The California State University Board of Trustees approved a raise in salaries for campus presidents and system executives yesterday, despite opposition from Lieutenant Governor John Garamendi, the California Faculty Association (CFA) and CSU students.
“I’m very disappointed,” said Garamendi after the meeting’s end. “It sends the wrong message ? that salaries are worth more than the students,” he said.
The new executive compensation policy will increase salaries to an average of 11.8 percent, with Chancellor Charles B. Reed receiving a pay increase of $44,500, raising his salary to $421,500.
Executive Vice Chancellor and Chief Academic Officer Gary W. Reithard will receive an increase of $29,758, raising his salary to $302,246., Executive Vice Chancellor and Chief Financial Officer Richard P. West’s salary will increase to $325,625 by $34,367 and General Counsel Christine Helwick will receive an increase of $30,798, increasing her salary to $270,000. CSUN president Jolene Koester’s pay will be increased by $29,775, increasing her salary to $295,000.
Trustee Herbert Carter responded to concerns that the proposal to increase executive pay was “untimely” due the recent approval of the new state budget by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
“I’ve been quiet for a long time,” Carter said. And “it’ll never be timely” whether people ask for a 1 percent raise or a 15 percent raise, he said.
“We must do what we can to be fair ? and we made a commitment that we ought to ensure faculty will be paid, but that does not negate my responsibilities to the presidents, deans or people who tend to the grounds,” Carter said.
Carter also said it’s necessary to raise executive compensation in a time when the state legislators are “more inclined to spend on prisons than on education.”
Vice chair trustee Jeffrey L. Bleich, who supported the increase, said during the discussion after the public’s comments that although it’d be considered “very bad public relations” of the board to approve of the raise, the executives have “no one to advocate for them.”
In response to Garamendi’s earlier concerns that the salary raises are “clearly tied to a student fee increase,” Bleich said the total amount of compensation “doesn’t even register” against the difference in the amount of student fees.
The Board of Trustees’ policy on executive compensation will help account for “the salary lag between CSU executives” and other higher education institutions, the proposal for the pay hike shows. The California Postsecondary Education Commission (CPEC) concluded a difference of 46 percent between CSUs and other schools in the western region such as the privately funded University of Southern California and Reed College, as well as state-funded colleges such as Arizona State University, University of Colorado, Denver and University of Nevada, Reno.
Lillian Taiz, CFA president, said executives’ priorities should be focused on their roles as public servants and not on “corporate-sized salaries and perks” at the meeting.
“This is not the way to build a community that works together,” Taiz said.
Pat Gantt, CSU Employees Union (CSUEU) president and professor of biology at CSU Chico, recounted the story of a 15-year employee at the meeting.
“His children qualified for free lunches,” Gantt said, adding that the board should be focusing on their non-executive employees. “What do you want this university to be and what do you want taxpayers to think?”
Adam Haverstock, A.S. president, spoke out against the executive compensation increases at the meeting.
“This is really about smart spending on behalf of CSU,” Haverstock said. He noted that while many faculty members struggle to make enough money to buy a house, “I think it’s pretty easy to own a home and raise a family for (the) rate” that executives are paid.
“Let me tell you what, I don’t want them working (for CSU) only for the pay,” he said as the audience applauded. After the meeting, Haverstock said he appreciated the board taking the time to hear the public’s comments, but he still felt that their decision was not justified.
Faculty members in the audience felt betrayed that the trustees supported the proposal to raise executive salaries, and several commented among themselves as the meeting took place.
As Carter said that the board has “the responsibility to the people who run this system; they earned the money.” CSU San Bernardino computer science professor and CFA member Yasha Karant said, “So does the faculty.”
Fred Nakamura of CSU Long Beach’s health center uttered “traitor” as trustee Jennifer Reimer, who is also business administration master’s program student at CSU Fresno, voiced her support for the pay increase.
“The money should trickle up, not down,” said Nakamura, saying that oftentimes the people who receive pay raises first are those who don’t need it.
“The board is made of people who are very successful ?and other CEOs. They’re just scratching one another’s back. You don’t see the average man up there,” Nakamura said.
Dina Cervantes, a senior family consumer science major and president of the California State Student Association, said she was also disappointed in the outcome of the meeting.
“It seems like it doesn’t really matter what anyone else is saying,” Cervantes said.
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