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TORRANCE DAILY BREEZE: A lesson not learned - Cal State trustees flunk test on presidential pay
March 20, 2012
A couple of months ago, it looked as if the California State University trustees' remedial lessons in public relations were paying off. Now, it's obvious they still don't get it.
Responding to the outcry over the San Diego State president's huge raise, the public university system's board of trustees approved a policy in January that limits executives' base pay to 10 percent more than their predecessors' salaries.
The move drew cheers all around. Critics in the state Legislature backed off. Students, tired of paying higher and higher fees while campus presidents got higher and higher pay, might even have begun to think university leaders were sensitive to their plight.
But now there's this. Meeting in Long Beach this week, the CSU trustees are scheduled to consider proposals to give 10 percent salary hikes to two new campus presidents.
Mildred Garcia, appointed president of Cal State Fullerton, would receive $324,500 in base pay (10 percent more than predecessor Milton Gordon made, and also 10 percent more than she got when she ran Cal State Dominguez Hills). Garcia also would receive housing at Fullerton's official presidential residence and a $12,000-a-year car allowance.
Leroy Morishita, the new president of Cal State East Bay, would receive $303,660 (10 percent more than predecessor Mohammad Qayoumi made, and 10 percent more than his own salary as interim president). Morishita also could count on allowances of $60,000 a year for housing and $12,000 for a car. In other words, having set that 10 percent limit on raises, the people who run CSU are determined to wring every penny out of it.
Do they realize 10 percent is a ceiling, not a requirement? Do they remember that in January, they also said they would take into consideration the fiscal condition of the CSU system when they deliberated about executive compensation?
Do they see how this looks to the CSU students who keep paying more for less, not to mention the 16,000 would-be students affected by Monday's announcement that enrollment at the 23 campuses has been closed for spring 2013 pending the outcome of a November tax initiative?
Not as bad as it looked last summer when the trustees approved a $400,000 salary for San Diego State President Elliot Hirschman ($100,000 more than his predecessor received) on the very day they approved a 12 percent increase in student tuition. Bad, though. Defenders of the pay hikes note that the raises are a tiny part of the university's budget, and the debate is about symbolism.
But, as state Sen. Ted Lieu of Torrance said Monday: "Symbolism matters a lot. It goes to whether the students and faculty have faith in the leadership of the CSU. And whether the leadership responds to the concerns of not just the executives but also the students and faculty, whom I consider to be even bigger stakeholders in the system."
Last year, Lieu introduced a bill that would have set a limit for CSU executives' salaries at 150 percent of the California Supreme Court chief justice makes, which currently is about $229,000. In what Lieu called a show of good faith, he responded to the trustees' establishment of a 10 percent limit by dropping his legislation for this year. But he threatened to resubmit it next year if he sees signs the trustees "seem to have retrenched."
We may see from the results of their meetings Monday and today in Long Beach if the trustees have forgotten what they seemed to have learned in January.
Student fees are up -- to the point where, earlier this month, the Bay Area News Group figured out that the family of a middle-class freshman now pays more for a year at a Cal State campus than a year at Harvard. Class offerings are down. Until the economy and the tax base recover, students are being asked to get by with less, if they're getting by at all.
At the very least, the people who run CSU could show they grasp the situation by agreeing to get by with less themselves.