Top cash for top CSU executives
Board of Trustees votes 14-2 in favor of top admin raises
September 27, 2007 10:03 AM
In the California State University system, it pays to be king—or one of the top 28 executives.
But it’s executives like Cal State Long Beach President F. King Alexander, who was hired last year at a salary of $291,208 a year —plus other perks such as retirement benefits and free housing—who aren’t making enough money, the CSU Board of Trustees explained last week at their first meeting of the school year.
“The competitiveness of the CSU’s executive compensation program is being seriously eroded,” Chancellor Charles Reed said on Sept. 18, leading the trustees to adopt a new policy that raised the salary of campus presidents, vice-chancellors and Reed himself as much as 18 percent a year.
In the 14 to 2 vote, the board also agreed to begin a five-year period during which executives will make up the “serious salary lag” that employees face. If they don’t take these measures, Board of Trustees Chair Roberta Achtenberg said the CSU won’t be able to attract and retain experienced administrators.
This school year, campus presidents will earn, on average, nearly $293,000. SF State president Robert Corrigan will earn $298,749 after the pay raises.
Lieutenant Governor John Garamendi, an ex officio member of the Board, called the moves “ill-timed and unwise” in a Sept. 17 letter to Chancellor Reed and Chairwoman Achtenberg and urged them to reconsider. He and board member Ricardo F. Icaza, Food and Commercial Workers union president, cast the only dissenting votes on the policy.
“I’m really upset,” Icaza said. “I’m always in favor of having comparable wages but I just feel that the timing for this is wrong, it’s so bad.”
With the new policy, executives also seek to attain parity; within four years, the average CSU presidential salary is expected to rise by 46 percent, reaching $378,774, the average salary of presidents at comparable schools.
After just one year on the job, Alexander received a nine percent raise and will gross $320,329 this year. That makes him the third-highest paid campus president in the system, behind the heads of California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo and Cal State Los Angeles—both of whom were hired in 1979.
Not to be outdone, Cal Poly’s Warren Baker received a nine percent raise and now earns $328,209 a year while Los Angeles’ James Rosser got a 13 percent raise for a $325,000 salary.
Garamendi called it a “bad public relations” move, particularly in light of the second student fee increase the Board approved in three years.
“In actual dollars, the amount of the pay increases received by many executives is greater that the total annual pay of many other CSU employees, such as janitors, groundskeepers, and food service employees,” Garamendi said.
In order to make jobs on Cal State universities as attractive as possible, the Board of Trustees has a policy of offering competitive salaries to new hires.
Mildred Garcia, the new president of California State University at Dominguez Hill, hired in August, is earning $295,000, more than all but one campus president before the new pay raises were put into place.
“We got lucky there because it’s harder to attract an executive of that caliber when they are making 27 to 46 percent less than at other universities,” Browning said.
He added that Garcia took a pay cut of $40,000 from her previous post as president of Berkeley College of New York and New Jersey to work for the CSU system. Salary, she says, was not her main motivator.
“I am thrilled to have the opportunity to lead this exceptional institution,” Garcia said. “Salary alone does not fill my desire to work alongside a University that will be the role model for the nation on educating a diverse population for a global, democratic society.”
All CSU employees, not just executives, are being promised raises over the years to come. The California Faculty Association fought last spring to receive a new contract that guarantees a 24 percent pay raise spread out over the next four years.
Adam Keigwin, an aide in Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco/San Mateo’s office, said that planning for raises years in advance is a dangerous policy given the uncertainty of the state’s financial situation.
“You have no idea whether that would be the best decision,” Keigwin said. “It’s so short-sighted to have this blanket policy for the next four years.”
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