a source of controversy because of its work at other institutions, where “slash and burn” decisions in some cases decimated liberal arts and humanities programs and led to major faculty layoffs.
So far, specifics about what is to come at UM – Flint are unclear, and many involved in the process are complaining about a lack of transparency by the Huron Group and doubts that their feedback and ideas actually are being incorporated into the findings.
Two appointed groups have been ostensible in-house channels between the consultants, Dutta’s administration, and the rest of the campus — to pass along information, audit progress reports, and most of all provide input. The two groups are a Steering Committee made of up UMF’s top executives, and the Innovation and Transformation Advisory Council (ITAC), comprised of 13 representatives drawn from the UMF’ six colleges, staff council, and student government.
ITAC group received “synthesis,” expresses concerns
On Jan, 19, the Huron group presented a draft to ITAC, a “synthesis of findings” of the market analysis, program economics, and stakeholder feedback they have collected. “At the same time, our schools and colleges have begun to develop academic transformation plans with the data available to them to date,” Dutta predicted.
Participants who received the ITAC presentation, including Associate Professor of English James Schirmer who represents the College of Arts and Science (CAS) in the group, expressed concerns about what they heard, where the process is heading and about whether ITAC’s input is making a difference.
“ITAC is no closer to understanding its role since this process began,” Schirmer said. “Charges and charts have shifted in unhelpful ways, and so have timelines and expectations of effort. Council members are disappointed with the lack of clarity and guidance from the chancellor and frustrated by Huron consistently ignoring our concerns and questions.
“Still, ITAC wants to be constructive and so intends to put together its own “deliverable” (despite the chancellor and Huron stating that is not necessary or wanted),” Schirmer said.
EVM Consulting Editor Jan Worth-Nelson can be reached at email@example.com. EVM Education Beat reporter Harold C. Ford contributed research to this story.