A university’s leaders should arguably be the most productive people on campus, but also the most scrutinized, as their decisions affect everyone.
In 2013, one leader was certainly at least well-scrutinized — easily the harshest performance review of Ohio State’s senior leaders was of the top financial official, who was criticized for his handling of both people and multi-million dollar decisions.
But he still earned a six-figure bonus.
At OSU, senior leaders’ productivity has lately been focused toward navigating more than 63,000 students and 43,000 employees through a time of transition. Big transitions at the university can be tricky when it’s the leaders themselves switching up their roles.
The words have been written dozens of ways in a myriad of stories: E. Gordon Gee retired as Ohio State president last July, leaving Joseph Alutto to take the reins in an interim role once more. One year from that big change, another is set to take place as Dr. Michael Drake becomes OSU’s 15th president.
As administrators come and go, as they’re promoted to new roles or moved around at their current level, the university forges on. There’s no timeout, no pause, no moment to take a breath.
So while not all of OSU’s top administrators are in the same roles they were in a year ago — some, as in Gee’s case, aren’t with the university at all — The Lantern took a look at their most recent performance reviews to dig a little deeper into the faces and changes behind some of OSU’s most important decisions.
The Lantern requested 18 OSU senior administrators’ performance reviews for 2012 and 2013. Eight of the 18 administrators did not have performance reviews available for 2013, and at least two who were employed at the time did not have reviews available for 2012.
According to an OSU human resources performance review policy, “all employees must receive a performance review at least once a year.”
University spokesman Gary Lewis said he would be responding to all questions about the performance reviews. He provided a human resources document Wednesday with additional information on the distribution of bonuses for some of the administrators.
Senior Vice President for Optimization and Integration and Medical Center Chief Transformation Officer Geoff Chatas
Chatas’ current role, which he moved into March 1, is new at the university. He previously served as OSU chief financial officer and senior vice president of business and finance, titles he had held since February 2010.
Chatas earned a $683,153 salary in 2013 as CFO, and was paid an additional bonus of $97,647. That additional amount was a payment of a bonus he earned in 2012.
Chatas earned an additional $100,464 bonus, nearly 15 percent of his base pay, in Fiscal Year 2013, half of which is set to be paid in FY 2014 with the other half to be deferred until the end of his contract.
In his performance review dated September 2013, Chatas received criticism from Alutto, who called attention to Chatas needing to be aware of his “leadership shadow.”
“You have taken on an increased level of responsibility that requires great attention to detail and thoughtful leadership,” Alutto wrote, noting Chatas needs to “remove barriers and create a culture where people want to work for you.”
Alutto continued on to tell Chatas not to put pressure on his team “without taking the time to understand their situations and the impact on the university.” He said if Chatas forces changes his team can’t handle, it can “cripple the university” in the long term.
Alutto wrote that Chatas needs to focus on his “own personal and professional development.”
“You are quick to point out the shortcomings of your peers as well as other individuals across campus, but this year I want you to totally focus on you,” Alutto said. “Determine how you can best serve the university and how your peers and I can best support you in that process. Work with your external coach to determine if you really believe that you need to change. I believe you want to, but I am not convinced that you are doing it for the right reasons.”
When making decisions or being involved with decisions about “the band and compensation for the band director, selecting (Chatas’) assistant, renovations in the management suite for Student Life, spending funds on MBAs and workers’ (compensation),” Alutto said Chatas’ moves “could be perceived as being focused more on the individual than the greater good.”
“These are decisions that are university decisions that need to be made at the level of the President’s Cabinet,” Alutto said. “My expectation during the coming year is that you will look to this group for advice, provide them with the appropriate level of accurate information and background and then stand behind whatever decision is made.”
Last year, OSU invested $50 million in venture capital firm Drive Capital, despite concern from Alutto about the amount of money being invested.
“The only issue I see is the initial size of the investment,” Alutto said in a June 13 email to Chatas. “What is the justification for a $50 million investment rather than one in the $20-30 million range that you described as more typical?”
An email later sent to Chatas, signed “G,” said, “I spoke with Joe Alutto today and told him we had to honor the Kvamme agreement.” The address of the email was redacted in the provided records.
Mark Kvamme and Chris Olsen launched Drive Capital in 2013. The deal with OSU was controversial because of its size and a potential conflict of interest between Kvamme and Gee, who previously met when Kvamme worked at JobsOhio and Gee was a board member there.
Three months after Alutto sent the email expressing his concerns, he wrote in Chatas’ review about a concern of Chatas’ colleagues — that he “too often (makes) pronouncements as if (he is) dealing with absolutes.” He gives the example of Chatas’ mindset that there is “no funding for construction other than new money.”
“That, coupled with confusions about motivations and resource availabilities, has also led to concern about whether you are overextended or simply do not have the support needed for consistency in action. That needs to be addressed,” Alutto wrote.
Alutto, however, also called Chatas “bright and intelligent” and told him he is committed to providing Chatas with the “feedback you need to help you continue on your path of continuous learning.”
When asked for a specific response from Chatas to the assessment in his 2013 review, The Lantern was referred to Lewis, who responded with previously provided information including that “performance management at Ohio State also involves a continuous process of feedback and mentoring, which includes verbal and written reviews.”
Meanwhile, Gee, who hired Chatas, gave him an overall favorable review in September 2012.
Gee noted Chatas had “learned and made great progress” in leadership and teamwork, and asked Chatas to seek “new and innovative ways to finance the university’s future.” That same year, Chatas was named CFO of the Year by Columbus Business First, following a recommendation by Gee.
Interim President Joseph Alutto
While Alutto planned to retire from his former position of executive dean and vice provost in November 2013, he stuck around OSU a bit longer to take over as interim president following Gee’s retirement.
Alutto’s salary was $637,508 in 2013, and he earned a $234,096 bonus — which consisted of a performance bonus totalling 30 percent of his base pay and a $40,000 retention bonus.
Alutto did not receive a written performance review in 2013.
Gee conducted Alutto’s most recent performance review, dated September 2012. He initially notes the “historic transition” from quarters to semesters and says OSU is “poised to seize the future in new and exciting ways.”
In the review, Gee said Alutto had done a “wonderful job accomplishing his FY 2012 goals,” and set a few focus areas for Alutto for the coming year. Gee called on Alutto to guide senior leaders toward efficiency and alignment, to plan for the best possible support of the Discovery Themes and develop a program to reward and recognize faculty “as a way for us to differentiate ourselves from other institutions of higher education.”
The Discovery Themes initiative was launched in October 2012 to target health and wellness, energy and environment, and food and food security. These were areas identified as priority areas for OSU by university officials, and the $400 million plan includes expanding research and hiring new faculty.
Former President E. Gordon Gee
While Gee left the university last July, his salary stood at $410,000 for the year and he was paid a whopping $1,460,703 bonus, easily the highest bonus of any senior administrator.
The next-highest 2013 bonus payout among the administrators investigated was Alutto’s $234,096.
As Gee retired from OSU in 2013, there was no performance review available for him for that year. Gee is now the president of West Virginia University.
His 2012 performance review was dated November 2012, about a month before a Dec. 5, 2012, OSU Athletic Council meeting where Gee made comments that later came under public scrutiny. Remarks about Notre Dame and the Southeastern Conference in particular brought national attention.
The review was conducted by the Board of Trustees and covers July 2011 through June 2012.
Alex Shumate, Board of Trustees governance committee chair, said trustees recognized Gee’s “exceptional ability to execute change in a complex organizational structure.”
“In fact at a turbulent time for higher education, in which many universities are being forced to make many difficult sacrifices, this university has thrived,” the review said.
The Board recommended a salary increase of 3 percent to his base pay, and a performance-based bonus of 40 percent of his base pay.
The review noted future areas of focus for Gee, including generating new resources, developing academics in line with Discovery Themes areas, implementing the Advancement Plan and aiding the Medical Center expansion.
The Board also praised Gee for the success of the $125 million partnership with Huntington Bank, the creation of the Second-Year Transformational Experience Program and the transition from quarters to semesters.
Executive Vice President and Provost Joseph Steinmetz
Steinmetz also moved into a new role July 1, as the former executive dean and vice provost of the College of Arts and Sciences stepped into the position vacated by Alutto.
Steinmetz earned a salary of $461,040 in 2013 and was not eligible for a bonus in FY 2013 or FY 2012.
In Steinmetz’s September 2013 review, Alutto wrote that Steinmetz’s “role and leadership” had a great impact on the success of transitioning from quarters to semesters, which Alutto noted went “better than any of us had expected.”
Alutto also thanked Steinmetz for the way he handled “uncertainty” following Gee’s departure, becoming one of Alutto’s “strongest advocates.”
As far as goals for the coming year, Alutto requested that Steinmetz make both short and long term goals, and requested to remain informed of how the goals are progressing as well as ways he could help. No specific goals were mentioned.
Alutto acknowledged Steinmetz’s input is important to the success of OSU, noting that he depends on him as the No. 2 at the university.
“You have great ideas, and strong opinions; do not hold back,” Alutto wrote. “My expectation is that between the two of us, we need to be vigilant on all matters so that we can ensure that when it comes to our core, we have the resources that we need to support and implement the Discovery Themes as well as your short-term and long-term objectives.”
On March 6, Steinmetz announced the creation of the Provost’s Discovery Themes Lecture Series, which intends to bring leaders to the university to speak on topics relating to Discovery Themes initiatives in health and wellness, energy and environment, and food production and security.
In his July 2012 performance review, Alutto called Steinmetz a “model for other deans,” and asked him to examine and balance faculty teaching loads.
Vice President for Strategic Enrollment Planning Dolan Evanovich
Evanovich’s 2013 salary was $370,000, and he was also paid a bonus of $24,407. That amount was a payment of a bonus he earned in 2012.
He also earned a $66,962 bonus, 20 percent of his base pay, in FY 2013, which is to be paid in two equal installments: one in FY 2014, and the other at the end of his contract.
A 2013 performance review for Evanovich was not available, though his contract was renewed May 9 in a letter from Alutto. His new contract term is set to run through Aug. 31, 2018.
“You will continue to be expected to enhance Ohio State’s excellent track record and positive trend in the recruitment of outstanding students (and) expand our access initiatives to ensure that highly qualified students capable of benefitting from university excellence have opportunities to study at the university,” the letter reads.
The university’s strategic plan is to work toward a goal for OSU to “be consistently recognized among the top 10 public comprehensive research universities in the world,” according to the department’s website. Evanovich works largely in admissions, the university registrar, financial services and student services.
In his performance review dated August 2012, Alutto said Evanovich “recruited some very good new staff members and (had) done excellent work in developing (his) team.”
That same year, Evanovich set goals of having 7,100 students in the freshman class, with a 28.2-28.3 average ACT score and 90-91 percent in the top 25 percent of their class for Fall 2013.
The actual numbers for two of those goals exceeded his expectations, as the Fall 2013 freshman class had an average ACT score of 28.5 and 92 percent were in the top 25 percent of their class. Enrollment was just short of Evanovich’s goal, resting at 7,083.
Senior Vice President for Administration and Planning Jay Kasey
In 2013, Kasey’s salary was $438,934. He received a $56,465 bonus on top of that, which was a payment of a bonus he earned in 2012.
Kasey also earned a $107,582 bonus in FY 2013, 25 percent of his base pay, to be paid in two equal installments with the first hitting his bank account in 2014 and the second at the end of his contract term.
His performance review dated September 2013 noted projects that made it from the drawing board into implementation, with Kasey playing a key role. These projects included parking, traffic safety and the OSU Wexner Medical Center Expansion Project.
In June 2012, OSU’s Board of Trustees approved a $483 million, 50-year parking privatization deal with QIC Global Infrastructure. Kasey also helped lead a Traffic Safety Task Force, following a series of traffic incidents early in Fall Semester 2012.
The Medical Center’s expansion includes the new James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute, set to open in December and accommodate a 21 percent increase in patient admissions over the next 10 years.
Gee’s September 2012 review of Kasey also mentioned his work with the Medical Center, noting Kasey’s leadership in developing the facilities.
Alutto told Kasey to focus on some areas for improvement in his 2013 review.
“As we discussed, your tendency is to wait until you have all the details and a solution until you come forward with either good news or to identify potential issues,” Alutto said. “This approach prevents others from truly understanding the great work you and your team accomplish … Sharing information is a key driver to our success; my expectation is that in the coming year I can count on you to tell your story better.”
Alutto also asked Kasey to think about the big picture in order to make decisions “that can sustain the test of time.”
Performance review logistics
While not all administrators had written performance reviews on file, Lewis said performance management, and the assurance that employees are reviewed yearly, go beyond the written review.
“Although it is required for all employees to receive reviews, performance management at Ohio State also involves a continuous process of feedback and mentoring, which includes verbal and written reviews,” Lewis said in an email Monday. “All elements of performance review, verbal and written, are key inputs in determining compensation.”
He said the performance review process was adjusted because the university is in a period of change.
“This year’s process for performance reviews of senior leaders was one in transition. Because every senior leader participates in the ongoing, annual review process, all leaders expect to receive helpful coaching and feedback.”
To further explain bonuses, under OSU’s Performance and Retention Plan, not all bonuses are paid out in full immediately. Instead, 50 percent is paid in the following fiscal year and 50 percent is deferred until the employee’s contract term has expired.
Therefore, an employee might receive money in one year that is actually the culmination of past bonuses. On another note, if an employee leaves the university before their term is up, or breaks their contract, the deferred money goes back to the university.
The Lantern requested the performance reviews and other records including travel budgets Jan. 23, and the request was filled March 24.
As OSU spins forward, forging through changes in administrative roles, it prepares to welcome Dr. Michael Drake, the current chancellor at the University of California Irvine, who was named the university’s next president in January.
As part of a series on the OSU administration, The Lantern is sorting through different aspects of what goes into running a university of OSU’s size and prominence.
This story is the final of three focusing on performance reviews of 18 senior administrators.
The next story in the series will take a look at why these administrators are compensated at the rates they are and how these rates stack up against salaries of administrators at comparable institutions.
This story is the fourth in a series about Ohio State’s administrators, including travel expenses and performance reviews over the last two years. The series was made possible by the generosity of Ohio State and The Lantern alumna Patty Miller.
A look at some of OSU’s administrators: