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Education

Awkward: CSU Presidents Receive Pay Raises at Apocalyptic Meeting on Budget Cuts

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Tue, Jul 17, 2012 at 4:45 PM
click to enlarge CSUN's new prez will earn a base salary of $324,500 per year.
  • CSUN's new prez will earn a base salary of $324,500 per year.

Two doomsday scenarios were laid out by the California State University Board of Trustees at today's meeting: If the state cuts CSU funding by $250 million next fall, as it has promised to do if voters don't agree to the governor's proposed tax hike, the university system will either have to 1) raise tuition yet again or 2) cut student enrollment, along with 750 adult jobs.

Both options are obviously horrific. Since the Great Recession hit, unrelenting state cuts have led CSU heads to keep gutting the system while charging students more for an increasingly shoddy education. But there's one budget item on which they never seem to budge:

The salaries and benefits of their 23 campus presidents, all of whom earn over $200,000 and some as much as $400,000.

Like clockwork, at today's big apocalyptic meeting on pending budget cuts, the trustees approved higher salaries for three incoming presidents -- including two right here in SoCal.

click to enlarge The scene outside today's meeting, hosted by Cal State Long Beach. - ABC7
  • ABC7
  • The scene outside today's meeting, hosted by Cal State Long Beach.

Dianne Harrison at CSU Northridge will earn $324,500 per year, along with a free university house and a vehicle allowance of $1,000 per month. (That's 20 percent more than she was making as president of Cal State Monterey Bay. Has Harrison really gotten $54,000 better at her job?) Tomás Morales at CSU San Bernardino will earn $319,000 a year, along with a housing allowance of $60,000 per year and a vehicle allowance of $1,000 per month. Leslie Wong at San Francisco State University will earn $325,000 per year, along with both the housing and vehicle allowances.

And that's just base pay. To get a better idea of their total salary package, all benefits included, consider this: IRS records showed that the CSU Los Angeles president, who had a university-reported salary of $325,000 last year, actually made $515,612.

The CSU's argument has always been that in order to attract the best administrative candidates, it needs to offer them competitive rates.

These latest pay raises are being pitched as a bargain, because the extra money is being pulled from private grants to the university instead of state coffers. And CSU spokesman Erik Fallis points out that at today's meeting, the trustees decided to keep the salaries of two "interim presidents" at their current levels, while slightly reducing the salary of new California Maritime Academy president Thomas Cropper. (Although that seems only fair, seeing as Cropper's predecessor has a Ph.D. and he does not.)

But all this is almost beside the point.

How are the loan-shocked college students and minimum-wage janitors of the CSU system supposed to respect a president who rakes in hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars on top of a free car and mansion?

Asian-studies professor Teri Yamada, who teaches at Cal State Long Beach, asked an age-old question at today's meeting: "If a [private] foundation can pay for a salary increase, why can't a foundation also support students and courses?"

In the end, CSU students and staffers won't be happy with anything the high-horse trustees hand down until administrators start to show some human decency. No, this does not mean lavish presidential feasts during student hunger strikes. And it definitely doesn't mean presidential pay raises at a meeting where dozens of broke-as-hell protesters have gathered to listen to trustees talk about all the people and programs they're ready to kick to the curb come November.

[@simone_electra / swilson@laweekly.com / @LAWeeklyNews]

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