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Viewpoint: Executive discrimination

August 09, 2011|By ARTURO BOJORQUEZ

Maybe only in the minds of the California State University Board of Trustees it’s reasonable to give its executives such a salary increase, but for the rest of us it is simply illogical.

Last month, trustees authorized a $100,000 average pay raise to all of the presidents of the various system’s campuses. Based on a study completed this year by Mercer’s Human Capital consulting firm, the CSU board agreed with Chancellor Charles Reed on the compensation motion, justifying their action with the fact that it has become more difficult to recruit presidents and faculty as the system falls behind its peer institutions and universities across the country.

To make matters worse, the Legislature and the governor agreed to cut the CSU system’s funds by $650 million for the 2011-2012 fiscal year.

The CSU said the $2.1 billion in state funding allocated for the 2011-2012 budget will be the lowest level of state support the system has received since the 1998-1999 fiscal year, although it serves 72,000 more students.

Given the situation, the CSU board voted to approve a tuition increase of 12 percent, an average of $294 more per semester for full-time undergraduates beginning this fall.

Fortunately, one-third of the revenue from the tuition increase will go toward financial aid, benefitting 170,000 students (of which almost 50 percent are undergraduates).

Sadly, trustees had taken initial steps toward balancing its budget by reducing enrollment (and the aspiration to a better future) by around 10,000 students, and campus budgets have been reduced by around $281 million, or 14 percent. If funds are cut by an additional $100 million, the state’s support will be at its lowest level since the 1997-1998 fiscal year, yet it would be providing educational opportunities to an additional 90,000 students. Also, since 2008 the CSU has reduced the number of employees by 4,125 or 8.8 percent, according to the higher education system.

This drastic situation is precisely why we Californians cannot fathom the salary increase.

Gov. Jerry Brown sent a letter to both the CSU board and its chancellor rejecting the salary pay augmentation.

Brown recognized that the system has been faced with “painful sacrifices on the part of the faculty and students alike,” but added he has a concern with the “ever-escalating pay packages awarded to top administrators.”

The governor pointed out that given the state court’s offices closings, the layoff of school teachers and the shutting of senior centers, “it is not right to be raising the salaries of leaders who — of necessity — must demand sacrifice from everyone else.” Beyond this, there is a matter even more embarrassing for the CSU system. Of the 23 campus presidents, only four are of Hispanic descent, falling way behind the composition of the state’s population.

Alexander González leads CSU Sacramento, Rubén Armiñana does so at CSU Sonoma, Mildred García heads CSU Dominguez Hills, and Michael Ortiz presides over CSU Pomona.

And among the system’s 23 executives, salary differences exist between Latino presidents and their non-Latino counterparts. The first two presidents mentioned are ranked fifth and seventh among the better paid CSU presidents, while García and Ortiz occupy the 19th and 21st spots.

The four Hispanic CSU campus presidents earn an average of $323,294.75 per year, salary and housing benefits combined. The rest have average yearly incomes of $331,014, which is $7,719.25 or 2.33 percent more than their Latino colleagues. Indeed, San Diego State University President Elliot Hirshman (the best paid CSU president) will receive a $400,000 yearly salary as well as an SDSU Foundation supplement, earning him $1 million in 2.5 years.

If this happens at the executive level, what can the system’s faculty, employees and students expect?

Arturo Bojórquez is the editor of the Spanish language newspaper Adelante Valle, and can be reached at 760 335-4646 or abojorquez@ivpressonline.com

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