There has been a lot of anger by students directed at UC in the last week, as UC proposed five more years of increased tuition, but if you believe the Enterprise editorial, “the problem is in Sacramento.”
Writes the local paper, “While the rage against the immediate decision-makers is understandable, the students — and voters concerned with the future of UC — may be better served by turning their focus away from the local chancellors’ offices, away from the Bay Area regents meetings, and toward Sacramento. After all, the increased tuition is a response to chronic underfunding by the state, a gap that shows no sign of closing anytime soon.”
They note, “Current funding leaves the system $460 million below 2008 levels.”
“Brown vetoed legislation that would have given the University of California and California State University systems a $100 million financial boost, saying the state lacked the money,” they write. “The budget Brown signed this past summer included that $100 million — if the state received a certain level of revenue from property taxes. But Brown said those tax revenues didn’t materialize.”
But the students see the administrators as the enemy. Indeed, as the Enterprise points out, they see the governor, the former speaker, the lieutenant governor and others vote against the increase, “and they vent their rage at the regents who vote yes. They don’t see the backroom deal-making that led to UC’s shortage.”
Clearly, the local paper has bought the administrative line – the question is why?
It was only two months ago that the UC Board of Regents voted to award 20 percent pay increases to their three lowest-paid chancellors. Wrote the San Francisco Chronicle at the time, “Heralding what the University of California regents promise will be a new era of pay increases at the public university, the governing board gave 20 percent raises Thursday to their three lowest-paid chancellors – with some regents expressing regret that they could give so little.”
Only one regent voted against that increase – Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom.
Writes the Chronicle, “The salary increases came a day after finance executives told the regents at their meeting in San Francisco that academic quality is in jeopardy, thanks to years of budget shortfalls. They said UC lacks the funds to keep the student-faculty ratio from rising, replace aging technology, close salary gaps for faculty and staff, and address other ‘unmet needs related to graduate and undergraduate education.’ “
The regents raised the base salary of Chancellors Dorothy Leland of UC Merced and George Blumenthal of UC Santa Cruz to $383,160 from $319,300. They raised UC Santa Barbara Chancellor Henry Yang’s base salary to $389,340 from $324,450.
My favorite quote comes from Regent Bonnie Reiss, who serves on the compensation committee. “At first I was concerned about how this will look to the general public,” she said. “But [she said she] changed [her] mind after recalling that UC Irvine lost its chancellor, Michael Drake, last year when he quit to run Ohio State University, where the base pay was $851,303, the nation’s highest for a public university.”
“We’re starting today with our lowest-paid chancellors, but the Board of Regents feels it’s still not enough,” she added.
The Chronicle continues, “The higher pay is ‘correcting injustices’ done to the chancellors, whose base salaries are the lowest of the 62 leading research universities – including 26 top private universities – that make up the Association of American Universities, said Regent Russell Gould, who also serves on the compensation committee.”
As one editorial put it, “Generally, the argument that the UC and California State University systems must keep pace in the executive-pay arms race or lose their best bosses has always been shaky, dating back to the recession years when the number of UC employees making $1 million a year more than tripled. As one Board of Regents adviser noted at last week’s meeting, the argument that campus executives’ salaries must be kept competitive should apply to all university employees.
“Yes, what about the importance of staying competitive in the battle to attract the best professors and students? UC Regents’ focus on rewarding chancellors sends a terrible message to faculty members and most of all to students, who face rising costs and higher barriers to in-state student admission.”
So, on the one hand, UC wants to argue that they are broke and are forced to make do with less, but on the other hand, they want to argue that they need to increase the pay of their chancellors, but ignore the faculty and students. It would be like a ball team increasing salaries for its manager and general manager, but allowing its players to walk away to free agency.
The local paper notes, “One other significant budget pressure facing UC is one shared by many other government institutions — the unfunded $7.2 billion liability for pensions.”
One of Speaker of the Assembly Toni Atkins’ recommendations was, “UC should adopt the pension reforms for new employees contained in the Public Employees’ Pension Reform Act of 2013.”
Of course, one of the points that the Enterprise fails to make is that following the passage of Prop. 30, the state is slowly increasing funding by $50 million per year, but UC needs to do its share to cut costs while the state slowly recovers from the recession.
Right now, by increasing student tuition while increasing compensation to chancellors, the board of regents is sending the wrong message – that attracting the best quality of administrators is more important than attracting the best quality of students and faculty. Ultimately, that’s a losing strategy.
—David M. Greenwald reporting