UConn Prez’s Resignation is a Spectacular Embarrassment

Long having been shameless because the governor and General Assembly never call it to account, the University of Connecticut probably won’t show any embarrassment over last week’s abrupt resignation of its president, Thomas C. Katsouleas, who was not even two years into the job. But Connecticut might be mortified.

Of course no official explanation has been given, but news reports say Katsouleas quickly alienated the university’s Board of Trustees by announcing major initiatives without the board’s approval.

Having eagerly danced to every politically correct tune that was played for him on campus, Katsouleas shouldn’t be missed — and indeed as a practical matter he won’t be. For he really won’t be leaving at all. Despite his alienating the trustees, his contract allows him to remain in a sinecure at UConn as a tenured professor with an office, secretarial help, and an annual salary of $330,000 — a grossly extravagant and premature pension.

Katsouleas’ predecessor, Susan Herbst, is enjoying a similar arrangement as a tenured professor with a nominal courseload at UConn’s Stamford branch with a salary of $319,000. At least Herbst put in a few years.

While Governor Lamont is busy trying to wrap up a devastating epidemic, avert a nursing home strike, and get a responsible budget past his party’s crazy-left majority in the General Assembly, he might want to take a few minutes with the UConn trustees to make sure that their next presidential search committee doesn’t include anyone from the last one.

But since he approved the selection of Katsouleas, the governor also might want to reflect on his own responsibility here and, more so, on the presumption at UConn in recent years that its president must be a swelled head from out of state who knows nothing about Connecticut, is unknown here, and has no connection to the university.

At least the Board of Regents for the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities system has just appointed as the system’s president someone who has all of four years in the state — Terrence Cheng, who has been director of UConn’s Stamford campus and an English professor there. Accepting his new job the other day, Cheng lauded what the regional state universities and community colleges system does for its working-class students. Just look at what the system is doing for Cheng — a salary of $360,000.

Three college administration salaries above $300,000 in a state whose economy has been declining for a decade — maybe that’s why they call it higher education.

But police work in Connecticut can be pretty lucrative too, especially in New Haven. While New Haven is always pleading poverty as it wallows in incompetence, the New Haven Register reports that three city police officers tripled their regular salaries last year through overtime, extra duty, and other mechanisms.

Three of the city’s four highest-paid employees were police officers, the Register says. A detective whose nominal salary was $84,000 earned $264,000, and two officers whose nominal salaries were $76,000 earned $258,000 and $234,000.

Even if the police department could not have assigned work more efficiently — as by hiring more officers to pay less overtime — the department should have been concerned about weariness on the job by officers doing so much extra work.

After all, who can forget the crazed state trooper whose frightening tirade was caught on video last year as he abused a motorist in New Haven? The trooper proclaimed his contempt for the public, his exhaustion, and his eagerness for retirement. It turned out that for five years his overtime earnings had equaled his base pay as he went nuts building up his pension credits.

Thanks to the billions of federal dollars flowing to state and municipal government in the name of repairing the economic damage of the epidemic, New Haven Mayor Justin Elicker won’t have to worry much for a couple of years about the city’s financial excesses. Meanwhile Governor Lamont and state legislators also can let the good times roll throughout state government.

But they all might do well to wonder whether, as inflation roars, the salaries of their constituents will be as protected as the salaries of government employees.

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Chris Powell is a columnist for the Journal Inquirer in Manchester, Connecticut.

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