- Meet Ted
- Media Galleries
- Contact Me
- Sign up for my newsletter
SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE: CSU poised to alter presidents' pay policy again
May 08, 2012
California State University trustees are poised to revamp presidential pay policy once more as fallout continues over the $400,000 pay package they granted San Diego State University President Elliot Hirshman last year.
The latest change, expected today, would scuttle a recent policy allowing for a maximum 10 percent increase for a new president over his or her predecessor.
But while pay from the state would be frozen at the previous president’s level, campus fundraising foundations could still be tapped for additional pay, as they have been for Hirshman and others.
Hirshman, whose total compensation is 33 percent greater than his predecessor’s, receives $350,000 annually in state funds and $50,000 from the Campanile Foundation, SDSU’s fundraising arm.
In January, to calm the furor that erupted over pay when Hirshman was hired last summer, the trustees voted to cap the salaries of new presidents at $325,000 in state funds and prohibit them from receiving more than a 10 percent increase over their predecessor’s state-funded salary.
While that mollified some critics, it didn’t satisfy some lawmakers, students and faculty members.
Mike Uhlenkamp, a spokesman for the 23-campus system, said continued public pressure drove the trustees to the new proposed limits.
“There was still some criticism from the Legislature and others,” he said. “So we decided we would freeze the level of state funding at the current level and we would look to the campus foundations, the fundraising arms, to make up any excess.”
The policy will extend to 2014, allowing for changes if the state budget situation improves, he said.
The spokesman added that the foundations will raise new funds specifically for presidential compensation to ensure that support for other campus purposes is not diminished.
The new policy did not sit well with some critics.
“To me, it’s like taking two steps forward and two steps backward,” said state Sen. Ted Lieu, D-Torrance, who has been a leading critic of CSU presidential pay practices.
“It’s good that they are freezing salaries. But it would be inappropriate for them to then bypass what would’ve been a 10 percent cap with unlimited private fundraising. I don’t trust them.”
Uhlenkamp said the “practical application” of the new policy will be that new presidents still will not receive salaries more than 10 percent higher than their predecessors, regardless of the source of the money, although there is not specific language to that effect in the policy.
Lieu also suggested there could be conflicts of interest with outside donors — he gave the example of a textbook vendor — paying a portion of presidents’ salaries.
Charles Toombs, president of the faculty union at SDSU, said the new policy “sends the wrong message.”
“We are dealing with such a budget crisis in California and higher education. At this point, I think no matter where the money comes from, there should be no increases,” he said.
Contract negotiations between the California Faculty Association and the CSU are at impasse. Toombs noted that the university’s proposal to faculty members calls for no raises.
Pay for CSU presidents ranges from $258,686 annually at the California Maritime Academy to Hirshman’s $400,000. Karen Haynes, president of California State University San Marcos, earns $271,000 annually.
Beside SDSU, only two campuses — California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo and San Jose State University — currently augment their presidents’ pay with foundation money.
The new policy comes as the CSU prepares to hire up to six new presidents in the coming months.
“We understand the importance of recognizing the state budget situation,” Uhlenkamp said. “But we are competing in the national market for leaders.”
CSU presidents also receive a $12,000 annual car allowance and a housing allowance or the option of living rent-free in a presidential house on campuses that have them.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.