Commentary: UC Remains Tone Deaf and Blind on Salaries



University of California students might be forgiven if they are a bit cynical.  After all, for years now they have been asked to pay an increasingly larger share of the burden of their education.  Much of that money will be repaid later severalfold as students struggle under an avalanche of debt that the leadership in Congress has failed to address and has at times made worse.

Still, I think that most students could probably understand that, as the natural outcome of the worst recession since the Great Depression, this is a state that continues to teeter on the brink of budget crisis and overall malaise – if only that burden seemed to be shared evenly across all comers to the UC System.

The problem is that has not happened.  In the years since the recession, what we have seen is the ever-increasing disparity between the rich and poor within the UC system itself.  Students have been asked to pay a greater share of their tuition, low level employees have experienced layoffs, furloughs and salary cuts, and even the faculty has been asked to sacrifice.

However, at the top, chancellors like Linda Katehi have received huge increases in salary from those of their predecessors.  Recently, UC Davis hired Adela de la Torre to be Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs.  She has a very interesting and compelling story, but her base salary is $235,998, marking a 12.4 percent increase over that of her predecessor Fred Wood.

So, at a time when students are being asked to pay more and more in tuition, the system has no problem giving vice chancellors 12.4 percent increases in salary – what, she wouldn’t have taken the position had the base salary remained the same?  Would she have bolted if she only got a six percent increase?

Still, the biggest travesty is the lost opportunities and the failure of UC to learn from their mistakes.

UC President Mark Yudof was always a marked man.  No matter what his policies, whenever he spoke, all the students could see were giant dollar signs coming out of their mouths and if you asked them, most of them probably felt like it was their money.

Mark Yudof was a respected constitutional scholar and university administrator upon his hire, but his tenure will forever be remember by his huge amount of compensation.

The University of California had a chance to change that with their new hire.  After all, UC President Janet Napolitano made a mere $200,000 when she headed up the Department of Homeland Security.  You would think $400,000 would be a nice raise.

Instead, she received a salary of $570,000.  Remarkably, that represents a very modest decrease from Mark Yudof’s record $591,100 salary.  UC is bragging about the 3.57 percent pay decrease?  Really?  Do they think the public and the students are gullible?

Of course, it was never just about the salary.  Mr. Yudof’s benefits took him well over $800,000 in total compensation and, just for fun, UC kicked in about $142,000 in moving expenses.  Must be nice.

Ms. Napolitano had the opportunity to set the example and take a substantially lower salary than her predecessor.  That would have shored up some of the concerns that many have about a non-academic, about an individual who was responsible for many of the government surveillance programs and some of the immigration suppression policies that have students and activists alike concerned.

Apparently for some, taking a slightly less salary and less in pension-fund contributions is enough.

She is receiving three times what she got working under President Obama’s administration, with free housing, an auto allowance and moving expenses.

What she does not get is an opportunity to really tackle the issue of UC pay and the discrepancy between the haves and the have-nots.

As one newspaper wrote when she was hired, “Napolitano and the regents can make a clean break with the incestuous market basket survey among public and private universities, where every administrative move sends salaries ever higher in the stratosphere.”

Instead of making reasonable change and sending the strong message that pay at a public university should reflect public purposes not private enrichment, she has continued the trend that sees university administrators making nearly half a million and UC administrators making even more than that.

If the system were booming, we could understand the concept of rewarding those at the top.  But at a time when we face layoffs, furloughs, pay cuts and double-digit tuition hikes not once but multiple times over the last five years – this is not the time for exploding executive salaries.

Senator Leland Yee has been fighting this battle for a number of years.  When Mark Yudof retired, he said, “I hope we finally begin a new chapter at the University of California. Unfortunately, under President Yudof’s leadership, students and workers unfairly suffered while top executives got wealthier. To make matters worse, Yudof leaves the university with a $1 million pension that will be paid on the backs of students and taxpayers.”

Senator Yee has introduced legislation several times that would prohibit executive pay hikes “during bad budget years or when student fees increase.”

Governor Jerry Brown has publicly stated that UC and CSU should resist pay hikes for their top administrators.

“Despite calls from the Governor, UC and CSU continue to line the pockets of their top administrators,” said Yee. “The Regents and Trustees treat dollars meant for students as a personal slush fund for already wealthy executives. SB 8 will stop these egregious compensation practices and help restore the public trust.”

“UC and CSU are public institutions designed to serve California’s students and not to be a cash cow for wealthy executives,” said Senator Yee. “I am committed to passing legislation to stop these egregious compensation practices and restore the public trust.”

Clearly, UC officials cannot control themselves and the latest salaries are merely the latest examples.  They remain tone deaf, both to the outcry from the public and to the pleas of their own students.

—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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10 thoughts on “Commentary: UC Remains Tone Deaf and Blind on Salaries”

  1. Frankly

    This is like screaming at a wall.

    [i]UC and CSU are public institutions designed to serve California’s students and not to be a cash cow for wealthy executives,” [/I]

    Let’s just rewrite that to [b]”All government entities are supposed to serve constituents and not be a cash cow for employees of the government.”[/b]

    I would have less of a problem with this level of UC executive compensation if 60% of that compensation was at risk and tied to executive performance that was based on public-approved goals for the organization. Measures of service, quality and price should be included in those goals.

  2. SouthofDavis

    Senator Yee wrote:

    > Yudof leaves the university with a $1 million
    > pension that will be paid on the backs of students
    > and taxpayers.”

    The Davis Enterprise earlier this year wrote:

    > Yudof will receive an annual pension of “at least $230,000

    If Yudoff had a “$1 million pension” he would be getting about $40K a year.

    This guy “worked” a little over 5 years and was paid about $3 MILLION in salary and benifits and now after his “long” service he is getting a pension (assuming the Enterprisr number of $230K a year is correct) worth about $5 MILLION (about a million for each year he “worked”).

    I don’t see why the university (or anyone) needs to offer a pension to a guy making over a million every few years.

    For years just about everyone on the left supported “education” but now more and more people are starting to notice that paying millions and millions to execs is doing a lot to hurt the people that actualy “educate” kids…

  3. Ginger

    [quote][i]UC and CSU are public institutions designed to serve California’s students and not to be a cash cow for wealthy executives,” [/i]


    Let’s just rewrite that to “All government entities are supposed to serve constituents and not be a cash cow for employees of the government.”

    YUP. That’s the point I was going to make.

    This really shouldn’t be a surprise…it’s only an exception because it is in our own backyard. It’s the Washington DC shell-game of moving around insiders from one power position to the next. Reminds me of an excerpt I recently read about the new book This Town by Leibovich:

    [quote]Leibovich recalls Obama’s attacks on lobbyists during the 2008 campaign, including the promise to keep them out of the White House. “It’s not who we are,” top aides intoned.

    But it is who they became. In a near-parody of Washington’s revolving door, administration honchos joined up with some of the biggest corporate villains of recent years. Leibovich highlights the “unholy triplet”: Pentagon spokesman (and George W. Bush holdover) Geoff Morrell became BP’s head of U.S. communications , Treasury counselor Jake Siewert started spinning for Goldman Sachs, and OMB director Peter Orszag cashed in at Citigroup. (Morrell’s deal was negotiated by Barnett. Obviously.) And whenever lobbyists joined the administration, the White House would just “acknowledge the exception, wait out the indignant blog posts and press releases, and move on,” Leibovich writes. “That lobbying ban was so four years ago anyway.”[/quote]

    So, yeah. Napolitano could have taken 300k or 400k instead of 570k to make a statement. But she will just wait it out and move on.

    [quote] she received a salary of $570,000. Remarkably, that represents a very modest decrease from Mark Yudof’s record $591,100 salary. UC is bragging about the 3.57 percent pay decrease? Really? Do they think the public and the students are gullible?[/quote]

    Yes, they do. It’s the same tactic Obama uses when he (rightly) claims that he’s reducing the deficit at the fastest rate in 60 years. Just like Yudof’s salary was ridiculously high, our US deficit as a percentage of GDP had never been higher. Talking about a reduction is a really convenient way to hide the raw numbers.

  4. Frankly

    Ginger – I have Leibovich’s book on my iPad queued up and pushed to the top ready to read as my next book. I can’t wait. Although, I bet I am going to have to take some anger-management classes while I am reading it.

    We have drifted left in our politics at the same time our political system has devolved into a media-connected money-making industry. I find that very telling.

    There seems to be a [b]revenge of the drama nerds seeking revenge of the revenge of the regular nerds[/b], phenomenon in progress. The regular nerds had their mega-wealth tech stock run, and then the regular numbers-nerds made serious coin on computerized trading. Meanwhile the drama nerds seethed for being left out. Frustration and anger are great motivators, and with some hard work and a lot of luck in timing, the drama nerds found that they could effectively steal the wealth of others with political power. Say: [b]”I am not a real leader, but I play one on TV!”[/b]

    Part of the luck of timing was the growing ubiquitous-ness of the media platform that they could use to sell their snake oil. The world became a stage.

    Other luck included the timing of the failures of the regular nerds before them: the tech stock, real estate and financial market bubbles and crashes. Plus their affiliation and exploitation of another set of angry and disenfranchised nerds: those with large academic brains only… and little monetary success to show for it. The timing of these events and connections allowed them to manufacture outrage over the nerds that came before them, and allowed them to dupe a voting public into believing that they, the drama nerds, were capable of fixing the problems.

    The problem we have today is that there are so many people so addicted to believing that they have won, that they have power, that they are right… that they continue to attract and enable more actors (aka drama nerds) to find a seat in politics so they can steal more wealth.

    States cut infrastructure and necessary services.

    Cities go bankrupt.

    The country keeps heading to top of the line in debt per GDP.

    Yet we keep electing these actors lacking real leadership experience and capabilities.

    Politics seem to be brewing as the next bubble. Unfortunately, there isn’t another entity to bail us out once that pops.

    Big Sis’s mega pay as the head of a UC system business that is self-destructing under its own bureaucratic bloat is just one example multiplied by hundreds of thousands across all facets of government.

    Yet all we do about it is shout at the wall.

  5. brianriley429

    I doubt that Yudof was regarded as being a respected Constitutional scholar. During the March 2, 2012 live web chat with faculty and staff he couldn’t even recite the first five amendments in the Bill of Rights! What a farce.

  6. Brian Riley

    That CV in that link, David, is actually a short version. Here’s a longer version of his CV:


    His CV doesn’t look so bad, but we know that he doesn’t really have an impressive ability to put it all together when making policy recommendations to the Regents. It was his idea to keep raising tuition, supposedly because the UC needed to be more on par with what the private universities are charging. That dog don’t hunt!

  7. Brian Riley

    And here’s the official transcript from the March 2, 2012 web chat, showing where Yudof couldn’t even get the Second and Fourth Amendments right. The Second Amendment has nothing to do with quartering soldiers. That’s the Third Amendment. Also, the fourth amendment is not about testifying. That’s the Fifth Amendment.


    PENNY HERBERT: Will the Regents take a position on or endorse any of the tax initiatives?

    PRESIDENT MARK YUDOF: Well Penny, remember there’s the First Amendment, which is freedom of speech and religion? Second is quartering of soldiers, you know, Fourth has to do with certain types of searches and testifying. And I’m taking the Fifth Amendment today. I shouldn’t answer your question but I will.



    You can watch it here (starting at the 10:50 mark):


    Even with two fawning, handpicked interviewers who were screening the questions and giving him softball questions, he still botched things up.

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