Commentary: Mark Yudof Remains Oblivious To the Rest of the World

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During a time when the University of California is reeling from the mishandling of student protests by campus police on multiple campuses – protests spawned by increasing fees – it is appalling the degree to which the university is completely tone deaf to the concerns of students, many of whom believe that their fees are going to line the pockets of already wealthy and highly-paid administrators.

And at such a time, President Yudof and the regents supported a pretty massive increase to already well-paid executives.  His defense was almost laughable.

“We consider these retention efforts to be essential,” he said. “I understand it’s not a great time, but we can’t really close down shop and say we’re not going to make any effort to retain our best people.”

The Sacramento Bee came forward with the details:

  • Two vice chancellors at UC Irvine and a vice chancellor at UCLA got raises of 9.9 percent. That brings salaries for Wendell C. Brase and Meredith Michaels at UC Irvine to about $247,000, and the salary for Steven A. Olsen at UCLA close to $317,000.
  • Joseph I. Castro was appointed interim dean of the graduate division of UC San Francisco and given a 7.5 percent raise, bringing his salary to $252,625.
  • Steven A. Drown, chief campus counsel at UC Davis, got a 21.9 percent raise, bringing his salary to $250,000.
  • Diane F. Geocaris, chief campus counsel at UC Irvine, received a 14.3 percent raise, bringing her salary to $255,000.
  • Carole R. Rossi, chief campus counsel at UC Santa Cruz, received a 13.9 percent raise, bringing her salary to $215,000.
  • Michele Coyle, chief campus counsel at UC Riverside, received an 11.4 percent raise, bringing her salary to $215,000.
  • Marcia J. Canning, chief campus counsel at UC San Francisco, received an 8.9 percent raise, bringing her salary to $255,000.
  • Daniel Park, chief campus counsel at UC San Diego, received a 6.4 percent raise, bringing his salary to $250,000.

To say this is not a good time is an insult to the intelligence of everyone who works in the UC system, every student in the UC System, and every taxpayer.

Some have suggested that students are focusing their anger in the wrong place by focusing on the administration and to some extent the regents, but in light of such moves it is hard to argue with their angry choice of targets.

Chancellor Katehi’s salary has often been a target, and it has made her easy prey for the wrath of protesters and citizens of this community who are appalled at what has transpired.

But worse yet, this feeds into the belief by the protesters that the real problem is not a faltering economy or a legislature that has continually cut funding for education and higher education in the face of billion dollar deficits. The problem is the greed of the 1% embodied by the administrators making six-figure salaries, many of whom have received double-digit pay increases as students are annually asked to cough up double-digit fee hikes.

The fairness issue is going to fuel this rage, and that will not abate until wiser heads prevail.

And while it is true that the legislature and the previous governor bear a good deal of responsibility for tuition hikes, it is the students’ own perceived lack of political power that makes the students and school more vulnerable than others in the battle for increasingly scarce funds.

To the extent that this movement emboldens and empowers student protesters, forcing the regents and legislators to take them seriously, the more likely they are to prevail.

In any case, President Yudof, who himself has grabbed headlines for his exorbitant salary, has poured a giant can of gasoline on the fire.

While it may be easy to dismiss the occupy movement as a bunch of radicals, just as the anti-war movement began to gain steam when more and more middle-of-the-road people became sympathetic to their cause and digusted with the Vietnam War, the same danger exists here.

What Mr. Yudof apparently does not understand is that this is a battle for the hearts and minds of the middle ground student, and to a larger extent, the middle class voters of California who sent their kids, or dream of sending their kids, to a University of California school.

Right now, Mr. Yudof is losing the battle and probably does not even contemplate why that is.  Look in the mirror, Mr. Yudof, this is simply an atrocity almost as horrific as the pepper spraying itself.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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16 Comments

  1. SODA

    “While it may be easy to dismiss the occupy movement as a bunch of radicals, just as the anti-war movement began to gain steam as more and more middle of the road people became sympathetic to their cause and digusted with the Vietnam War, the same danger exists here.”

    “danger” David? For shame!

  2. newshoundpm

    If Yudof insisted upon pushing these raises now, in light of the current protests and at least nationwide attention that such protests are receiving, I must believe that Yudof believes that if he doesn’t grant these raises, then he will lose many of these employees who will take positions elsewhere with better pay. Many who protest the higher salaries will probably say that is fine. However, my worry is that if we were to move in this direction, hiring administrators, staff and faculty who are willing to accept less pay, whether the majority of those either attending the UC system or the alumni would be happy with a product that seeks to be a lower cost provider, rather than to be a top flight university. I think that the students should view themselves as customers. If they don’t like the product, they should go elsewhere for a better product. The sense that I get is that the protesters want a great education, but don’t feel that they should have to pay for it. Make the 1% pay for it. They make so much the State should tax them move and we should pay less. Also, the UC Regents and the Chancelors are not doing enough to convince the Governor and the state legislators to reallocate resources to the UC system and/or to get them to increase taxes on the 1%. It is as simple as that, isn’t it?

  3. newshoundpm

    I do agree that there is a danger that all of this continues to escalate and get more out of hand. If that happens, we can kiss the quality of a UC education goodbye. UC will be unable to retain top talent, which means that the value of a UC education diminishes, which means that top students, faculty and staff go to places willing to pay more for their services. Out of state students who once highly valued a UC Davis education, even at the significant premium to in-state residents, now look to go elsewhere, meaning that they are no longer subsidizing the in-state residents, meaning the costs for those remaining go up even more as the quality goes down. Katehi is run out of town and her initiatives to grow the university to make room for and attract out of state and international students dies, further reducing the subsidies to in-state students. Her initiatives to harness technology developed through research at UC Davis and covert it into businesses and to help establish UC Davis and the City of Davis as a innovation hub bringing start-up businesses and jobs to the region also die. This is where I think we are headed if this trajectory doesn’t change. It won’t happen quickly, but we’ll be on a path for UCD to degrade and fall in stature, rather than its current path of improvement. Some may think that this is good, particularly those who are protesting. I’m sure that many of the protestors would be willing to take any one of these positions for half of current salaries, let alone a salary increase. I worry about heading in this direction. Do you?

  4. Don Shor

    Somehow I don’t think the quality and reputation of the university is determined by the pay scale of the legal counsellors they employ. Note above who these pay raises were granted to.

  5. E Roberts Musser

    Here is the bottom line (pardon the pun): Yudof and Katehi were paid salaries quite a bit beyond their predecessors – supposedly because they were so much MORE qualified. The question people have to start asking themselves/others is did that extra money that went to Yudof and Katehi really verify/prove that Yudof and Katehi were any MORE qualified than their predecessors? Based on Yudof and Katehi’s handling of the recent debacles on campuses throughout the UC system and here on the UCD campus respectively, I am not convinced the extra money spent on these two was worth it. If anything, these two have shown themselves as LESS qualified than their predecessors IMO. Yet we paid MORE for them. Just because a person is paid more does not necessarily mean they are more qualified.

    We keep hearing justifications that people must be paid more to retain the
    “best” – but where does that sort of “keeping up with the Jones” get us? Now we have a university that is beginning to serve out of state/foreign students rather than in-state students (a troublesome move towards privatization of a public university), tuition has gone up 50% under Katehi’s/Yudof’s tenure, the legislature has decreased state funding dramatically. To be sure some of the problems are as a result of an abysmal economy, but some of it cannot be explained away so easily. And frankly, what about employee loyalty to an organization that transcends money considerations? Do we really want to retain people who will leave at the drop of a dime/dollar by some other educational institution?

  6. Dr. Wu

    I concur with newshound

    Many depts at UCs have already lost valuable talent as private schools have raided the best and brightest. Salaries matter. Legal Council is very important and it can save money to hire good people. Top legal talent costs money.

  7. E Roberts Musser

    [quote]Many depts at UCs have already lost valuable talent as private schools have raided the best and brightest. Salaries matter. Legal Council is very important and it can save money to hire good people. Top legal talent costs money.[/quote]

    Institutions cannot keep paying with money they don’t have. Students cannot pay for ever steeper tuition. At some point, the gravy train has to stop for the “best and brightest”. And frankly, from where I sit, Katehi and Yudof don’t look much like the “best and brightest” after all is said and done – yet we paid dearly for them, but at what cost?

  8. rusty49

    When the company I worked for went bankrupt the judge gave top management huge retention bonuses supposedly to keep the top talent from leaving. Yes, these were the same guys (talent) that led us into bankruptcy.

  9. medwoman

    Newshoundpm

    ” I think that the students should view themselves as customers. If they don’t like the product, they should go somewhere else for a better product”

    This line of thinking does not work for higher education. I would agree if universities operated like department stores and took all comers who could afford the prices. They don’t. There are a number of factors other than finances that determine where a student will be accepted.
    Nieman Marcus doesn’t turn people away because they have too many equally qualified people trying to get in or because they are not well connected enough. Harvard does.
    Some programs are unique to a given campus. Berkeley has the top ranked Integrative Biology department in the country.. Students there can’t just pack up and leave for a better product. If that is their field, they are facing unreasonable fee increases with no viable alternative.

  10. J.R.

    Yudof and Katehi are major improvements over their predecessors and UC is lucky to have them.

    The people who are out of touch are those who haven’t noticed that:

    1. The occupiers tried to close down the campus on Monday with a general strike. It was a total failure.

    2. The faculty are rallying around Katehi. Hundreds have signed a petition asking her not to resign.

    3. The geniuses that decided to occupy Dutton Hall are discovering that students get really irritated when they can’t pick up their financial aid checks.

  11. medwoman

    Dr Wu

    “Many depts at UCs have already lost valuable talent as private schools have raided the best and brightest. Salaries matter. Legal Council is very important and it can save money to hire good people. Top legal talent costs money.”

    I agree that salary does matter. I also believe that performance matters. Many contributors to the Vanguard have opined that public school teachers salaries should be dependent on performance as measured by student learning , not seniority or subjectively judged reputation.
    I think it would not be unreasonable to apply the same standard to Katehi and Yudof. Perhaps they could spontaneously decline a portion of their very generous compensation pending restoration of trust which Katehi herself cited as a necessary component of her job. I do not mind paying top dollar for top performance. Being “better than one’s predecessor as JR asserts, does not equate to top performance as I think current events have clearly demonstrated.

  12. newshoundpm

    Obviously, this has not been the finest hour for Yudof and Katehi in terms of performance. Different people are better at different things, and I believe that Katehi was brought in for a purpose other than being able to handle protests adeptly. She clearly isn’t great at all things. I agree that there is a systematic problem with pay and what various organizations are willing to pay for “top talent” so to speak. You see this in corporate America, as well. Whlie there are obviously exceptions, generally, more capable people cost more. It is all well and fine to say that people should take less out of loyalty and because they are paid “enough”. However, can we step back into the real world for a moment? There are many faculty that stay longer at lower pay for just that reason. However, at a point, the differential becomes too much. Additionally, what someone is willing to pay you is a reflection on how much they value you. Who doesn’t want to work for the place that values you the most? Everyone likes to be courted and told they are worth more. Also, there is inertia when someone already works somewhere. You’ve got to pay them enough to get them to want to uproot and relocate. So, when someone does leave, the difference between situations (both economic and otherwise) would need to be significant. This also means that when you backfill that position after the person leaves, you will likely have to pay more for a comparable individual, or settle for someone who isn’t as strong. This is likely to be particularly true, the longer the person who has left has been there. Quality isn’t free. We need to make the decision to either pay more for it, or pay less and settle for less. This isn’t to say that paying more for higher quality is always the right thing. It isn’t always worth it. I just don’t know where we are on the spectrum generally in this instance. Faculty could be biased, as they have an interest in getting paid more and others getting paid less. There also could be jealously between faculty who are paid less because either they or their positions don’t justify the higher salaries. Those faculty who support Katehi may think she will support their salaries and potentially increase the salaries to keep them. They may also simply believe that she can bring in more revenue, which allow her to pay them. What I do know, is that more money generally flows towards success, not an institution in decline. I believe that Katehi believes this as well, and that she doesn’t want UCD to become better out of ego, but because becoming better is truly what is best for the institution. Top facultly will want to be at the best universities, and will be willing to accept less salary and compensation to be at a better university, I suspect. Give research faculty the ability to be entrepreneurs, as well, and allow them to share in the fruits of their research with the university. That is part of their incentive and compensation to go to UCD. The best students will want this as well and it becomes a virtuous circle. Spiral up or spiral down.

  13. K.Smith

    “Give research faculty the ability to be entrepreneurs, as well, and allow them to share in the fruits of their research with the university.”

    They already have this sharing ability, since any research faculty who patents a new invention gets a portion of the royalties generated from that invention. Granted, I’m not sure what the exact percentage is (and I know it varies depending on who sponsors the research).

  14. E Roberts Musser

    [quote]…generally, more capable people cost more.[/quote]

    I’m not convinced of that…

    [quote]We need to make the decision to either pay more for it, or pay less and settle for less.[/quote]

    Settle for “less”? How do you define “less”? UCD is not ivy league. I suspect students would be happy to settle for “less” right about now, in light of the enormous tuition hikes lately.

    [quote]Top facultly will want to be at the best universities, and will be willing to accept less salary and compensation to be at a better university…[/quote]

    Then clearly money is not the only motivator, and more money does not necessarily equate to better quality… Think of it this way – does UCD have to be a Cadillac or will being a Toyota do quite nicely?

  15. justoutsidetown

    It appears that the campus attorneys had their pay boosted. Perhaps the UC system sees the looming lawsuits coming their way. Police brutality has its consequences.

    This timing is more than coincidental !

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