by Erica Perez, California Watch
At the same time the California State University Board of Trustees is discussing a possible tuition increase and across-the-board pay cuts, it will also consider pay raises for three new campus presidents using foundation funds.
Under compensation proposals [PDF] the board will take up Tuesday, new CSU Northridge President Dianne Harrison and newly appointed CSU San Bernardino President Tomás Morales would receive 10 percent more in pay than their predecessors – the maximum amount allowable under the university’s newest executive compensation policy approved in May.
A third college leader, new San Francisco State University President Leslie Wong, would receive 9 percent more than his predecessor.
The CSU trustees have been heavily criticized for their executive compensation policies since last summer, when San Diego State University President Elliot Hirshman got a pay package totaling $100,000 more than the previous president.
Since then, the trustees have made some changes to the policies. Most recently, in May, the board approved a policy that would freeze the amount of new presidents’ base pay from public funds, keeping it at the same level as the previous president’s salary until 2014.
But the policy left room for CSU to pump up new presidents’ pay by up to 10 percent of the base using foundation funds. Harrison and Morales would get the full 10 percent available, while Wong would come very close.
Wei Ming Dariotis, associate professor of Asian American studies at San Francisco State University and president of that university’s chapter of the California Faculty Association, said that while she’s very optimistic about Wong as a leader, the pay raise feels like a “slap in the face.”
“As a public institution, I would think that we would be looking at folks who define the value of their work not by how well they are compensated but by the good they're able to do through the kind of institution they are serving,” Dariotis said.
CSU spokesman Michael Uhlenkamp said the executive compensation policy allows the university to recruit competitively while also being mindful of the economic situation.
“We do have to recruit from a national pool for the best and brightest not only in presidents, but in faculty and in staff,” Uhlenkamp said. “Regardless of whether your salary's frozen, and there's a supplement that increases your salary, these individuals are being paid less than what they would make on the market outside the state of California or not working for the CSU.”
The compensation proposals come as the trustees are talking about what they might cut if voters do not enact Gov. Jerry Brown’s tax initiative in November. If the initiative fails, it would trigger a new $250 million cut for CSU.
According to Tuesday’s agenda [PDF], the trigger cut could lead the university to raise tuition by 5 percent midyear and cut pay and benefits across the system by 2.5 percent.
It could also lead the university to enact new fees, including charging students more for every extra class they take above 16 units per semester; fees for taking the same course more than twice; and a "graduation incentive" fee on so-called super seniors, students who have earned five years or more of academic credit on the state’s dime.
“You juxtapose this conversation about how hard-hit the university is and how much sacrifice everyone is going to make and then flip around and really insist that these presidents can't do these jobs without these resources,” said Lillian Taiz, president of the California Faculty Association. “It’s staggering.”
Under the compensation proposal, Harrison would receive $324,500 per year, including $29,500 from the California State University Northridge Foundation. She also receives a $12,000 annual car allowance and lives rent-free in a university-owned house.
Although she’s earning 10 percent more than former CSU Northridge President Jolene Koester, the move to Northridge represents a 20 percent increase for Harrison personally. She made $270,315 in her previous job as president of CSU Monterey Bay.
Before her six-year stint as the leader of CSU Monterey Bay, Harrison spent 30 years at Florida State University, most recently as vice president for academic quality and external programs.
Morales comes to CSU San Bernardino after serving five years as president of the College of Staten Island, a four-year university in the City University of New York system. His new salary would total $319,000, including $29,000 from foundation sources. He also gets a $60,000 housing allowance and $12,000 car allowance annually.
Wong has served as president of Northern Michigan University since 2004. San Francisco State University will pay him $325,000, including $26,251 from the San Francisco State University Foundation, plus the same housing and car allowances as Morales.
For Wong, that’s about $123,000 above what he was making at Northern Michigan University, where the base salary totaled $201,995, although Wong also received $65,000 per year in deferred compensation in Michigan, according to a university spokeswoman.
The San Francisco State University Foundation agreed to provide Wong up to $30,000 per year, according to a board resolution.
Unlike Harrison, Morales and Wong, a fourth new president, California Maritime Academy President Thomas Cropper, will take home 3 percent less than the previous president, William Eisenhardt. Cropper will receive $250,000 per year plus free housing on campus and the standard car allowance. He will get no additional pay from foundation sources.
Uhlenkamp described the California Maritime Academy presidential position as unique. Also, CSU reduced Cropper’s salary in part because the university's own analysis shows it pays California Maritime Academy’s president significantly more than comparable institutions pay their leaders.
On average, the presidents at the five universities CSU considers comparable to California Maritime Academy earned about $200,000 in 2009-10, according to the university's peer group analysis. That’s still 23 percent less than Cropper’s pay. The other universities are Massachusetts Maritime Academy, Maine Maritime Academy, Texas A&M University Galveston, SUNY Institute of Technology and New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology.
Erica Perez is an investigative journalist for California Watch.