During recent budget cuts and proposed fee increases to the University of California system, highly paid faculty members have come under fire.
At UC Davis, top paid faculty members include neurological surgery professor at the UC Davis Medical Center J. Paul Muizelaar, at $858,999.91; CEO of the UC Davis Medical Center Ann Rice, at $798,230.14; co-director of the UC Davis Spine Center Professor Kee D. Kim, at $746,955.14; vice chancellor at the UC Davis Medical Center and Dean of the School of Medicine Claire Pomeroy, who will be stepping down in June, at $734,378.38 and medical director of the UC Davis Vascular Center Professor John R. Laird at $575,000.
University of California is unusual in having a pay scale. The main pay scale is for faculty on regular nine-month appointments in non-professional school departments, notably in the College of Letters and Science. The usual progression begins at Assistant Professor Step 2, six years later promoted to Associate Professor Step 1, then eventually to Full Professor Step 1. Promotion to Full Professor Step 1 takes 12 years from the start. Then every three years after that, one would move up a step, according to A. Colin Cameron, a professor in the UC Davis economics department.
“On average, more productive people get paid more than people in disciplines with strong non-university sector demand e.g. business professors, doctors,” Cameron said.
The pay system is one-size-fits all. In theory, English professors earn the same as chemistry professors and in most fields the UC pay scales are below the salaries people receive at comparably-ranked universities, according to Cameron.
“Most of us work between 40 and 100 hours a week, including massive amounts of middle of the night and weekend and holidays work. Compared to lawyers, administrators, business people and private practice neurosurgeons, our pay is actually low, and if calculated as per hour/overtime pay it is really low,” said Muizelaar in an email interview.
Muizelaar said that only the best are admitted to medical school, and of that group, only top students are accepted into neurosurgery training programs. After seven years of grueling training at around age 34 to 40, students graduate.
He said that despite the high “status” of neurosurgery, there is already a noticeable decrease in interest in going into neurosurgery, probably in part due to the mismatch between talent and working conditions and pay as compared to many other fields.
Some still do not agree with the amount of pay UC faculty members continue to receive during the state’s ongoing financial crisis.
“I find it disturbing that you could take $100,000 out of each person’s salary and they would still be part of the one percent and not even feel the effects of losing that money … Right there we would have $1 million that could then go back into a school that is already facing severe budget cuts,” said Rachel Elefant, a third-year religious studies and history double major.
According to UC Davis Interim Executive Director of Strategic Communications Barry Shiller, Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi’s salary at $408,915.96 was temporarily reduced during previous systemwide employee furloughs, which were imposed as a cost-cutting measure.
“[The] chancellor’s salaries are set contractually and subject to approval by the UC Regents. Chancellor Katehi’s compensation is the same as it was when she was appointed in 2009,” Shiller said.
Most recently, the newly appointed UC Berkeley chancellor, Nicholas B. Dirks, was awarded a $50,000 increase in his salary, which is now $486,000. During a recent UC Board of Regents meeting, it was stated that this would be paid by private donations, not state funds, according to a UC Office of the President statement.
NATASHA QABAZARD can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.