O'Connor 12.5.19

Regent Elizabeth O'Connor listens to discussion during a University of Nebraska Board of Regents meeting at Varner Hall on Thursday, Dec. 5, 2019, in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Despite one regent’s concern with the new president’s salary, the Board of Regents confirmed Walter “Ted” Carter, Jr. as the eighth president of the NU system at its meeting Thursday.

District 4 regent Elizabeth O’Connor was the lone dissenting vote due to the proposed salary promised to Carter in a draft of his employment contract. While she said he is worthy of the contract price and will be an exceptional addition to the NU system, she did not feel comfortable voting in favor of his candidacy due to current funding hardships.

“We’ve had to make several hard decisions in the last few years, and there are too many professors that are serving as adjuncts instead [receiving] of livable wages, too many students that are struggling to make tuition, worrying about their own future and too much uncertainty [about] the future of the university’s funding for me to feel comfortable with the proposed salary at this time,” O’Connor said.

Because the regents confirmed him, Carter will assume the presidency on Jan. 1, following a president-elect transition period beginning on Dec. 16.

According to the contract draft, Carter would receive an annual base salary of $934,600, among the highest of chief executive base salaries in the Big Ten, and deferred compensation each year at 11.5% of the base salary. Additionally, he’d be eligible for a performance-based merit pay of up to 15% of the base salary at the end of each year.

Combining the performance-based pay up to $140,190 with the base salary, Carter could earn $1,074,790 each year he is in office, not including additional university and president-specific benefits, like an official residence, transportation, deferred compensation and membership to country clubs of Carter’s choosing. His term would end on Dec. 31, 2024.

In an ideal world, O’Connor said the state would have all the funding it needed to provide for all of the needs of the university, lower tuition and student debt, increase faculty pay and give Carter all of his deserving benefits. 

“The university would have all of its initiatives funded, we wouldn’t have needed to create [Budget Response Teams], layoff workers, raise tuition, limit scholarships or defer maintenance and we could pay Ted his whole worth, no questions asked,” she said. “Unfortunately, that’s not the reality that we’re living in or the future that we’re looking forward to.”

Chairman Tim Clare, who first motioned for the final vote, said naming Carter as the eighth NU system president “is a critical moment in the history of the University of Nebraska and of our state.”

“Our workforce needs are urgent, the challenges before us … are incredibly complex and it has never been more important for us to ensure that we are providing the best, most affordable, most accessible education to our students and families of our state,” Clare said.

Emily Johnson, president of the Association of the University of Nebraska and student regent for UNL, said the salary looks daunting at first glance but it’s an investment that will allow NU to bring in the money to make the salary feasible.

“When we talk about investment, we’re choosing Ted Carter because we believe he will be the best at bringing money to the University of Nebraska and keeping our education affordable,” Johnson said.

District 5 regent Rob Schafer said the salary is relative to other NU system officials, like UNL coaches Scott Frost and Fred Hoiberg and UNL Athletic Director Bill Moos, who also make more than $1 million each year. Additionally, he argued it was more important to pay the person in charge of those positions to help lead NU to greatness. 

“Throw in the president’s position into that mix, who has responsibility for all those athletics and the four campuses … which one is actually the most important to our state?” Schafer said. “Which one is going to have an impact on our students, our graduates, our workforce and just the quality of life?”

Johnson said Carter will use his fundraising abilities to bring in more money, bring exciting research opportunities and work with the state and governor’s offices to fund the university, which will surpass the ability of any other candidate.

“I’m hoping that taxpayers and students who are looking at this number and asking why so much of their money is going into a salary can understand that the pay-offs are going to be worth it for us,” she said. “I look forward to seeing what Ted Carter does for this university.”

Clare expressed gratitude to interim NU president Susan Fritz for her service and for keeping the NU system on track during the transition from Hank Bounds to Carter.

“She kept the ship moving in the right direction,” he said. “We got some great things accomplished, and we appreciate her service.”

Clare, Fritz and the general counsel are authorized to make non-material changes to the contract and, following ratification by the Board of Regents as soon as possible, the contract will be made official. 

After an eight month search period, Chairman Tim Clare said he is thankful for everyone who helped in the search process and is excited for Carter to assume the role at the start of the next decade.

“We think the University of Nebraska should be competing with and leading the very best public universities in the country. Nebraskans deserve no less,” Clare said. “Ted Carter, in my opinion, is the person who will lead us into the future.”