University of Nebraska president details five-point plan to get NU ‘back on offense’

Regents also approve next UNL chancellor, raise tuition by 3.5% and shift oversight of Husker Athletics to NU president

By: - June 22, 2023 5:21 pm

University of Nebraska President Ted Carter, at right, leads an NU Board of Regents meeting on Thursday, June 22, 2023, in Lincoln, Neb. (Zach Wendling/Nebraska Examiner)

LINCOLN — University of Nebraska President Ted Carter on Thursday previewed a five-point plan designed to get NU out of a $58 million shortfall and “back on offense.”

University of Nebraska President Ted Carter. (Zach Wendling/Nebraska Examiner)

Carter described to the NU Board of Regents a plan including: a renewed focus on students, raising NU’s academic and research profile, examining existing programs and strengthening communication and transparency.

The regents also unanimously approved:

  • The appointment of Rodney Bennett as chancellor of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
  • The university’s 2023-24 operating budget, which includes raising tuition rates by 3.5%.
  • Shifting Husker Athletics oversight from the UNL chancellor to the NU president.

Carter’s five-point plan

Carter said his five-point plan will be implemented by the year’s end and allow NU to be among the best universities. It will address the shortfall that is projected by mid-2025.

“We will not only realize $58 million in savings, we will be back on offense, and we will be a national player,” Carter said.

Chris Kabourek, senior vice president and chief financial officer for the University of Nebraska, details the NU system’s budget system on May. (Zach Wendling/Nebraska Examiner)

The university system is implementing a hiring freeze on all non-faculty positions beginning in July. They will also withhold 2.5% quarterly funds from all departmental operating and supply budgets, according to Chris Kabourek, NU’s chief financial officer and senior vice president.

Carter announced NU will also be looking for students to lead recruitment efforts, and NU will reimagine Regents Scholarships to cover all the scholars’ NU expenses, not just tuition.

A major goal will also be for NU to rejoin the Association of American Universities, an elite group of colleges and universities. NU had belonged to the group from 1909 until 2011, when the AAU terminated its membership. Bennett has also expressed interest in rejoining the AAU.

“No university that’s ever left the AAU has ever been brought back in. Ever. We would be the first,” Carter said.

As part of that plan, NU intends to report research expenditures at UNL, the University of Nebraska Medical Center and systemwide institutions together. 

Multiple AAU members are aligned with a medical school.

“It’s not a merger,” Carter said. “It’s an administrative realignment that leverages the full combined strengths of our flagship university and our medical center.”

Regent Tim Clare of Lincoln, the board’s chair, said the budget and subsequent plan allow NU to go from good to great.

Husker Athletics moves to NU president

Barney McCoy, a professor in UNL’s College of Journalism and Mass Communications, expressed concern at the regents’ proposal to shift oversight of Husker Athletics from the UNL chancellor to the NU president.

University of Nebraska-Lincoln professor Barney McCoy. (Zach Wendling/Nebraska Examiner)

McCoy is the chair of the UNL Faculty Senate Intercollegiate Athletics Committee that reviews policies and advises Husker Athletics and includes Athletic Director Trev Alberts.

He said NU is facing a “historic operational threat” that requires Carter’s “full attention” to address. Similarly, intercollegiate athletics is in a “historic era,” with new transfer rules and name, image and likeness revenue, so campuses face new challenges and opportunities.

But the system is not broken, McCoy said, and UNL provides Husker student-athletes support, resources and opportunities for lifelong success.

“Under these circumstances, it seems prudent at present to keep oversight of Husker Athletics in the hands of the UNL chancellor,” McCoy said. “By doing so, this also allows President Carter to have sole focus and the undivided support needed to address the historic operational challenges now facing the entire University of Nebraska system.”

Alcohol approved for UNL’s Volleyball Day on Aug. 30

Regents voted 6-2 to permit alcohol at Memorial Stadium for the doubleheader volleyball match on Aug. 30. 

Regents Jim Scheer of Norfolk and Kathy Wilmot of Beaver City said they opposed out of concern that some of the 80,000 ticketholders did not know of the proposed change at the “family friendly” event. 

Regent Rob Schafer of Beatrice said NU has tested alcohol sales previously at Big Ten Wrestling and at the Garth Brooks concert last year, without issue.

Regents, including Clare and Regent Rob Schafer of Beatrice, the board’s vice chair, said the move is to offer the job to the “best man” to advance the university.

“We need to put our best person that’s situated, for us, to move us forward,” Schafer said, noting that it’s not to take anything away from Bennett or current UNL Chancellor Ronnie Green.

Chancellor Rodney Bennett

Bennett, the former University of Southern Mississippi president, will start July 1 with a $720,000 base salary. This is 37% above his predecessor’s salary.

Rodney Bennett, incoming chancellor of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. (Zach Wendling/Nebraska Examiner)

“The chance to serve the University of Nebraska-Lincoln as chancellor is the opportunity I have been preparing for for over 30 years,” Bennett said in a statement.

“UNL is truly unique in building vibrant, economically competitive communities across Nebraska while preparing students to be successful in an evolving world in which they will live and work,” he continued.

Regents approved Bennett without discussion of his candidacy or the salary increase.

University of Nebraska Student Regent Paul Pechous, for the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. (Zach Wendling/Nebraska Examiner)

UNL Student Regent Paul Pechous said after the meeting that he’s excited to bring Bennett in, someone who is “really student-centered” with a background in student affairs.

“It’s exciting to be in this position, to have a chancellor who is excited to make some positive changes,” Pechous said. “He’s not afraid to speak candidly about some of the complexities of what we’re going to be facing in the next couple of years.”

Clare described Bennett as an “enthusiastic, bold, visionary leader.”

“He will …  not only enhance the research credibility at the University of Nebraska, but will also help grow the entire institution,” Clare said. “That can change not only the University of Nebraska but change the nation if not the world.” 

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Zach Wendling
Zach Wendling

Zach rejoins the Nebraska Examiner after studying abroad in Antigua, Guatemala, following a yearlong Examiner internship. His coverage focus areas have included politics and government, health and well-being and higher education.

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