University compensation for spouses of presidents is not new, Iowa Board of Regents president says

BY BETH BRATSOS | MAY 08, 2012 6:30 AM

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Higher-education officials are at odds in light of the recent disclosure of the fundraising position the University of Iowa President Sally Mason's husband receives.

Ken Mason, the spouse of the UI president, will earn just over $107,000 this year as a lecturer in the UI Biology Department and "presidential fundraiser."

UI spokesman Tom Moore said Ken Mason is required to attend outreach events, President Club events, Board of Director meetings and events, IClub meetings, and bowl events to earn his fundraising compensation through the UI Foundation.

State Board of Regents President Craig Lang wrote in a statement released Monday that it is not uncommon for informal discussion to take place regarding the appointment of spouses during the presidential-hiring process.

"He attends most, if not all athletics events, including networking, and entertaining donors and alumni at hundreds of other university events throughout the year," he wrote.

Lang wrote that Ken Mason has helped raise more than $800 million on behalf of the university since he and his wife arrived in 2007.

"Compensation for spouses of presidents is not new," he wrote. "In fact, the University of Iowa is a member of the Association of American Universities, a group of 63 large research universities that estimates as many as half of its members now pay the spouses of presidents."

The association adopted guidelines in 2001 urging that the governing board recognize a partner's role when recruiting presidents, he noted.

John McCarroll, the director of university relations at Iowa State University, said although its president's spouse does have the title of "president's associate," she does not receive compensation or salary from the university.  

"She certainly will take part in university activities, events, and more than likely visits with donors and potential donors. There is a strong role the spouse plays on behalf of the university," he said. "[But] there is no financial compensation that goes with that."

McCarroll said President Steven Leath's wife accompanies him to many alumni and foundation events, football games and other related activities, and both Leaths are covered by university benefits.

Chuck Tombarge, the director of university relations at the University of Minnesota, said President Eric Kaler's wife, Karen, does not have a paid position through the university.

Richard Saunders, an assistant vice president for UI Human Resources, said Ken Mason also receives benefits, same as any UI employee. The office doesn't take into account compensations paid by the UI Foundation.

"He has benefits he gets on both salaries," he said.

Because Ken Mason is not using life insurance or disability-benefits programs, Saunders said, the only notable benefit is his retirement contribution, which is equal to 10 percent for each salary he receives through the university.

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