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Originally published Thursday, September 3, 2009 at 10:50 PM

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UW President Mark Emmert gets new perks, no pay raise

University of Washington regents are impressed enough with Mark Emmert's leadership that they have signed the president to a five-year contract — replacing the year-by-year contracts he's served under since he was hired in 2004.

Seattle Times higher education reporter

UW president

PROVISIONS of UW President Mark Emmert's five-year contract include:

Paid driver if Emmert wants a ride to university events.

6-month paid sabbatical sometime after June 2012, if he wishes.

Life insurance: An additional $2 million.

Payment of $1 million to $2 million if he's fired without cause.

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University of Washington regents are impressed enough with President Mark Emmert's leadership that they have signed him to a five-year contract — replacing the year-by-year contracts he's served under since he was hired in 2004.

There's no pay raise for Emmert, at least this year, but there are other sweeteners, including a provision for him to take a six-month paid sabbatical (worth $450,000).

Under the old contracts, Emmert served "at the pleasure of the Board." But under the new contract, he is locked in until 2014, with a clause that would require the UW to pay him a lump sum of between about $1 million and $2 million should the regents choose to fire him without cause. The regents also reserved the right to bump up his pay as early as next year.

Emmert receives $906,500 in total annual compensation from the UW and ranks as the country's second-highest-paid public university president, behind E. Gordon Gee, of Ohio State University. He earns an additional $340,000 in cash and stock annually from sitting on the corporate boards of Weyerhaeuser and Expeditors International.

The new UW contract, retroactive to July, was signed Aug. 21 and released to The Seattle Times this week. Other new provisions include the addition of a paid driver, when needed, to take Emmert to and from university events; and an additional $2 million in term life-insurance coverage.

The new contract comes at a time the university faces unprecedented budget challenges due to state cutbacks. The UW is slashing its budget by $73 million this fiscal year. It has eliminated about 700 jobs — 350 through layoffs and 350 by not filling vacant positions. Tuition is going up 14 percent this year and another 14 percent next year.

Some had speculated that Emmert might take a voluntary pay cut after commenting in March that his own pay was "on the table" along with every other university expense. Washington State University President Elson Floyd took a voluntary cut of $100,000 last year, giving back most of an earlier raise. At the UW, Emmert cut department budgets by at least 9 percent, reserving the biggest cut — 16 percent — for his own office.

But Emmert said there had been a strategic, universitywide decision not to reduce the pay of any remaining employees.

Asked if the new contract meant he would stay through 2014, Emmert replied: "I certainly hope so."

"This is a gratifying vote of confidence from the regents, for both me and my family, and a nice commitment to stay at the UW for a good while," he said. "I believe it makes good sense for the university to have some continuity of leadership over the next several years, as we deal with some very difficult financial circumstances."

Craig Cole, chairman of the Board of Regents, noted that Emmert hasn't had a raise since 2007. "It was really about the stability of leadership during a very uncertain time in higher education," Cole said.

Emmert has built on the strengths of the university and addressed weaknesses, Cole said. He also has been "very successful" in garnering resources for the institution, Cole said, through a private fundraising drive and other means.

"He is open to new ideas from the university community and the public, and we appreciate his growth as a leader," Cole said. "We know he's in great demand from across the country, and we are very pleased to have him committed to the UW."

Bruce Balick, who chairs the faculty senate, said Emmert acted gracefully in leading the university through difficult financial times and appears to have retained the support of most faculty.

"I, at least, hope he will stay through the end of the worst of the turmoil, and hopefully beyond," Balick said.

The contract stipulates that Emmert's sabbatical be taken after June 14, 2012. Cole said a sabbatical is common for long-serving presidents and would not be a vacation, but rather a chance for Emmert to engage in specific study that would benefit his management and the university as a whole.

Emmert said he had no current plans for a sabbatical.

In academia, "sabbaticals are common to retool, re-energize and learn new skills and abilities," Emmert said. "It's pretty hard to imagine taking that much time off, but it's nice to know there's the potential opportunity."

Cole said the addition of a driver was his idea, because he worries that Emmert puts in long hours commuting between Seattle and Olympia. Emmert seems to enjoy driving, Cole added, and may not make much use of the provision.

He said the UW would not employ a full-time driver, but rather hire students or other part-timers as needed.

Emmert said he could envision having a student occasionally drive him home from Olympia while he worked on the phone, but that would be about the extent of it.

Under the new contract, Emmert will receive an annual base salary of $620,000, deferred compensation of $250,000, a car allowance of $12,000, a retirement match of $24,500, and free use of Hill-Crest, the 12,000-square-foot presidential mansion that overlooks Lake Washington.

The terms of Emmert's deferred compensation have been altered — one-half now vests every two years on a rolling basis, the other half at the completion of his five-year contract, providing a big financial incentive for him to stay at the UW through 2014.

Nick Perry: 206-515-5639 or nperry@seattletimes.com

Copyright © The Seattle Times Company

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