UI Foundation paying for Ken Mason's fare to Asia

BY AMY SKARNULIS | JUNE 12, 2012 6:30 AM

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University of Iowa President Sally Mason's husband, Ken Mason, will accompany her on a recruiting trip to Asia later this month.

UI officials said Ken Mason's trip is covered because he is a university employee. However, officials at a number of other universities say it isn't necessarily a common practice for the university to pay for the president's spouse to attend international events.

President Mason will travel to China and Taiwan with other UI officials at the end of this month to recruit students, build relationships, and meet with alumni. The UI Foundation will cover travel expenses for the two Masons and four other officials.

Forrest Meyer, the executive director of strategic communications at the Foundation, said paying for both Masons is standard protocol because they are both university employees. Ken Mason receives $53,400 a year as a lecturer and makes an additional $54,175 a year through the UI Foundation as presidential fundraiser.

"He is an employee of the university," Meyer said. "The reason we are paying is because we typically pay for both Ken and Sally's travel for this type of outreach."

Meyer said the Foundation pays for Ken Mason's travels because he has assisted with this type of outreach in the past, and they pay for three other members of the president's staff who have helped with this as well.

However, the practice is not common at other universities.

Rick Fitzgerald, a spokesman of the University of Michigan, said he does not recall President Mary Sue Coleman's husband accompanying her on any trips.

"[I believe] there was only one trip that her husband made with her for an alumni event," he said. "It would be pretty unusual for him to travel with her."

Coleman's husband, Kenneth Coleman, is listed in the University of Michigan directory as a faculty associate in Political Studies.

Fitzgerald said President Coleman, who is a former UI president, does occasionally make trips out of the country. She is planning a trip to South or Central America but recruiting students isn't her main focus.

"Two of her most recent trips to China have been to solidify partnerships with Chinese educational institutions and meeting with alumni rather than recruiting students," Fitzgerald said.

Stacey Christensen, the public-relations manager for the University of Northern Iowa, said President Benjamin Allen does not have plans to go abroad this year.

"When he has gone, it is typically in conjunction with our M.B.A. program commencement in Hong Kong," she said. "He will go there to attend the commencement ceremonies."

Allen traveled to China in December 2011 for recruitment efforts, but his wife did not attend.

According to the Iowa City Press-Citizen, Northern Iowa officials have said that Allen's wife, Pat, is not employed at the university.

Christensen said the reason Allen does not go abroad often is that the assistant director of Admissions generally handles international events.

The spouse of at least one other Big Ten university president sometimes attends international events.
Indiana University President Michael McRobbie goes abroad for reasons similar to those of UI officials and the University of Michigan officials.

Mark Land, associate vice president for university communications at Indiana University, said the school has engaged with universities and organizations outside the United Sates for more than four years.

"It's never just to do one thing," Land said. "It's to do all sorts of things: strengthen partnerships, meet with alumni and potential donors — it's a whole host of things."

Land said McRobbie just came back from Southeast Asia; he was accompanied by the vice president as well as members of the senior international staff.

McRobbie's wife, Laurie Burns McRobbie, has accompanied him in the past when traveling abroad, and she continues to work on her own projects as well, Land said.

"[His wife] will go; she usually attends the events that he attends, and she has issues that she is interested in as well," he said. "She is very active in the technology field."

Burns McRobbie holds an adjunct faculty position in the Indiana University School of Informatics and Computing, according to the university website. The site also describes her as an active "ambassador" for the university.

But Land said Burns McRobbie does not necessarily get paid anything extra when traveling with her husband. He said the funding for these trips typically comes from the Indiana University Foundation.

"We're trying to be smart with our money," he said. "A good chunk of what this will cost comes from private donations and not taxpayers' money."

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