UT System Board of Regents approves $1.25M UT-Austin presidential salary, construction projects funding

Andrew Zhang

UT President Jay Hartzell will earn a $1.25 million annual salary, which the UT System Board of Regents approved during a two-day board meeting ending Thursday. 

Despite one UT staff member calling in to voice opposition to the proposed salary, the board approved it alongside construction projects, and an official spoke on the system’s financial status. 

UT System spokesperson Karen Adler said former UT President Gregory Fenves earned $995,000 before he left UT for Emory University. Fenves previous said in a 2016 email, which the Austin American-Statesman obtained, that a salary over $1 million was “too high.” 

Hartzell previously earned $795,000 as interim president, according to The Texas Tribune.

Greg Bosley, desktop operations manager in the College of Liberal Arts, said at the Thursday meeting he and other community members believe it is an “outrage” Hartzell would be given such a high salary during a time of layoffs and furloughs.

To deserve his salary, Bosley said Hartzell should make tuition more affordable and provide a living wage with full benefits for staff.

“Faculty and staff wages have risen less than 10% since 2007 and have been outpaced by the cost of living increase in Austin,” Bosley said. “The president’s salary, on the other hand, is set to be 138% higher.”

Bosley asked for lifting the salary merit increase freeze, implementing hazard pay for essential workers, pausing layoffs during the pandemic and providing students and employees with needed technology.

In response to affordability concerns, Chairman Kevin Eltife said the board has committed $165 million dollars for the Texas Advance Commitment.

“We are doing everything in our power to make this affordable and to help eliminate the student debt situation,” Eltife said. “Our former president … left in the middle of a national crisis. … I’m extremely proud and grateful that Jay Hartzell was willing to step up.” 

UT System Chancellor J.B. Milliken said the board sets presidential compensation to be competitive with other universities and is transparent by setting a “one number” salary rather than a base salary with bonuses.

According to The Chronicle of Higher Education, a $1.25 million salary would be the sixth-highest among public university leaders in 2019. 

On Wednesday, Hartzell spoke to the board to amend the Capital Improvement Program, a system plan to fund construction projects costing over $10 million, to include several UT campus projects. 

Hartzell asked for $27.8 million to renovate the Hogg Memorial Auditorium and $11.1 to renovate the second floor of the Flawn Academic Center. He also requested $46.6 million — up from the $38.5 million previously requested — for the ongoing realignment of Red River Street. 

Scott Kelley, executive vice chancellor for business affairs, said Wednesday that the system made about $400 million less in the fiscal year ending July 2020 than in the previous year but is still profitable.

UT-Austin is projected to end the year better than in previous years because of the $130 million Moody Foundation grant and increases in the Available University Fund, according to previous Texan reporting.

“We project ending the year positively for all of our campuses,” Kelley said. “We’re actually doing a little bit better in many cases (now) than we were as of July 2019.”

Editor's note: This story has been corrected to clarify when Fenves said a salary over $1 million at a public university was “too high.” The Daily Texan regrets this error.