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Monday, August 2, 2021

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Part of growing up means coming to the inevitable realization that, sometimes, things will not go the way you had hoped. Unfortunately, for those of us currently doing our growing up here at the University of California, Davis, it would appear that these unfortunate times occur more often than not.

Last week, a vote by the University of California Board of Regents to approve Linda Katehi, UC President Mark Yudof’s selection for the next chancellor at UC Davis, was met with mixed feelings of celebration and confusion. While some are hailing Yudof’s selection as a progressive pick that will help Davis be viewed as a system-wide powerhouse, many students on campus have been left scratching their heads and wondering how a man like Yudof can find the peace of mind to sleep at night.

For those of you unfamiliar with the growing controversy surrounding President Yudof’s selection, stand by for a brief history lesson.

As of right now, Chancellor Larry Vanderhoef rakes in an annual $315,000, while Linda Katehi earns a respectable $356,000 for her service as provost and vice chancellor at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

While these staggering figures should be ample compensation for two executive officials working in their respective public universities, recent events are beginning to make it look like the already bulging pockets of UC officials need to be, once again, lined with a fresh coat of cash.

Katehi’s salary, which was also approved by the regents last week, will start at the obscene amount of $400,000 per year. Those of you who were paying attention during my history lesson would know that this amount means a 12.4 percent increase from Katehi’s current salary, and a whopping 27 percent increase over Vanderhoef’s previous salary.

It’s also important to remember that a chancellor at the University of California already receives a place of residence, an annual $9000 allowance for automobile expenses, a guaranteed faculty position upon completing their term as chancellor, as well as a laundry list of other benefits that would make any other position in higher education seem like an entry level spot at ITT Tech.

By this point, I’m hoping that at least some of you have made the connection between this absurd example of out-of-control executive compensation and the current financial woes of the UC system, and are asking the question of how the regents can afford such careless spending.

Those of you who have read my column over the past two years can probably figure out where this is going, but for those of you who haven’t, get ready for a series of peculiar coincidences.

Last Thursday, which I may remind you was the exact same day that the UC Board of Regents approved Katehi and her disgustingly bloated salary, the Board also voted to increase undergraduate student fees by a margin of 9.3 percent. Oh, and don’t forget to tack on the additional $450,000 annual salary the regents approved for Susan Desmond-Hellmann, Yudof’s selection to take the helm at the UCSF campus.

So let’s take a moment and try to process all this information. At the beginning of this year the UC system was facing a two-year budget deficit of roughly $437 million. To combat such a dramatic financial shortcoming, the UC Board of Regents have consistently raised fees since 2001, bringing about an astonishing 70 percent increase in tuition over the last eight years.

Meanwhile, amidst all the talk of budget deficits and the ever-growing financial burden on UC students, President Yudof can somehow justify handing out an $85,000 salary increase without even batting an eye.

Does this remind anyone else of the UC executive compensation scandal back in 2006, the same scandal that arguably forced former President Dynes to resign? Or, perhaps even better, does anyone else find it slightly ironic that when Yudof first accepted the position of president he vowed to,regain the trust of Californians and the Board of Regents,while overcoming these financially challenging times?

If anything has become clear after last Thursday’s meeting, it’s that any hope of economic relief for students won’t come from the top ranking UC officials. Unfortunately, they’re all too busy looking out for each other, which, I’m sad to say, has become business as usual within the UC system.

 

JAMES NOONAN feels sorry for anyone who isn’t graduating next month, and urges them to pick up the pace. Thishigher educationthing isn’t getting any cheaper. Feel sorry for him at jjnoonan@ucdavis.edu.

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