The California Faculty Association is launching a campaign, called “Stop the Rip Offs,” that will seek to make students aware of how much money executives in the California State University system are being paid, said CFA President John Travis.
Travis said that executives in the CSU are being paid a full salary for up to two years, even after having left their previous jobs, which they are calling golden parachutes.
The story behind the campaign began last October, when Travis and other members of the CFA were in attendance at a CSU Board of Trustees meeting, Travis said. At the same time that the Board of Trustees was voting to increase student fees 8 percent, they also voted to increase the salaries for executives, he said. “It clearly showed they valued the executives more than the students,” he said.
When Barry Muniz, a former president of the Getty Trust who is under investigation for “moral turpitude,” was given a high-paying position at CSU Los Angeles, the CFA decided to look into it further, Travis said.
“We started asking questions and the next thing we knew a reporter at the San Francisco Chronicle was investigating,” he said.
According to an investigation of CSU executive pay by the San Francisco Chronicle in July, seven former CSU executives were offered hundreds of thousands of dollars to work on “special projects” following their retirements. Most of these ex-executives were not required to produce any final work product or written report.
Since then, the CFA has only learned of more and more such positions being held by executives, with millions of dollars being paid out to people who are doing little or no work, said Professor Kim Geron from CSU East Bay. While these executives are given jobs, the work they are given to do doesn’t actually have to produce anything, Geron said. “In real life these people don’t have to do any work,” he said.
Travis said this is not a local issue, either. “This was happening everywhere, from the North to the South, where executives were getting paid for doing nothing,” he said.
David Ballard, president of the CSUN chapter of CFA and a sociology professor, said these kinds of golden parachutes are not acceptable.
“That ain’t no parachute, that’s giving the gold away,” he said.
When the Board of Trustees was asked why these executives were being paid so much for doing so little, they said it was a board policy, Geron said. “The problem is the policy is pretty well buried,” he said.
These types of multi-million dollar policy decisions need to be made in the open, Travis said. “These things have to be transparent,” he said. “Policies should not be made with a nod and a handshake.”
Some executives, like the former president of CSU Monterey Bay, Peter Smith, receive “transition money” even after finding another job, Travis said. “What (Smith) said was he thought it was recompense for a job well done,” he said.
While the Board argues that these types of perks attract higher-level executives, Travis said, the CFA disagrees. “Faculty perspective is it hasn’t been proven to have helped,” he said. “It’s never been difficult to attract high-quality executives.”
“One of the problems is, in addition to higher student fees, faculty pay is stagnating,” said Alice Sunshine, director of communications for the CFA. “It’s a squeeze at both ends.”
The CFA has asked for a pay increase of 20 percent over three years in the contract they are now negotiating, but are much more modest about how much salaries will be increased, Travis said.
“I want you to understand not everyone’s going to get 20 percent, even over 3 years,” he said.
John Chandler, director of Public Relations and Strategic Communication at CSUN, declined to comment, except to say that CSUN is not involved.
The CFA plans to hold events on campus throughout the semester. The first event will be on Sept. 20 on the second floor of the Sierra Center from 12:30 p.m. to 2 p.m., Ballard said. Travis will be speaking to educate attendees, especially new faculty, about where bargaining stands, and free pizza will be provided, Ballard said.
In October, the CFA will hold various fundraiser-type activities, including a lemonade stand, a bake sale and a car wash, Ballard said. “Now here’s a visual for you – faculty in their caps and gowns washing cars,” he said.
In November, the CFA will hold a larger event called “No More Business As Usual” on campus and at the CSU Chancellor’s office, Ballard said, but wasn’t sure of the details.
“We start with information, go to a little humor, and by November we’re in war,” he said.