California State University student leaders debated on increasing executive compensation, student tuition and other student issues at the California State Student Association (CSSA) conference on Saturday and Sunday hosted by San Diego State University.
The CSSA Board of Directors voted to oppose a recommendation made by CSU Board of Trustees to increase executive compensation by 11.8 percent during a special meeting on Sunday.
CSSA Board of Directors scheduled a special meeting to immediately follow the regular meeting on Sunday afternoon to discuss the proposal that if passed will increase Chancellor Charles B. Reed’s salary from $377,000 to $421,500 and CSUN President Jolene Koester’s salary from $265,225 to $295,000.
CSSA President and CSUN Director of Legislative Affairs Dina Cervantes said Monday following the meeting that the board voted to oppose the proposal, which will be recorded and reported at the Board of Trustees meeting on Wednesday when the proposal will be voted on.
Matthew Tiffany, representative of campus of affairs at Cal State, Los Angeles, said a main issue was the student representative on the board of trustees, Student Trustee Jennifer Reimer, didn’t take a consensus with CSSA. Instead, her report during the CSSA meeting on Saturday said the board of trustees would be voting on this issue and she was in favor of it.
CSU students elected Reimer, a 24-year-old MBA graduate student at Fresno State, as student trustee earlier this year during individual campus student government elections. She holds one of the two student representative seats on the Board of Trustees that have the power to vote, however the other seat is currently vacant. Job description of the student trustee includes “advocating on behalf of students,” “working with student leaders in (?) resolving issues affecting students,” “advocate action on issues and concerns in the best interests of students” and overall is the voice of the students.
CSUN Senator of Arts, Media and Communication Raffi Vartanian agreed with Tiffany and said, “The fact that we didn’t get represented bothers me the most.”
“They already make so much,” said Tiffany, “four times the amount professors do who have taught for a lifetime. There’s no reasonable justification.”
“It further exacerbates the inequality within the CSU system,” said Tiffany who spoke to the board and students during public comment at Sunday’s meeting,
“Institutions are complex entities,” said Reimer. “We need competent people at all levels: faculty, staff and administration.”
“Increasing pay doesn’t mean better employees,” said CSUN Senator Vianney Moran.
“I was very open to dialogue and encouraging views,” said Reimer. “After looking at all possible info, it’s the responsible thing to do.”
Brandon Souza, Associated Student Inc. President at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo supports Reimer and said the “head of institutions are proof” of well run schools and if getting the best “means more money, than so be it.”
Souza and Reimer both referenced a study done by the California Postsecondary Education Commission that showed the average CSU president was making 46 percent less than the average presidents of other institutions.
Reimer also cited last year’s 1 percent faculty salary increase that cost $38 million, where as the executive increase will cost an additional $840,767 each year.
“It has nothing to do with affordability, all just greed,” said CSUN Associated Students President Adam Haverstock, and once individuals are making more than $200,000 they “need to consider why you’re doing the job you’re doing.”
“It may not be popular, but it is the right thing to do,” said Reimer who still plans to vote in favor of the compensation increase.
At the regular meeting on Sunday, a resolution was presented to reflect the CSSA’s oppositions to a recent Board of Trustees information item that suggested Masters of Business tuition would be more than doubled. The increase would raise the graduate program tuition to $210 a unit, raising annual tuition from $10,000 to $22,000.
The resolution was drafted on Saturday by the CSU student representatives and will be distributed to the Board of Trustees, CSU Chancellor, CSU Campus Presidents and other student associations.
“There was not enough research done and students were not consulted,” Cervantes said of the item that may be voted on in December or January by the Board of Trustees.
Reimer said she would need more information before she voted and said the demographics of MBA students are different because some “employers pay for MBA programs,” but didn’t know how prevalent that was.
“Accreditation is very important for business schools,” said Reimer, “and that can be expensive.”
The CSSA Board of Directors is made up entirely of CSU students and meet once a month. In addition to the board nearly 30 students affiliated with their own campus student government associations were present with the majority of the 23 CSU campuses being represented.
Saturday afternoon another heated topic surfaced when Haverstock spoke to advocate for harsher sanctions on campuses that are not paying their CSSA annual dues. Membership to CSSA is voluntary, but all CSU campuses are recognized and required to pay annual dues to participate.
“He said exactly what everyone on CSSA wanted to say,” said Felipe Caceres, Vice President for Academic Governance at CSULA. “He helped the entire board realize the dilemma that faces CSU students as a whole.”
Annual dues are calculated by 60 cents per student enrolled at each campus, and CSUN paid $19,945.80 for 2006-2007. Currently six campuses are not paying dues, and the CSSA constitution law that states non-paying campuses cannot vote is not being enforced.
“You gotta pay to play,” Vartanian said. “We’ll listen to what they have to say, but they shouldn’t have voting power.”
“It’s an issue of ethics,” said CSUN Upper Division Senator Alexander Ross. “Non-paying due members should want to pay dues and be on the same page.”
Ross also said CSSA was one of the world’s largest student organizations and all campuses working together with the same goal can be an “extremely powerful voice.”
Haverstock said Saturday evening that each non-paying campus has different reasons for not paying. He said Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, which hasn’t paid in nearly 22 years, doesn’t believe the goals of CSSA fit with their campus student goals.
Cervantes said CSSA is not as strong without 100 percent support from all campuses, but wants to work on why campuses are not paying and “realistically work something out”.
Overall in regards to the conference Cervantes said, “Everyone came willing to work. We disagreed on some things, but were able to move forward.”
The next CSSA meeting will be hosted by San Jose State University on Oct. 19 to Oct. 21.
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