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Davis, California

Saturday, October 23, 2021

Column: Excess

In my final year as an undergrad, I’ve noticed I spend a lot of time thinking about money – ways I can save it, ways I can earn it, ways I would steal it if I had the fortitude. Admittedly, I have some anxiety about where I’ll be in six months and how I might use my talents to earn enough money to send my kids to college some day.

But there are people who work for this university’s administration for whom this type of anxiety is not a personal consideration.

They’ve earned salaries working here that I have quite literally dreamt of. I envy their financial security in a way that is indescribable, yet last week I find out 36 of the highest paid administrators aren’t satisfied. They are threatening to sue the university for millions of dollars that would otherwise fund the education of the students their bureaucracy should represent. Thankfully, only four of them are from UC Davis, which makes us exactly one-ninth of a multi-million dollar moral quandary.

Now, let’s clear up a common misconception: Administrators are not by trade bad people.

In many cases, the university hires these administrators to find ways to combat the effects of vanishing state subsidies. Their salaries are a direct representation of the amount of money they save the university and, transitively, they save you.

Take our chief risk officer Grace Crickette, for example. She “has saved the university over $100 million by driving down the cost of workers’ compensation, negotiating much more advantageous terms with our insurance company,” so this year, she received a modest raise. She has also taken four-figure pay cuts each year since at least 2007. I suppose a little extra incentive to keep saving the university money isn’t so evil. She made $191,391.16 last year, earning the money she saves the university. As if this weren’t incentive enough.

In a similar fashion, each of the four UC Davis administrators involved in this pickle has earned his or her living doing truly incredible things for this university. Dr. Steven Currall’s bio is as long as my arm. Dr. Claire Pomeroy received the 2009 Humanitarian of the Year Award from United Cerebral Palsy of Greater Sacramento. These administrators have made a phenomenal living by investing themselves in our university and by helping those in need.

Which makes this whole pension kerfuffle that much more agitating. It feels uncharacteristic, almost traitorous coming from people who have achieved such wealth and public notoriety by dedicating their lives to this university. These are the last people students should have to ask, “Why the change of heart?”

In five years, I’ve never met an administrator who is worth this type of money a year. No doubt they’ve had some incalculable impact on my receiving a partially subsidized education, I’ve just never shaken one’s hand. I’ve never gone to one’s office hours. An administrator has never taught me something of value and has never had to put up with my bellyaching. Well, until now.

In their letter, they claim that we dole out pension benefits in excess of the IRS’s federal maximum as a means of maintaining competition with other universities – that if we want the best, we have to pay for the best. Or the best will move to Indiana or something.

I argue that if these administrators truly bled blue and gold like tens of thousands of 18-to-23-year-old undergrads do, like our professors, staff and facilities managers do, they’d continue being the best, saving this university money when it needs it most, without demanding more in return. We have been so generous with their pay already. Their selflessness in our time of collective need would give us unprecedented confidence in all the administrators we students don’t get to interact with.

In the next year, I challenge one administrator to take that modest raise and go to Dutton Hall. Walk over to the financial aid line and use that money you save our university to put a troubled student’s financial anxiety to rest. Who knows, that student could end up being the next bigwig UC administrator, and what an example they would have to follow.

JOSH ROTTMAN wonders whether Republican state Sen. Tony Strickland actually commented on last week’s column, or if someone’s messing with him. If you know the truth, reach him at jjrottman@ucdavis.edu.

Steven C. Currall, Ph.D., dean, UC Davis Graduate School of Management – $293,843.70

William McGowan, CFO, UC Davis Health System – $346,073

Dr. Claire Pomeroy, MBA, CEO, UC Davis Health System; Vice Chancellor/Dean, UC Davis School of Medicine – $528,978.20

Ann Madden Rice, CEO, UCD Medical Center – $574,187.16

1 COMMENT

  1. Thank you for expressing so well what many of us think. Sure, we want to attract the best people here, but what about the staff already at UCD, the majority of whom make about 1/10 of the salary of these well-paid people. We have had furloughs, cuts, etc.—never mind a raise– but pretty much everyone keeps on doing their jobs anyway. I think many of the staff at UCD are already exhibiting the selfless generosity you are calling for among these highest-paid administrators. We should all share in the sacrifices being made in this difficult budget era, to keep from pricing California’s students out of UC altogether.

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