Time to reassess UNH fundraising post

University of New Hampshire officials found themselves again in the middle of a financial fracas recently with the resignation of chief fundraiser Peter Weiler.

After only serving the university since 2010, Weiler is leaving his $300,000-a-year post to become the new vice president for university relations and president of the University of Maryland College Park Foundation. 

Weiler’s short stint at UNH again has forced President Mark Huddleston and University System of New Hampshire Board of Trustees Chairman Ed Dupont to defend what critics see as an unreasonably high salary, presumably one that will be passed along to Weiler’s successor. 

So far, however, it appears their reasoning is not passing muster, with either the local professors’ union or the editorial board here at Foster’s Daily Democrat.

Responding to the news of Weiler’s departure, Deanna D. Wood, president of the UNH chapter, American Association of University Professors, questioned whether he has earned his keep while in Durham.

“They paid quite a bit to get him from Ohio State, and I personally haven’t seen any results,” Wood told the New Hampshire Union Leader. “The university has been claiming how poor they are and how little money there is, but I personally am curious as to why they would pay so much for someone who obviously wasn’t planning on staying.” 

Coming to the defense was Huddleston: “Our No. 1 fundraising priority is student scholarships, and we expect to raise many times more than the combined salaries of our fundraisers for the benefit of students.” 

To this Dupont added: “We compete in a national environment for academic leaders, and certainly when it comes to running this type of operation, you do a national search, and we were lucky to have Peter come here, and he came here making less money than he made at his previous job.” 

What strikes us as out of kilter is Weiler’s lack of success in actually raising funds to give students a financial break.

By inference, if not outright admission, Huddleston and Dupont grant that Weiler has not been able to rake in the dough during his short time at UNH.

From the Union leader: “Both Huddleston and Dupont said that Peter Weiler established the organization and infrastructure UNH needs to substantially increase its fundraising success over time.”

Were UNH a privately funded school, none of this would amount to a hill of beans. But UNH is a land-grant university under the auspices of the state of New Hampshire. Its mission is to provide an affordable education to New Hampshire’s young adults – something it arguably has not done for at least a couple decades. 

Further, UNH has a history of failed fundraising efforts that have left a sour taste in the mouths of many who pay the bills, the law school fundraising effort being the latest.

Before a replacement for Weiler is brought on board, UNH and USNH officials need to consider the context. That context includes faculty and staff who have been taking one for the Gipper with pay freezes and givebacks to help UNH muddle through financially hard times.

It also includes the students who will graduate with some of the highest educational debt in the country.

UNH’s next chief fundraiser needs to be held accountable for helping to establish realistic fundraising goals and meeting those goals in a timely manner.  To that end, we would suggest a pay-for-performance contract that is open to public scrutiny.

– Foster’s Daily Democrat