CSSA votes to oppose pay raises for CSU executives

Megan McFadden

Originally Published September 18, 2007

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 decided via a vote.

Matthew Tiffany, representative of campus 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 graduate student at Fresno State, as student trustee earlier this year during individual campus student government elections. Reimer holds one of the two student representative seats on the Board of Trustees that have the power to vote, but the other seat is 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, four times the amount professors do who have taught for a lifetime,” Tiffany said. “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,

Reimer said. “We need competent people at all levels: faculty, staff and administration.”

“Increasing pay doesn’t mean better employees,” CSUN Sen. Vianney Moran said.

“I was very open to dialogue and encouraging views,” Reimer said. “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 said he 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 for other institutions.

Reimer also cited last year’s 1 percent faculty salary increase that cost $38 million, whereas 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.”

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, increasing 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’d 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, and that can be expensive,” Reimer said.

The CSSA Board of Directors is comprised of CSU students and meet once a month. In addition to the board, about 30 students affiliated with their own campus student government associations were present with the majority of the 23 CSU campuses being represented.

On Saturday afternoon, another heated topic surfaced when Haverstock spoke to advocate for harsher sanctions on campuses that aren’t paying their CSSA annual dues. Membership to CSSA is voluntary, but all CSU campuses are recognized and required to pay annual dues to participate.

Felipe Caceres, Vice President for Academic Governance at CSULA, said, “He said exactly what everyone on CSSA wanted to say. 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 200607. Six campuses aren’t paying dues, and the CSSA constitution law that states non-paying campuses can’t vote isn’t being enforced.

Vartanian said. “We’ll listen to what they have to say, but they shouldn’t have voting power.”

CSUN Upper Division Sen. Alexander Ross said, “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 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. Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, which hasn’t paid in about 22 years, doesn’t believe the goals of CSSA fit with their campus student goals, Haverstock said.