Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed over 221 bills two Sundays ago. Among them was Senate Bill 86, which would have banned UC Regents, CSU Trustees and community college leaders from giving executive officers pay increases during bad budget years.
On the surface, this sounds logical – especially during this time of budget turmoil and high emotions. Students have been watching their fees creep steadily upward while waiting longer to get into classes. Faculty and staff have been doing more work for less pay and with fewer resources. They have a right to be angry, but legislating away the ability of our leaders to attract top-notch talent is not the answer.
Yes, this is exactly the line regurgitated by administrators every time someone gets a raise. And yes, it smacks of elitism and makes the populist masses boil over with rage. But that doesn’t make it any less accurate.
CSU presidents and UC chancellors are already notoriously underpaid compared to their out-of-state counterparts. A California Postsecondary Education Commission report found that leaders of both institutions earn approximately 38 percent less in California than they would in other states’ public universities. The median salary for presidents of public four-year colleges nationwide is $427,000, yet between both UC and CSU, only two campus leaders make more than that.
This doesn’t even include private universities, which have pay rates in an entirely different world, but still compete with public institutions for personnel. Asking an individual to leave their job and work for the UC system for nothing except a change in title and maybe a moving allowance is a pretty hard sell.
We’re in a financial crisis, that’s no secret. But we didn’t get here by overpaying our leaders and we’re not going to get out by underpaying them.