Another great issue to talk with!
By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
You couldn't hope for a worse PR combination than the one the California State University system handed its foes in July, when in one meeting at CSU headquarters in Long Beach the board of trustees planned for a 5 percent tuition hike, discussed Draconian cuts if voters reject Gov. Jerry Brown's plan to increase both income taxes on upper earners and sales tax on everyone, then awarded raises to incoming presidents Tomas Morales at Cal State San Bernardino, Leslie Wong at Cal State San Francisco and Dianne Harrison at Cal State Northridge.
In the case of the largely untested Harrison, who arrived at the huge CSUN, with 36,208 students, from her presidency at tiny, 4,340-student Monterey and has never helmed a large university, they pushed her already sizable $295,000 CSUN pay to $324,000 — in addition to her free house and the generous benefits package that CSUN's chief gets.
Students who had already been hunger striking called it "appalling." For once there was an issue that united students, conservative deficit hawks and even the public employees unions. Kim Geron, of the California Faculty Association, called the decision "ludicrous" and complained of raises at the top while faculty salaries have remained frozen for a fifth year as of Aug. 31.
"It is tone-deaf beyond belief," she told assembled reporters in Long Beach.
But shocking as the presidential pay disparity was to many critics, it could be a harbinger of what's to come — even as the state government's fiscal struggles deepen.
The raises, as trustees attempted to note amid the howls of rage, came not from the California general fund fed by California taxpayers but from "private sources" — in this case, from charitable auxiliary foundations of the Cal State University system.
And that represents a trend that will only grow, according to John Mockler, a former California secretary of education under Gov. Gray Davis, who lectures, writes and consults on state education issues.
As California retreats in its funding of the state system, the schools will dig deeper into the private sector and forage for funds to sustain themselves. "I don't like it, but I don't see the choice," Mockler says. "There are only three ways to fund a school: one, public funds; two, student fees; and three, private donations."
The state is increasingly chopping away at the first, and student fees are being pushed higher and higher. As they become more dependent on the private sector, the state universities will come under intense pressure to play by the standards of the private sector, with its vast income disparities between the executives — the college presidents and their aides — and everyone else.
That will be jarring for those who believe California's state school system should remain a public entity, subject to the standards of public life.
"I'm an old-fashioned guy, but it seems to me that Cal State is moving toward a private model," Mockler says.
One example he gives of the disparities that will result as the campuses become more dependent upon private fundraising is that vast differences will evolve in the resources available to the schools like Northridge and San Francisco, located in commercial hubs, compared with rural schools like Humboldt or Chico, "where there's not a lot of business to turn to."
This, he warns, "is in a system where all campuses and students were meant to be equal."
The road to this month's raises, paradoxically, began with the CSU trustees' decision last year to place a cap on presidential salaries. The move came after a general outcry over the board's decision to award a jaw-dropping $400,000 annual paycheck to the incoming president of San Diego State University, Elliot Hirshman.
In making that decision, the 25 trustees, most appointed by the governor or previous governors to eight-year terms, carved out a loophole that could bring drastic change. The loophole allows private sources, whose funds are funneled through individual universities' foundations, to contribute to presidents' salaries — up to 10 percent of the total salary annually, when the position turns over. In effect, the state is telling colleges that if they can find the money, have at it.
That's a possibly unprecedented move in the state system, Mockler says. "The foundations were created to do things the system could not do — they have now changed that," he says. He finds it "a bizarre policy choice that they would be using their funds to cover administrative salaries instead of addressing things like class size."
But the Cal State Chancellor's Office argues that the role of university president has fundamentally changed in higher education, justifying the dramatic shift.
Mike Uhlenkamp, a Chancellor's Office spokesman, says presidents are becoming big-time fundraisers. "We've lost a billion in state funds in the last five years. ... Their ability to fundraise is critical to their being able to fulfill the mission."
The public probably doesn't view state university presidents as hustlers of private donors, but it may have to get used to it.
"It's not the most important thing they do, but it's an important part of their job," Uhlenkamp says.
Into this breach stepped the foundations.
CSUN, for example, is supported by the California State University Northridge Foundation, a public 501(c)(3) charity overseen by a board of directors composed largely of alumni who are now in the business community. The foundation raises private money and distributes it to campus activities.
Another great issue to talk with!
So, it isn't the CSU executives who give themselves $300,000 to $400,000 per year salaries (and up) that are the problem. Nor the fact that they give themselves $5,000 per month housing allowances and $1,000 per month car allowances over and above their salaries--no, that's not the problem either. It is, as "Bemis" (who, I take it, presumes to speak for the entire public) states: "overpaid professors and staff" that are the real problem.
How, Bemis, do you read an entire article (but you didn't actually read it, did you? Reading isn't really your forte, is it?) about the obscene increases in executive pay in the CSU system and come to the conclusion that the problem is the people who make much much less? Staff members make between $30,000 and $50,000 per year (with most salaries at the bottom of that scale, and only a very few at or above the top of the scale), while professors make anywhere between $30,000 and about $90,000 per year--with doctoral and other advanced degrees and years of training and experience. Ah, but for you, all employees are merely malingerers, with your "back to work" comment. And you hate unions because union employees are overpaid, don't you? But people who make nearly half a million dollars a year are not overpaid, and sure, throw in free houses and cars as well. You see "the hijacking of public institutions," but you are too addled by Limbaugh-esque pro-rich propaganda to see the cause of it.
And this is how the people who *are* hijacking the system will continue to get away with it. Because they have people like "Bemis" convinced that it is the teachers and staff who are the problem, not the executives (oh no, *never* the executives).
I'll give a fourth choice, the people's choice: (A), cut the useless courses and their overpaid professors and staff: it may be true that every sociology, psychology and ethnic/gender studies class ads some barely perceptible "value" to society; but not enough to justify the hijacking of public institutions that is occurring at the state colleges and the UC; we know the colleges and universities won't do it--they're hooked on expansion and tuition raises: so give the choice back to the taxpayers--the so-called "stupid" people who pay for it all. Put it up for a vote-the top 10 courses and departments to cut! You'll see whites, blacks, hispanics and everyone else agree on what to cut: the soft, mushy courses only a dedicated and vocal minority support;. (B), The admin budget of a campus, direct and indirect, is not to exceed 3% of its gross revenue from all sources averaged over the 5 preceding years; (B-1), any Administrator who won't work at a frozen salary no higher than a professor's tops salary ought to be shown the door; (C), no more pensions! Eliminate those that can be done away with: Colleges did just fine without them until the 70's: (D) stop the building! Incessant building on every campus needs to stop! No more pools, rec facilities, gardens, faculty lounges, etc. (E), stop subsidizing "research" in the non-science courses unless a "professor" has been there 8 years: then he gets 2 months and its back to work. Don't like it? Fine. Bye (F), ban any and all unions in and on state college campuses and get rid of those things that add no value, and drive up costs.
@Bemis I initially agree with the notion of cutting useless courses. However, I would also argue psychology, sociology nor gender/ethnic studies fall into the paradigm of useless courses. In fact, those very subjects may very well help with the immense amount of misunderstanding in society today. Colleges, universities and their students/graduates may be better served adding classes around 'making your major work for you". Getting a degree is only the battle---figuring out what to do with said degree and becoming successful is the war. Just a thought! While I may not whole-heartily agree with all of your ideas; I applaud you for putting thought into the crisis. Brainstorming from different points of view are vital! Hold Strong Cali!
@Bemis two things: 1) putting the financial burden on student and faculty is not really acceptable and not really necessary. 2) the incessant building, if I'm correct, is another result of private money being the main source of income for the school. When private entities donate cash, they get to say where it goes - and it appears that if they don't, the BoT figures our where to put it. Okay I lied, one more thing: the unions are not useful because they have no say on anything. Today they can spend time and resources on voting for something and the administration goes the other way; it's pitiful. The CSU system is not functioning like an entity with one brain, making decisions to further its goals (survival and education). There is a group of people making 100s of 1000s in salaries and benefits to make decisions that don't effect them much, and then there are the people who work and go to school there and the two seldom agree. As for a solution.. how about a new rule where private donor don't get to allocate where it goes? student, faculty and staff unions - the ones who have to use it every day - should have some decision-making power.
Time to replace the board of trustees! They are apparently out of touch and you just can't fix stupid!!!!
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