CHICAGO — Lisa Troyer has not technically begun her job as executive assistant to new University of Illinois President Michael Hogan, but the pair already have come under some scrutiny for her $195,000 salary. |
Troyer says the salary is reflective of her responsibilities. Both have increased since coming to Illinois from the University of Connecticut where she served as Hogan's chief of staff.
"The pay has stepped up with the responsibilities and magnitude ... (of) issues that we have to tackle in the next two years in terms of budget and gaining greater efficiencies," she said.
Troyer's salary is nearly $90,000 more than Kathleen Metz, former executive assistant to Hogan's predecessor B. Joseph White. But Hogan's duties will not be limited to the office; the former sociology professor might return to the classroom.
Troyer was at her boss' side during Thursday's Board of Trustees meeting at the University of Illinois-Chicago where they discussed that very issue. The Board approved Troyer's salary.
"We don't stand in very good shape," Hogan said after the meeting. "Everyone is very worried about (next year)."
The state's $13 billion deficit left the university with nearly $300 million in unpaid bills as of June. Hogan is confident Illinois' largest universities can make good on those bills before the end of the calendar year. He added that, unless the state is able to solve its budgetary crisis, the university will be left "vulnerable" in the future.
The university's financial straits are partly to blame for the cold reception Hogan received from some lawmakers. The board approved a 9.5 percent tuition increase — one of the lowest in the country, Hogan said — just prior to approving his $620,000 base annual salary in May. His starting salary is a $170,000 increase from that of White' base salary of $450,000.
White resigned last fall amid a scandal that revealed the university had admitted students who did not meet academic standards but had ties to state politicians.
State Sen. Martin Sandoval, D-Chicago, joined labor groups in protesting the decision outside the same Chicago meeting room. He was equally unhappy with news of Troyer's salary.
"This is once again a reflection that President Hogan is just an extension of the past University of Illinois administration with no regard for working families," he said.
Hogan, however, defended his long-time confidant.
"We can't pay a highly marketable ... faculty less than the market rate or they're all going to leave," he said.
Hogan said he and the board are looking for ways to sustain the system's operations cost without adversely affecting low-income students. He is looking toward using capital investments, borrowing and increased financial aid from the federal government, as well as private donors to alleviate the sting of the recession.
The university also is working to cut costs and has demonstrated at least one area of improvement. Illinois' largest school system was able to save on utilities for the first time in years, thanks to some energy-saving measures. The system's four campuses saved about $30 million in the past two years.
Hogan, however, disapproved of some savings measures, taking aim at unpaid furloughs for staff.
"Furlough days have been very destructive for faculty morale. I'd like to get around that," he said.
Troyer brought a sunny demeanor and fire-engine red blazer to an otherwise glib meeting. Serving on an interim basis for now, she will transition to her full-time position Monday. She said she already is throwing herself into the new job — partly because she always thought she would follow her boss through academia.
Troyer began working for Hogan at the University of Iowa in 2004 as his assistant provost before following him to Connecticut. She said she is not surprised by the eyebrows raised by the Champaign News-Gazette's revelation that she will earn thousands more than Gov. Pat Quinn — who faces budget issues of his own.
"These are all legitimate concerns, and people should hold us accountable for what we're earning, and I expect to be held accountable for my earnings," she said.
Neither Troyer nor her boss said they had received negative feedback from the story — yet.
"I haven't checked my e-mail," she said.
Neither had Hogan.