Editorials

KU has been paying former Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little her $510K salary. For what, exactly?

Tell us, former Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little, where is the syllabus for your class on how to get rich without really trying?

Current University of Kansas students who are struggling to pay their tuition surely must wonder if their degrees will ever yield the kind of plum bonus Gray-Little secured for herself, with the approval of the Kansas Board of Regents.

Gray-Little left the campus at the end of the 2017 spring semester. But news broke this week that ever since, she’s been drawing the same salary she earned as chancellor — $510,041 plus fringe benefits — for serving as a special adviser to her successor, current Chancellor Douglas Girod.

Is that taught in Golden Parachute 101?

Gray-Little has declined to answer reporter inquiries.

She didn’t conceive of the soft landing on her own. The nine-member Board of Regents, whom the chancellor reports to, signed off on the deal when Gray-Little told them of her plans to leave her role as chancellor. That was in September of 2016.

Through a spokesman, the board stressed that this is only a one-year deal, adding that retaining Gray-Little at full salary was necessary to ensure that as little institutional knowledge as possible was lost during the transition to the new chancellor, Douglas Girod.

Since she left the chancellor’s office, Gray-Little’s salary has been paid by both private and public dollars, with the largest portion of the expense — $280,523 — covered by the public and the remaining $229,518 coming from private sources.

Forgive us, but the those who are less schooled in such negotiations are finding it difficult to grasp how not working as chancellor is somehow of equal value as actually being the chancellor.

Certainly, there is a period of transition and a role for an outgoing chancellor to play in advising his or her successor. But at the same salary as if they were still performing the job themselves?

The arrangement creates some serious problems with optics, and budgeting.

This financial windfall for one person has irked enough legislators that it might undercut the board’s efforts to gain more funding for student needs. The board passed a resolution in March, seeking more funds to offset cuts to higher education in recent state budgets. Perhaps the board should have considered those urgent funding needs before inking this questionable expense.

Yes, in the corporate world, such parting gifts are routine. But public institutions are expected to be good stewards of taxpayer dollars.

And at a time when higher education is increasingly out-of-reach financially for many families, plenty of Kansans would be right to question whether the KU got its money’s worth for this sizable sum.

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