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University of Illinois President Timothy Killeen. (Nancy Stone, Chicago Tribune)

University of Illinois president, UIC chancellor to cut compensation perks

WT24 Desk

In a change that has both symbolic and financial impact, the University of Illinois is on track to remove lucrative perks from the president and chancellor’s compensation packages, Chicago Tribune reports.

President Timothy Killeen, who took over in May, would no longer be eligible for a $225,000 retention bonus after five years in the job, according to an item to be presented to a board committee next week and voted on by trustees next month.

Also, new University of Chicago Chancellor Michael Amiridis will give up a $50,000 annual housing allowance because he has decided to live in a university-owned house near campus. He has been living in Jonasson House since starting the job in March as he evaluated whether it would be a suitable place to entertain guests or if it would be better to sell it.

By living in the house, he will forgo a $50,000 annual stipend to be used toward housing expenses in the city.  “Presumably the board will concur with these recommendations, saying ‘we are not going to do business necessarily the same as it has been done before,’ ” U. of I. spokesman Thomas Hardy said.

The changes come as Illinois lawmakers have been scrutinizing the pay and perks given to college and university presidents following several high-profile scandals in the state. Gov. Bruce Rauner recently signed a measure that limits severance payments to community college presidents.

Bonus pay became an issue for U. of I. in August when Killeen agreed to give the departing chancellor, Phyllis Wise, a $400,000 bonus, a deal the board ultimately rejected. The bonus was to recognize her four years in the job and was prorated from the $500,000 bonus she was eligible to receive after five years.

After the uproar over that payment, Killeen said that, going forward, the university would not include retention incentives as part of administrators’ contracts and that he would ask to get it removed from his own employment agreement. He currently gets a retention bonus every year that increases annually, up to $225,000 after five years.

He also is eligible for a performance-based bonus of up to $100,000 this year.  “What we see here is Killeen keeping the promise he made to reform executive compensation, starting by rescinding his own deferred compensation package,” Hardy said. “He said that it was not a good thing and should be eliminated.”

About 10 university employees have retention bonuses included in their contracts, Hardy said. The employees are either coaches or the athletic director on the Urbana-Champaign campus, who are paid out of athletic funds, or fundraisers who are paid through the U. of I. Foundation, the university’s fundraising arm. For example, men’s basketball coach John Groce is to be paid $500,000 if he stays until the end of his contract in April 2017.

Meanwhile, after staying at the Jonasson House for the past seven months, Amiridis has decided to live there instead of choosing a different home in the Chicago. The house, located on West Jackson Boulevard about a mile from campus, became the chancellor’s official residence in 2008.

The red brick home was gifted to the university’s foundation by pioneering female surgeon Olga Jonasson, who graduated from UIC’s medical school in 1958 and later became chief of surgery at Cook County Hospital, now Stroger Hospital.

University administrators and trustees decided to designate it as the chancellor’s residence with the expectation it would be used for university events. However, despite UIC spending $1 million to renovate, furnish and maintain the house, previous Chancellor Paula Allen-Meares rarely used it for university functions, saying it was too small and too far from campus.

After evaluating it himself, Amiridis decided “it is working well.”  “It is convenient. It is close to campus,” he said. “We have used it a lot in six months and will continue to use it.”  Amiridis has hosted 27 events at the house since April, including a reception Thursday night for faculty leaders. Because of the relatively small size of the dining area, the ideal events are small dinners and receptions for about a dozen guests.

He has hosted donors, community leaders, faculty, students and university administrators. There have been a total of 312 guests, and events have ranged in size from five to 44 guests.  “Students are very excited when they get invited there,” Amiridis said. “It builds goodwill.”

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